The Act of Gabriel--Blue Moon Recordings (2075 S. University Blvd. #264, Denver, CO 80210)
Ed Temple (a band, not an individual) is a post-hardcore four piece guitar band, and like all post-hardcore groups their music is vaguely (or explicity) religious in content--what else would you expect from an album titled The Act of Gabriel? The album is structured conceptually: the first six songs (the newest material) are one 'act'; the slightly older material comprising the next eight tracks are 'act II', and the unlisted fifteenth track contains a years-old archive recording. The first 'act' prominently displays the band's predilection for shifting time signatures, the rumbling, ominous rhythm section, the dinky-sounding guitars--all elements that are strongly reminiscent of Fugazi. It's that emphasis on the lurching, rhythmic underpinning while melodic elements are subordinate, topped by singing that aims more for passion than clarity. The second act's tracks are more along the lines of singable songs and thus tend to be more memorable than the impressive but bombastic newer compositions; the third act archive track (unlisted on the back cover, listed as five tracks on the inside cover, sounds like one song--you figure it out) extends the dinky guitar sound to the rhythm section as well, neutering a lot of the band's appeal and ending the CD on a less than optimal note. The whole thing sounds like it might be a lot more impressive live and in person than sitting at home listening to the record; it's skilled without being striking, emotional but not particularly involving for the listener. It's easy to tell that Ed Temple (just waiting for that triple bill with Ed Hall and Eddie Fromohio) cares about their music and its surrounding environment, but the finished product is hard to recommend unreservedly unless you're deeply into that area of music where King Crimson and Minor Threat overlap--in which case The Act of Gabriel might be one of your favorites of the year.
El Bad–Trick Or Treat/Hor–A Faster, More Aggressive Hor/Bias–Model Citizen/Screw Radio–Best Of Screw Radio--SST
In the mid-80's glory days of Greg Ginn's SST Records, when the label's roster could boast such luminaries as Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, and Ginn's old band Black Flag, SST was seemingly churning out new records every other week on the premise that enough people thought the SST logo was cool that they'd buy the record on that basis alone. Well, the glory days are long gone and so is the label's old roster of talent, but that hasn't stopped Ginn from churning out the records; the difference is, now Ginn seems to be practically all the bands.
El Bad purports to be Ginn's collaboration with vocalist Reece; the other band members listed may just be Ginn pseudonyms (the 'drums' are clearly a drum machine rather than the listed drummer). The music is mechanized beats underlying thick layers of Ginn's trademark guitar for an overall effect not unlike Big Black, the songwriting in places closely recalls Ginn's Black Flag work, the sound is more-or-less decent home studio quality. Probably the standout here is the Misfits tribute "I Turned Into A Misfit" featuring lyrical mention of the fact that the Misfits played with Black Flag. Come to think of it, maybe the vocalist is just Ginn, too…
Hor is Ginn's vehicle for his brand of instrumental (no vocals) beat-centered music; the guitars here are secondary to the programmed drums. The only other credit that appears on this one is for an Andy Batwinas for percussion and engineering--I'm not sure if I buy that Ginn actually had different guys come in just to program the drum machine for different projects, but whatever, I can't say I really care if Ginn wants to pretend he has a lot of friends if that's the case. A lot of the new Hor CD A Faster More Aggressive Hor is pretty repetitive, but certainly no more so than any more commercial techno music and less so than many. In any case, if you like Hor you ought to like Bias: I played the new Bias CD Model Citizen right after A Faster, More Aggressive Hor and was hard-pressed to come up with any real differences between the two except that the guitar is mixed a little higher and the sound is overall a little clearer on Model Citizen. This one has the same 'Batwinas' credit for percussion and engineering (and more synthesized drumbeats), 'Dale Nixon' on bass (a known Ginn bass alias from back in the Black Flag days), and 'Ron Beck' on keyboards. Maybe these people exist and maybe they don't, but if they do they still sound an awful lot like Greg Ginn. But hey, wouldn't it be something if it turned out there was no such person as Henry Rollins?
Screw Radio was a local radio show Ginn created (and hosted as his annoying alter ego Poindexter Stewart) that ran for six months in '92-'93. Presumably the bulk of the show was comprised of Ginn Playing SST music, none of which is contained on the double CD Best Of Screw Radio with the sole exception of one live performance by SST subsidiary label Cruz act Rig. What is here is mostly promos for the show itself, ads for the SST Superstore, and not-very-funny comedy bits, nearly all of which revolve around genitalia in one way or another. The special feature is a half-hour total of genital piercing coverage containing more information than any but the most intimately interested in the subject would need, as well as comedic interviews with SST bands the Leaving Trains and Overpass (two verifiably non-Ginn SST bands). The potential audience for an item like this would seem miniscule, but if all goes according to plan Screw Radio will return as a weekly show with national distribution; if and when that happens, one listen ought to tell you whether Screw Radio is for you.
Rock It To The Moon CD
What is it about English bands that when one of them gets popular, every single English band for the next few years sounds like them? The prototype band in this particular instance being Radiohead: they’ve put out a few records of this soundscape type of stuff, which frankly isn’t up to the standard of their pop-rock songwriting-based music of ‘The Bends’ but which has sold in truckloads, so now English bands have quit writing catchy songs (which is one of the redeeming qualities of English pop music) and instead are all pretending they’re Can or something. What the fuck is that about?
After hearing Electrane’s Rock It To Moon, though, I’m about ready to forgive. Frankly, Radiohead could stand to take lessons from these ladies on how to make moody soundscape music that’s still catchy, listenable, and hooky (even if Electrane are still pretentious enough to list their influences as “Nina Simone, the Stooges, & Puccini”--only a English band could say that straight-faced). Great organ-based instrumentals with a beat. If you’re the depressive arty type who wants to believe Amnesiac represents some kind of great art, you’ll find plenty here to twist your skull around (one definitely gets the idea more than one person here owns a Joy Division album or two); if you just want to dance, well, there’s a few tracks that won’t accomplish that end but plenty that will. And the title isn’t sarcastic: they rock! Check track 7, “Le Song”, for proof. Pretty damned impressive--I’ll even forgive them pulling the tired old “hideen track after loads of blank space at the end of the disc” trick. See, guys, you can do this kind of music and not disappear completely up your own ass! Here’s how to do it! (Mr. Lady, www.mrlady.com) – Aaron J. Poehler
Error Type: 11
Error Type: 11 CD--Some Records (405 W. 14th St. No. 3, NYC, NY 10014)
The packaging of the debut album by New Yorkers Error Type: 11 might lead one to believe that the contents fall into the creative void that is modern electronic music, taking the clunky, computerized band name into account along with the sterile, impersonal shot of empty New York subway seats that adorns the cover, but upon further investigation it turns out that the human element is really what's at the heart of the album. Error Type: 11 turns out to be a conventional two guitars/bass/drums rock band, the kind comprised of guys who have backgrounds in punk rock and hardcore, but being a little older than that now they've rediscovered an affection for conventional melodic song structures and more emotionally-centered lyrics. The booklet even contains notes by the authors elaborating on how the songs got written, what they mean to the band, and so forth, and a set of photos highly reminiscent of Charles Peterson's trademark blurry live shots that helped establish a sense of place and setting for the early Sup Pop Seattle records. It's all very impressive and eminently listenable without being particularly original: the music is pretty much a straight blend of Fugazi, Sugar, and Superchunk. Yet the band's cohesion and obvious compatibility almost compensates for their flaws--and might do so in a live situation. They make an impressive noise. Still, the recorded music isn't quite strong enough to bring me back time and again the way it might. Incidentally, my copy of 'Mac FAQs' answers the question "What's a Type 11 error?" with "It's a Power Mac-specific, generic error message...you have yourself a troublesome extension, a corrupted font, or a Power Mac-hostile program." Apply that information to the band Error Type: 11 as you see fit.
More Miles Than Money:Live 1994-96--Bloodshot Records (912 W. Addison, Chicago, IL 60613)
I had relatively high hopes for this one, having enjoyed an Escovedo set at the Waldron Arts Center here in Bloomington that corresponded pretty closely with the contents of this CD, and I have to say that More Miles Than Money fairly accurately reproduces a musical experience similar to the one in that room on that particular night, despite being compiled from several different locations and lineups. So what's the difference? Blame it on that intangible, mysterious process that separates the live performance from the recorded artifact if you must, but what seems fresh and exciting onstage right in front of you can seem predictable and tedious set down on aluminum and played repeatedly in your living room. Live, playing "I Wanna Be Your Dog" can be an exhilarating blast, but set down on record it's just another of the hundreds of weak reinterpretations of the Stooges' original and not even among the better cover versions. Likewise, the Stones' "Sway" isn't exactly an unpredictable cover choice, and while Lou Reed's "Street Hassle" is slightly more obscure it probably wasn't a good idea to segue it with Escovedo's own "Gravity/Falling Down Again" because it points up how clearly the Escovedo songs were derived from the superior Reed songwriting. Everything has that slightly sluggish feel that lets you know that musicians have downed a few (or more) alcoholic beverages, which in combination with the already midtempo-to-dirgelike pace of Escovedo's songs drags the listener down after awhile. Most of the musicians are fine, though lead guitarist Joe Eddy Hines could stand to learn a few more licks and the fact that six different lineups appear on these eleven tracks gives you some idea of how long the musicians have been playing the material: some for too long, other for far too short a time. The album is rewarding in spots but far from a easy recommendation for anyone not prone to middle-aged, road-weary alcoholic melancholy. At least Alejandro's not depending on niece Sheila E. (the E stands for...) for employment.