Step Off the Porch

Somewhere between the wandering prog-rock of Tortoise and the teetering precision of 5ive Style, there's a narrow path of tempting yet treacherous instrumental noodling possibilities. Local trio Vin-Fiz takes a successful trip down that road with Step Off the Porch, a four-song collection that makes its way with equal parts brain and brawn.

Vin-Fiz (Martin, Mike and John on guitar, bass and drums, respectively) plays it smart by playing to its strengths, and doing so with subtle confidence. The band's sound is clean, but not pristine, with a virtuosity that's just short of showy, and with every measure there's an underlying energy that muscles extra efforts at appropriate intervals.

The CD's best cut, "18 Wheeler," works nicely with immediate propulsion and some underscored vocals from what sounds like a forgotten trucker worrying about a load of rotting vegetables. (Think, but not too hard, of Morphine's late leader Mark Sandman riding shotgun with C.W. McCall and messing around with his CB.) It's a gimmick of near Primus proportions, but without the overt yuks and with a confidence that suggests more ambitious experiments await. -- Ted Simons

Jesus Chrysler Supercar
Land Speed
(Token Records)

The best thing on Land Speed, Jesus Chrysler Supercar's new seven-song CD, is "Swampfoot," the disc's first song and a killer blast of alcohol-injected gusto, bringing to mind the Supersuckers in spirit and latter-day Meat Puppets in sound. It's an inspired and inventive effort that comes off as a near-epic compared to the rest of the album's oddly uneven feel.

Jesus Chrysler Supercar has an enviable identity crisis. The band does too good a job assuming too many identities. One minute, singer Mitchell Steele gargles heavy metal, and the next, he's crooning with an alt-country twang. Guitarist/back-up vocalist Jason Corman, guitarist Joey St. Clair, bassist Erick Smith and drummer Matt Collins are equally adept at donning different disguises, their variety of tempos and touches coming off like the Cars on "Dopestick Lunatic," and then shifting gears for the implosive "Coming Clean," on which JCS joins the ranks of the aggressively anxious with the help of suitably edgy production from Ed Stasium (Ramones, Talking Heads), a noted knob-twister from way back.

The playing, production and presentation on Land Speed are all topnotch, and there's a sense that Jesus Chrysler Supercar is capable of even more -- as soon as the band learns to do less. -- Ted Simons


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