Two decades ago, new albums from Mudhoney, Royal Trux, Los Super Seven and others were spinning away in my portable CD player. Here’s what I had to say about them back then (with some minor editing):
Tomorrow Hit Today
These Seattle veterans seem to be the only grunge-era band never to break truly big. Maybe that’s why they’re still around. Whatever the reason, be glad they are: Mark Arm’s Iggy Pop yowl and the band’s Stooges groove have never clicked with as much throbbing, chaotic oomph as they do on these 12 gloriously raucous tracks. Now that you don’t have to call them grunge anymore, let’s call them what they really are: America’s best garage band.
Life back on indie street seems to agree with Royal Trux. Since they bailed on their major-label deal recently, they put out last spring’s Accelerator, their best album so far. Now they’ve followed it up with this solid (if unimaginatively titled) EP. Spacey guitarist Neil Hagerty and acid-throated singer Jennifer Herrema show off the full range of their shambling junkie blues here — you get one nod-off duet, one drug freakout and one boogie-rock classic. All you need to whet your appetite for their next trip.
Dub Narcotic Sound System
Out Of Your Mind
“The Dub Narcotic style’s back in!” boasts frontman Calvin Johnson on his Olympia, Wash., band’s second full-length CD. Of course, he’s talking through his hat. DNSS‘s slippy, trippy style — a trashy party mix of Stax/Volt soul, basement funk jams and Johnson’s laconic, creaking croak — will never be stylish. Which, if you ask me, is a damn shame.
Despite their name, this quirky Washington trio makes the grade. At first, it seems D+ cribbed their sound — appealingly untrained vocals over endearingly sloppy guitar-pop — from a million lo-fi lightweights. Listen closer, though, and you find their Dandelion Seeds have deep, twisted country roots. After all, lots of bands could have penned the line, “Like Achilles, I’m a heel.” But few could write a couple as darkly beautiful as, “The road to hell is strewn with friends / That killed themselves to make amends.”
Los Super Seven
Los Super Seven
Part house party jam, part musicology lesson, this spirited album unites a septet of Latino music superstars — Los Lobos’ Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo, Texas Tornados’ Freddy Fender and Flaco Jimenez, country boy Rick Trevino, Austin legend Joe Ely and Ruben Ramos — tackling a baker’s dozen tunes from south of the border, down Mexico way. The music varies from traditional melodies to modern-day mariachi, while the styles range from stark country and fiery flamenco to spicy Tex-Mex and conjunto. But whether they’re being playful or passionate, Los Super Seven create pure perfection.
Folks who think DJs aren’t musicians should spin this ambitious 72-minute outing from D.C. turntable king Spooky (That Subliminal Kid). Actually, though, Spooky, aka Paul Miller, is more of a painter than a musician. His palette? Any and all kinds of sonic sources — from video games and conversations to hyper house breakbeats and Thurston Moore guitar abuse. All of which are intelligently and deliberately layered into aural artworks that are often surreal, sometimes abstract, but inevitably funky.
Mix Master Mike
Invisibl Skratch Piklz turntablist Mike is spinning for Beastie Boys these days. This majestic magnum opus shows why he deserves the gig. Slicing and dicing like a Vegematic and making cooler cuts than Vidal Sassoon, Mike stitches big phat beats, fleet-fingered scratching and samples from Joe Tex to Austin Powers into a psychedelic whirlwind of sound that scrambles your brain as it shakes your booty. Mix Master Mike‘s real Anti-Theft Device are his mad skills: He’s so smooth nobody can rip off his act.