Bad Religion

Armed with four chords and a higher education, Southern California’s Bad Religion offers compelling proof that blistering punk-rock energy and provocative, artistic intelligence can do better than merely coexist — they can meld into something of much broader cultural consequence. After an early career that looks fairly hapless in retrospect, Bad Religion was able to…

Versus

Although the basic sound of Versus was close enough to textbook alternapop that you’d be none too surprised to see its photo illustrating the term in a 21st-century cultural encyclopedia, the New York trio usually did enough with those generic ingredients to merit a second listen. Using Mission of Burma’s angular guitar attack as a…

Fall

Some people think chief Fall guy Mark E. Smith does the same thing over and over again, but he’s such an original that observation hardly rings as criticism. Indeed, on the Manchester band’s first single, back in 1978, Smith presented his manifesto: “Repetition in the music and we’re never gonna lose it.” Turning subtle but…

Yo La Tengo

The progress of Hoboken’s Yo La Tengo from one end of the Velvet Underground (preternaturally calm pop) to the other (guitar-noise world domination) is a curvy creative arc that goes off in various digressive directions and defies connect-the-dots simplicity. Beginning in earnest with the group’s third album, onetime rock critic Ira Kaplan’s introverted singing and…

Delgados

In 1996, British bands were aping the Kinks and the Beatles en masse, playing catchy but unoriginal music that appealed to kids too young for the first go-round and Rich Little fans alike. Meanwhile, Scottish youth culture looked through its American record collections and, by never staying with their influences for more than a few…

Mountain Goats

For an expanding horde of cassette-cuddling sub-undergrounders, home taping isn’t killing music, it’s about the only thing keeping it alive. Those folks have long held this shadowy Claremont, California, “group” (essentially singer/guitarist John Darnielle, plus whichever of his pals happens to have some free time and a spare Maxell) in high esteem. That’s due not…

Damned

Due the substantial honor of being the very first British punk band to issue an album (Stiff Records’ first LP) as well as the first to tour America, the Damned hold a special position in musical history, if not always in music. Over an exceedingly checkered multi-label career — breakups, reformations, side projects, farewell gigs,…

Meat Puppets

The Phoenix, Arizona trio made a career out of defying expectations. The two Kirkwood brothers, Curt (guitar/vocals) and Cris (bass/vocals), along with drummer Derrick Bostrom, made their debut with In a Car, a locally released 7-inch — five songs in five minutes — of shrieking thrash-punk and unrealized avant-guitar ambitions. The Puppets’ first album (a…

Eyes Adrift

To the extent that rock supergroups are genetic breeding experiments, they encourage observation of dominant figures and recessive traits, surprising hybrids and a + b = ? results. Given the empirical evidence, recombinant groups of well-established musicians assurance nothing beyond a certain degree of attention, which makes the charm of the album by Eyes Adrift…

Apples

In a rock era that seems to have lost sight of the distinction between playfully childlike and willfully childish, this band from Denver is a refreshing change of pace. As the Apples, the guitar-pop group’s self-titled debut EP — six songs pressed on apple-green vinyl — comes stuffed to the gills with amusing stickers and…

Curve

Chastised as musique plastique by critics skeptical of both the band’s history and lack thereof, Curve’s auspicious debuts (a series of three accomplished EPs released in under seven months and collected on Pubic Fruit) helped deflect accusations of perfectionist hipness. However, the group’s core — bassist/guitarist Dean Garcia and vocalist Toni Halliday — was not…

Leatherface

What was, by far, England’s finest, most exciting punk band of the ’90s began up north in Sunderland as a pretty-good/nothing-special thrash quartet that suddenly caught fire on its third album, the band’s only US release. Those who thought real punk was passé‚ missed out on the overwhelming passion, sincerity and smarts of singer/guitarist/lyricist Frankie…

Rosebuds

Musical marrieds Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp are pure indie-pop craftsmen. Taking inspiration from several eras and styles (’60s Motown, ’80s jangle, ’90s slacker), the duo crafts little masterpieces with surprising variety. The North Carolina multi-instrumentalists add vocals while servicing the music with a balance that is itself the art at which they excel. At…

Kiss Offs

Through two albums and a handful of singles, the Kiss Offs played garage rock with a typically Austin irreverence. The band was formed by drummer Dwayne Barnes and keyboardist Katey Jones; Peek-a-Boo Records’ Travis Higdon played guitar (as did Phillip Niemeyer) and Gavin Scott bass. Though the dueling vocals compare to X, the use of…

Bongwater

What’s in a brilliant name? Some of the funniest, smartest and messed-up ultra-psychedelia ever invented. Almost all of Bongwater’s music came courtesy of Mark “Maul of Sound” Kramer, the former Shockabilly linchpin, king of the Shimmy-Disc label and in-house workaholic producer/owner of Noise New York studios. Performance artist-cum-actress Ann Magnuson contributed onstage attitude and her…

Cactus World News

U2 signed this Dublin quartet to its label, Mother, so it’s hard to discern if the resemblance would have been diminished without that association. Their first single, “The Bridge,” is an atmospheric exaltation that found quick (albeit short-lived) success and was improved for Urban Beaches, on which it is the standout tune. Similar-sounding tracks fill…

Creeper Lagoon

After several home-recorded cassette releases and a self-titled EP, Creeper Lagoon front man Sharky Laguana partnered with guitarist/vocalist Ian Sefchick (joined by Geoff Chisholm and David Kostiner) to form a band. Thus constituted, the Bay Area outfit delivered I Become Small and Go, which reprises a few selections from earlier releases. The opening “Wonderful Love”…

Radar Brothers

Los Angeles guitarist/vocalist Jim Putnam (ex-Medicine) teamed up with bassist Senon Gaius Williams and drummer Steve Goodfriend (ex-For Carnation) to form Radar Brothers immediately after recording material with Maids of Gravity. Heading in a not dissimilar direction, the Radar Brothers emerged as a SoCal leader of a new (for LA) movement: trundling bombastic post-shoegaze folk-pop.…

Devin Davis

Singer/songwriter Devin Davis painstakingly created his debut by his lonesome self in his Chicago bedroom, playing all the instruments, adding whimsical elements (like the fake-bootleg ending on “The Choir Invisible”) and then bringing the results to a real studio for polishing and culling. In songs like “The Choir Invisible,” “Transcendental Sports Anthem,” “Moon Over Shark…

Sonic Youth

Latter-day rock’n’roll revolutionaries have shown a marked tendency towards swift burnout. They reveal their raw vision to the world, but the world, being the philistine place that it is, turns away; the musicians move on. Sonic Youth, unlike so many of the noise bands that formed in New York at the beginning of the ’80s,…