K-9 Posse

That Vernon Lynch Jr. of the K-9 Posse has an elder sibling named Eddie Murphy (a fact of life he addresses on “Somebody’s Brother”) might have helped his group get a record deal and hook up serious talent to play (including Nile Rodgers and Richie Fliegler) on its competently routine album, but Lynch’s writing and…

Moldy Peaches

Naïveté (willful and otherwise) has provided a gentle alternative to macho rock at least back to the late-’60s Shaggs. But childlike innocence made by adults isn’t the innocence of children—a dichotomy underscored by New York’s Moldy Peaches. The sweet melodies Adam Green and Kimya Dawson apply to breakfast cereal characters, Duran Duran and cartoons also…

Junior High

This young Chicago quartet (whose bassist and singer, Bran Harvey, died of cancer in May 2020) must have been a great live band. On their lone CD, they distill the rangy guitar energy of Minneapolis’s indie rock titans — the Magnolias, Soul Asylum, Replacements and Hüsker Dü — into a joyful whoosh of stage-ready rock…

Sunshine Boys

The Sunshine Boys conjured up by Neil Simon couldn’t abide each other, but that is clearly not the case with the Chicago indie-rock supergroup that borrowed the name. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Dag Juhlin (Poi Dog Pondering, Slugs), bassist/singer Jacqueline Schimmel (Big Hello) and drummer/singer Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies, Antenna, Mysteries of Life) exude warmth, cohesion and…

Icons of Filth

Shouted vocals and midspeed raw guitar punk provide Swansea’s Icons of Filth with their musical formula; generally well-put, lengthy political lyrics convey the band’s activist statements on such topics as class society, vivisection and nuclear war. (“You’re better active today than radioactive tomorrow” may not be catchy, but it is sane.) A far cry from…

Drop Zone

What is about punk that attracts so many able young practitioners? The four members of Sparta, New Jersey’s Drop Zone — a couple of Murphy brothers, bassist Pat Marach and a guitar-playing singer named Steve who is pictured and listed but didn’t play on the record — were no more than 15 or 16 when…

Johnny Hates Jazz

For a time in the late-’80s, the most offbeat or imaginative thing about the well-scrubbed new crop of bland British chart-pop stars was their band names. The most notable element of this Anglo-American pabulum trio’s biography is that Calvin Hayes’ father is legendary ’60s pop producer Mickie Most. Turn Back the Clock alternately sounds like…

Jody Grind

With the potent, pliant vocals of Kelly Hogan leaping over slap bass, brush-stick drumming and acoustic guitar, the Jody Grind (reusing the name of a late-’60s British prog-rock trio; both borrowing from a Horace Silver jazz number) brought rocked-up energy and attitude to a pre-rock era sound. The Atlanta trio’s debut, One Man’s Trash Is…

Longshoremen

Myke Reilly and Charly Brown of Voice Farm co-produced and played on the second album by the Longshoremen, a San Francisco poetry-damage vocal trio. Where the amateurish and poorly recorded Grr Huh Yeah has too much distracting music for easy appeal, the Voice Farmers keep instrumental accompaniment tastefully understated on Walk the Plank, providing the…

Johnsons

An album containing songs with titles like “Sylvia Plath” and “The Affirmation” doesn’t look promising, but this Philadelphia trio’s record, nicely co-produced by Glenn Morrow (Rage to Live) and John Wicks (Records), easily allays such fears with winning harmony-vocal guitar rock that is disarmingly unpretentious. As it turns out, “Sylvia Plath” is an offbeat fan…

Velvet Elvis

Following a four-song 12-inch and a self-released longplayer, Mitch Easter produced a confident-sounding 1988 album for this Lexington, Kentucky quartet, corralling their pleasing harmonies (all four sing) and crisp, accomplished musicianship into extremely attractive country-edged pop-rock (that thankfully never resembles R.E.M.). The mix of drummer Sherri McGee’s tangy harmonies and the Petty/Dylan-influenced lead vocals by…

Heavy D and the Boyz

When the Fat Boys fell out of the picture, Jamaican-born Heavy D. (Dwight Myers) became the reigning champ of heavyweight lighthearted rappers. Based in a northern suburb of New York City, he and a three-man crew made friendly goodtime party records of easy appeal and no great depth. Produced by Teddy Riley, Living Large offers…

dB’s

It’s difficult to understand why the dB’s’ first two albums — both well conceived and entirely accessible — had such a hard time getting released in the band’s own country. Formed in New York by four musicians who had moved up from North Carolina, they drew inspiration from ’60s pop psychedelia (and ’70s pop disciples…

Stinky Puffs

Born in 1984 and raised among the Residents, Simon Fair Timony — underground rock’s coolest adolescent — is the singer and lyricist of the flatulently named Stinky Puffs, a shambly Hoboken, New Jersey kitchen combo that, in its initial studio incarnation, included his mom, Sheenah Fair, on drums, stepfather Jad Fair on effects, scene dude…

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…

Gay Dad

For all their pained self-consciousness, those who have crossed the line from writing about rock to playing it have not, in general, disgraced themselves. Sure, there have been plenty of non-starters and dabblers strapping guitars on just for a giggle, but the serious post-scribe nation — think Chrissie Hynde, Ira Kaplan, Neil Tennant, Bob Geldof…

Bronski Beat

Playing only electronic instruments and singing unequivocal gay lyrics in a window-rattling falsetto, this London trio burst full-blown onto a complacent music scene in 1984. Scottish-born Jimmy Somerville (who left the following year to form the Communards) has a piercing voice which he can modulate for greater appeal (as on “Junk”); the band plays a…

Chris Stamey

North Carolina singer/guitarist (and sometime trumpeter) Chris Stamey spent the late ’70s and early ’80s helping put the Southeast on the map as a preeminent nouveau pop zone. The creative progression — towards more complex ambitions and deeper emotional expressions than most of his musical neighbors — of this casually effective singer and superlative melodicist…

Philisteens

Balancing old-fashioned melodies and raw power can be a tricky business, and this ill-tempered Albuquerque trio batters its material like a punching bag. Though ultimately wearying, The Philisteens does offer exhilaration when consumed in small doses. The band slams through such numbers as “I Get Mad” and “Punch in Punchout” with a combination of punk…

Old 97’s

Much as self-respecting power pop groups understand that their records are never going to join their idols’ in the hit parade, country-rockers like Dallas’ Old 97’s know damn well that wiseacre underground sensibilities never got anyone a warm welcome on Music Row. Good for them. The energetic quartet, with ties to Killbilly and roots in…