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KILKENNY CATS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Hands Down (Coyote / Twin/Tone) 1986
Hammer EP (Texas Hotel) 1988

The ascendancy of R.E.M. created a major band boom in Athens, Georgia, but some of the resulting combos would have been best left within the privacy of the members' imaginations. Kilkenny Cats, for example, put their R.E.M. influences to good use on the A-side of a 1984 single, "Attractive Figure," where singer Tom Cheek's highly derivative mumbling was interspersed with a buzzy guitar melody. Hands Down attempted to incorporate a metal feel, but the quintet's two guitars are about as thick as paper; the bigger problem is that Cheek seems to be laboring under the art-hippie assumption that a bunch of unconnected images strung together makes a song. Even the album's prettiest moment, "Morning Song," is simply R.E.M.'s "Gardening at Night" twelve hours later. The six-song Hammer EP, performed by a one-guitarist quartet, is marginally less tedious.

[Karen Schoemer]