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TAPES IN THE MAILSOUNDS OF THE LOCALS REVEALED

Don't let anyone tell you that Tempe's own Fluidrive doesn't take itself seriously. Just check out an excerpt from the band's florid bio: "Raw music with undeniable groove, power and presence. That is what we stand for. There is so much energy when we play, so much passion and so much thought. Our music is original, yet reminiscent of those before us. There is the hard-driving heaviness, combined with a fluid, emotional appeal to the senses. We incorporate these styles into a sound that is unique and on the cutting edge." Well. There's nothing wrong with attitude, but come on, fellas, lighten up. If you think a band that sounds like Pearl Jam is "unique," then Fluidrive's for you. The song "No More Forever" is a full-on, Vedderesque angst fest for vocalist Steve Miller, who lists Elvis as an influence--you'd never know it. The four-set closer, "These Walls," is a kind of Jethro Tull meets the Red Hot Chili Peppers mosh pit rave-up, complete with Miller indulging in a little Janovesque therapy: "I'm fucking pissed!" he screams, again and again. How pissed can a young, white boy from Tempe be? According to the lyrics to "No More Forever," very: "The children they're all starving now/And we bury the dead on the road/It's a path that leads to nowhere/It's the place they call my home." Call 413-0780.

All the way from Flagstaff comes a slick-sounding tape titled Some New Sky from Each Other's Legend. Legend's singer--whomever he may be--sounds a little like Tav Falco doing a Roger McGuinn impersonation. Scratch that--he sounds like Tav Falco doing a T-Bone Burnett impersonation. As a matter of fact, much of this cassette has the flavor of T-Bone: spare, well-conceived bass-drums-guitar arrangements. The singer is fond of doing emotionally overwrought, trembling, cracked-voice recitations of lyrics while the band locks into groovy space jams--not the most compelling thing to listen to on a tape, but maybe onstage he crawls around or something.

There's one mellow, Burrito Brothersish number (it sounds like someone spent a considerable amount of time writing these songs; presumably, they have titles; including them would have been helpful) that contains the line "This is just another come on, it's not even a good pretentious art song." Well, he's right--it's a pretentious country song. This fellow probably has a decent voice lurking behind all the dramatics, if only he'd get off the poetry-slam soapbox.

According to a note that accompanied the tape, E.O.L. is "being looked at by several labels." It's easy to see why; for all of the above criticisms, the band's easygoing, reggae-inflected groove would probably appeal to the Cracker/Grateful Dead/Spin Doctors college crowd. Or at least to those who inhale. Look for E.O.L. to make the trek down from Flag after the New Year. Call 1-602-773-0769.

Tribal Wheel rolls in with a hyped-up batch of zippy pop. Once upon a time, people would have called this stuff New Wave, particularly the appropriately titled "Pop Song." Almost every tempo is pogo-ready, even the cover of Velvet Underground's "What Goes On." The Wheel isn't out to redefine anything--and thank God for that; it's a useless pursuit. The message here is sublime: Turn up the guitars, keep the amphetamine-powered ride cymbal steady and have fun. Maybe not the coolest thing in the hipster lexicon these days, but all the better. The band has the truly impressive Chuck on loan from the Slims playing guitar while Tribal Wheel hunts for a permanent member. If you're interested, call 644-1651.

Leave it to Tucson to cough up the oddball stuff. In this case, something named Itsy Bitsy Spiders, a band (similar to Phoenix's Scratch-N-Sniff) that one minute is thrusting an aural fist of bellowing fury at yer brain and the next is launching into an inspired version of Billy Joel's "The Stranger." Check out the cocktail touches on the trombone-solo intro. By the way, I.B.S. not only has a viciously talented horn section (consisting of apparently zany persons Fruit Pie and Jizzlobber) but a rhythm section that's obviously done homework with a few Brothers Johnson albums. The Zappa-clever arrangements make for involved listening, not to mention between-song surprises like the brief, odd tenor-sax duet before the speed funk/metal tune "Already Dead (Shank)." The comedy-metal shtick can get a bit tiresome, but if this band is half as entertaining live as it is on CD, it should be twice as much fun to see. Write to P.O. Box 31212, Tucson, AZ 85751-1212.

Prescott's liars, gods & beggars sent in a fact sheet that parodies the beloved Weekly World News. Since this presentation might bring some of the "facts" into question, let's give the six-man ensemble the benefit of the doubt. You've got to admire the dedication of lg&b's loyal legion o' fans. According to the bio, when the band needed to finance an ambitious, double-live cassette project, the fans hit the streets and didn't come back until they'd collected 141,000 aluminum cans to pay for the project! Given all of the fans' hard work, it's a shame you don't hear more of them on the resulting live set, Chthonic Boom, Volumes 1 & 2.

 

According to the tape insert: "One of our signatures is a reciprocal feeding with the audience." That may be, but most of the performances herein don't feature any trace of an audience at all, or end with only a smattering of applause. Were these live tunes cut during a sound check or were the fans too busy collecting the cans to show up at the gigs?

It's commendable that this band plays as well as it does to what often sounds like an empty club. Mr. Lee is a pleasant enough lead vocalist, but one who rarely tests the limits of his Eric Clapton style of crooning. He could really use a Bobby Whitlocklike counterpoint, somebody who'll throw in the odd harmony here and there and add some gasoline to the fire. The vocals almost seem like an afterthought, what with the assembled 14 songs averaging more than seven minutes each and being padded with the sort of jamming that you'd thought punk killed off eons ago. Why turn in a pointless cover of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and compound the mistake by playing the thing for 15 minutes and 23 seconds? Life's too short for all this soup-stretching.

The most fetching originals lg&b have to offer are the slow ones, like "She Was a Fine Girl," "These Days" and, especially, "Angel Still," which sounds like "Heaven," a great, unappreciated Stones track from Tattoo You. Like the Stones, the members of lg&b are pretty advanced in people years, so it's unlikely they'll be changing the way they approach their music. But it might be wise to diversify and try to pull in more of the youngsters. After all, lg&b's gonna need a lot more aluminum if it wants to put out a boxed set someday. Call 1-602-717-1783.

The latest heavy-, speed- or death-metal refugee from California to relocate to Phoenix is San Luis Obispo's Intrinsic. This quintet sent in a second- or third-generation tape containing seven songs from an upcoming album, with some good ol' tape hiss thrown in, as well. Because of that, it's hard to decipher whether the double bass drum pedaling at the top of "Up for the Slam" is the work of a well-programmed drum machine or two incredibly fast feet. Regardless, it sounds like a Smith-Corona typewriter magnified ten million times (i.e.: mucho menacing). Intrinsic's vocalist has an impressive wail, one that's able to make words like "war," "run" and "of" amazingly multisyllabic.

Plus, he throws down some passable motor-mouth raps over the band's speed-metal mix. In marked contrast to the other six songs here is "Try My Luck," which starts out with chorus-drenched guitars--like something off of Roxy Music's Avalon--before it turns into an Aerosmithish rock ballad, right down to the block harmonies. Intrinsic has signed with Metal Mania/Teichiku Records (a division of Panasonic) for its next recording, and with major distribution plans under way, audiences can judge for themselves if, like the old Panasonic catch phrase, this band is, indeed, "just slightly ahead of our time." Call 225-0231.

Like the above aggregation liars, gods & beggars, the Scottsdale group isotopes insists on writing its name in lower-case letters. All this trait does is ensure that your band's name will never appear at the beginning of any sentence. This quartet's (see?) five-song demo, Separated by Shadows, sounds like Toad the Wet Sprocket with keyboards. Fortunately, Thaddeus Rose's keyboard sounds are mainly understated, rarely overwhelming the guitars. Everything about isotopes, from the band's playing to the production to the cover art, belies a sense of slickness and professionalism above all else. It's easy to envision isotopes opening for a national act suited to its style of sheen pop. Those of you who are moved by cracking voices, breaking hearts and the all-important sound of things falling apart are encouraged to look elsewhere. How's this for professionalism--here's the band's attorney's number: 240-2963.

Folkie duo Strum & Hum has what no other Tapes in the Mail act has had thus far--its own theme song: "Our nerves are rattled/And we love stage fright/Can we strum and hum tonight?" Not exactly "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees," but it's less than 20 seconds, and it ends with the comforting sound of breaking glass. Guest vocalist Monica Rivas doesn't get her own theme song on the combo's Slick & Smooth cassette, but she does provide lovely third harmonies throughout. Strum & Hum's tongue-in-cheek lyrics and campy vibratos can get to be a bit cute--if not downright annoying--stuck somewhere between coffee-house fare and cabaret. No number.

 

In Alisons Halo's two-year history, the band's self-described "beautiful-brooding, guitar noise pop" has secured opening slots for such other nationally known beautiful brooders as Swirlies, Sky Cries Mary, Ultra Vivid Scene and The Elastic Purejoy. At the same time, the band's gone through several drummers, and has gigged with a drum machine cleverly named Alison.

Now, with a human drummer back in the ranks, we can expect to see some gigs from this act in the near future. In the meantime, if you're a fan of the ethereal expansiveness of Cocteau Twins, pick up Alisons Halo's just-released seven-inch on Independent Project Records. Both tunes, "Dozen" and "Calendar," share a hypnotic tempo, echoey, distorted guitar filling up background space, and Catherine Cooper's breathy, sensuous vocals. But be forewarned, this single is supposed to be played at 33 rpm! Since there was no indication of this anywhere on the recording or the sleeve, we had to do some guesswork, and we decided that Catherine sounded much more evocative than her helium-ingesting, 45-revolutions-per-minute counterpart. A splendid vinyl debut. Tel/fax 204-1332.

Everything sounds better in a dance club coming through eight-foot speakers and $50,000 sound systems. Mind Set Out's techno/rave likewise probably sounds great in its intended natural environment. Especially after you've downed a couple of "smart drinks." Once you try these booming, sterile sounds on your home-entertainment system, it all seems a trifle silly. "Better" boasts a guy singing "I look down at your shoes and I can tell that I'm bettah than you! Bettah than you! Bettah than you! Bettah than you!" Who needs that kind of berating? Lily Tomlin once had a line about pairing up all the crazy people who talk to themselves so it would look like they were carrying on a conversation. While we're at it, maybe we should pair up all the one-man synth bands so they'd be forced to write songs someone else on the planet could enjoy listening to or playing along with. Call 437-9359.


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