Wait a minute, make room at the bar for Skinny Jim. The group's tape Worse Than Daytime TV has a song titled "Hooking Up in Beertown" that bears the subtle chorus "This is what a friend is for, pick me up and make me drink some more." Well. Jim has tons of Hsker D-type energy that comes across live and on tape. Vocal flaws evident on tape are masked by the white-boy rage of live performance. Singer-guitarist Kak seems to be continually pushing his range, and coming out flat. Best song is the hooky "Babble of a Barfly," in which he tones down a bit to great effect. 967-0949. Chimeras singer Lawrence Zubia has a plaintive, emotional, raspy voice, and he knows how to use it. My only beef is that after four songs--on tape, at least--it gets to be a bit heavy-handed. The band is loose and tight at the same time, no easy feat, in an I-don't-care-if-it's-last-call-we're-playin'-all-night way. Shades of Mick Taylor-era Stones, and power-gum popsters like Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi. Only with more soul. Tunes "C-Song" and "Violins and Guitars" are great. 730-0697.
The Mesa quartet Fungi's does something that falls somewhere between funk/fusion, Rush and a band you'd see on Star Search. High-energy, intricate music with thumb-slappin' bass lines, wailing vocals and tricky synth parts. And these boys have chops to spare; the band sounds incredibly clean, tight and professional, as does the recording. "Fungus Amungus" and "Juicy Wet One" are standout tracks. 461-0457. Wise Monkey Orchestra is another group of players, ready to take you on a trip back to a time when Isaac Hayes ruled the Earth. Strong, Carole Kingish vocals, a guitarist with a fully functional wa-wa pedal (great stuff!) and a pretty wicked horn section punctuating the mix. At times there's a Spin Doctors feel to things; the Orchestra gets into a groove and can stay there. 967-4835.
genepool's Time and Place is a joy to listen to. This is a band that can sing (great harmonies that conjure up the Jam's Paul Weller and Bruce Foxton), write precise, smart pop songs and play perfectly to fit whatever it does. Sounds simple, right? You'd be surprised. The appealing thing here is that this band has a strong focus on exactly what it's trying to do musically; a winning factor whether you like the songs or not. There's a Brit feel to this stuff, circa early Eighties, but nothing comes off as retro New Wave. Good, punchy bass playing all over this clean tape; standout tunes are the darkly infectious "Look at You" (with superb, Strawberry Alarm Clock harmonies on the chorus) and "Sometime Tomorrow." I haven't seen this band play yet. If it sucks live, I'll be really depressed. 997-9457.--Peter Gilstrap
A Simple Passion sounds to these ears like a reverse "Unplugged" situation, a folkie act that goes the Stratocaster and synthesizer route. Its tape contains some fine songs like "I'll Wash Your Lover's Car" and "Panic," but they're marred when singer Roger Lee trots out his "Look, Ma--I'm being funny" asides. That might go over well in a folk club among friends, but is unnerving when you're trying to actually hear the songs. Also, he's got a strong voice which always seems to be peaking at the top of its range. He should relax and let these songs breathe a little; they're worth it. 943-3959.
Mesa's Brian O'Carroll also comes from the Phoenix folk scene with a bunch of song titles you attribute to other people (Bad Blood," "On a Clear Day," "Any Way the Wind Blows," "Stone Cold"), but they're all originals featured on his Radio Static cassette. He's got a fine band which should make a better than average night out at a folk or blues club, especially if he steers clear of lyrical clichs, as he does on "No Traces" and "Stone Cold," the best cuts here. 230-4148.
Fans of progressive rock should check out Planet Blue, an accomplished quartet that's just put out a well-produced CD rife with extraterrestrial art and lyrical references. Songs like "Crop Circles" and "A Far Way From Home" lull you into thinking this will be a concept album with firsthand accounts of alien abduction; that's not the case. Blue may as well have done 11 songs about weather balloons. And there are two tunes about the need for God. Martians or religion, this band is looking heavenward. 797-3667.
Crashing back down to Earth, we find ourselves face to face with Stoma, a quintet that straddles the line between heavy-metal and grunge without seeming too much like one or the other. Vocalist John Morris displays his Stone Temple Pilots and Mudhoney influences well, and like those bands, Stoma sounds like it wants to go places and have something closely resembling an agenda. Let's hope it doesn't have to leave Phoenix too soon to get some national attention; this is a band worth watching. 966-5421.
Every town has an R.E.M.-ish college band that draws inspiration from that group's cryptic, mysterious, lyrical content and jangling guitars. Tempe's Rain Convention is that band. Its five-song tape, For Impatient Faces, is a fairly low-key affair. Competent but rarely compelling. Maybe a little acid would help--acid rain, get it? Never mind. 350-3080.
If adult contemporary is your thing, you'll probably enjoy hearing Gypsy Wind, two gals originally from Sioux City making pleasant, middle-of-the-road music. Or is it adult contemporary? They might consider putting their excellent, rich voices to the kind of sounds coming out of Nashville these days instead of these generic songs. 832-4959.
Another outfit with two female vocals (I think) is Paint Me Purple from Albuquerque. No, not exactly local, but the tape contains a beautiful, cello-driven ballad titled "Christine" which warrants mention for pure originality. There are three other tunes that fall into the straightahead rock category, but those aren't bad, either. 1-505-268-1171.
And then there is It's All Here by a prog-rock/fusion duo named Sons of Earl, who hopefully don't live at home anymore--poor Earl! This album should be played once a year, like some people go to films about the Holocaust, to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.