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Issue #39 February 2002

The Aqua Velvets
Smells Like Surf Music
(Click Here)

Cheap Trick
The Mobius Band
Edge City Collective
Randy Moore & The Fabulous Deltones
Shane Ashley

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Cheap Trick
Live In Concert

The Georgia Theatre, Athens GA
January 29, 2002

Cheap Trick is the epitome of the rock-n-roll cliche. For more than 25 years, they've been putting on the world's greatest rock show, never wavering from their tried-and-true formula. Somehow they manage to do all the "uncool" things that rock stars do, yet somehow make it the coolest thing you've ever seen. Perhaps it's because they embrace the extremes. For example, Rick Nielsen has an obscene number of guitars which he parades in and out with each song, many of them customized into guitar mutations. He jumps around the stage like a kid with ADHD, paying more attention to flicking picks into the audience and making faces than the song he is supposed to be playing. Yet, he doesn't miss a note (and if he does, he doesn't seem to care). Meanwhile, the rest of the group is almost sedentary and nonchalant, concentrating on the work at hand. It's almost like they have to be the counterweight to Nielsen's insanity. It's an irony that becomes more ironic in a town like Athens, Georgia, a town which became famous for music that takes a more subtle route.

With that in mind, it was refreshing to see a band like Cheap Trick in a town like Athens. The pretense of the snobby music crowd seemed to dissipate without a trace, lost in the aura of huge guitar riffs and flashy showmanship. The band opened with Just Got Back and then proceeded to wail through song after song, hitting the obligatory classics and a few obscure tunes along the way. The set was pretty loose, and it was surprising to see that the band actually looked like they were having fun. You'd think this stuff would become old hat after playing it night after night for years and years. Yet it all sounded so fresh and unforced. By the time Nielsen pulled out the infamous five-necked guitar for Surrender, the crowd was fully under his spell. As an encore, they launched into a lean and mean version of Gonna Raise Hell. This must be Robin Zander's favorite tune, because he went into full rock star mode, parading around stage and interacting with the crowd like his buddy Nielsen, who was having Spinal Tap-like problems with his guitar's wireless transmitter at the beginning of the song. The Trick classic was topped off with an extended solo from drummer Bun E. Carlos which merged into a full-throttle jam with Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson in a wild guitar duel.

And here's one more interesting note: during the show Nielsen announced that Cheap Trick will be heading into the studio in the coming weeks to record their next album. This will be the first studio follow-up to their critically acclaimed 1997 self-titled disc, which firmly established them as a viable contemporary independent act. Can't hardly wait to see what they'll do next...

MISH MASH Mandate: Sweet Surrender

Cheap Trick Website

The Mobius Band

5 song CD

The Mobius Band's sound is a nefarious mix of styles which incorporate traditional instruments with electronic rhythms and noises. This hybrid at times reminds me of a cross between latter-day Radiohead and Check Your Head-era Beastie Boys. The music is complex in its conception and execution, but there is always an underlying beat that drives everything forward in a intentional manner. In other words, the rhythm gives the songs a solid structure to build on, no matter how abstract they wind up being in the end. The result is a style all its own, fascinating in its composite audacity.

As the first song, Taxicab, begins, it eases in with a bluesy guitar line and laid-back vocals. The twist soon emerges in the form of a frantic dance beat, blasting in and out before finally settling into a manic ramble to the end. The hung-up rhythm progression of Two Kinds of Light never sits comfortably, prefering to shake around like a post-modern be-bop improvisation, while the ugly percussion accents of Epitaph are juxaposed against the airy vocal melody which rises above it. More manic drumbeats make their way into The Lights Are Always On, while Theme Song relies on a quiet and meandering guitar to stretch out and ever-so-slightly build and recede until the end.

MISH MASH Mandate: Composite Incorporation

The Mobius Band Website

Edge City Collective

Edge City Music
23 song CD

As part two in a trilogy of improvisational music, Kosmischstrasse has the musicians in Edge City Collective exploring an even more far-out world than in part one. While the first disc seemed to lean on more traditional elements of jazz, part two ventures out into the realms of total deconstruction. The music presented here is more harsh in tone, as it is stripped down to the essence of mostly unstructured sounds (with a few exceptions). Much of the album tends to meander quite aimlessly, mixing and unmixing random rhythms and melody phrasings. The result is a collection of tracks which fluctuate from the strangely obtuse (Katzenmusik) to the surprisingly accessible (Beledara), which sometimes works and sometimes does not. Either way, ECC is definitely comfortable with taking chances, and the creation that emerges seems to take on a life of its own. The improvisation here is surely alive, breathing, speaking and crying out in a fashion that is sorely absent in the mainstream.

MISH MASH Mandate: Dr. Frankenstein

Edge City Music Website

Work In Progress Live

Moonjune Records
6 song CD

Recorded during their first live appearance in the U.S., Work In Progress Live is an excellent introduction of Italy's DFA to the American prog rock audience. From the sound of the crowd reaction presented here from NEARfest 2000, DFA's debut was indeed a pleasant surprise. The six tracks show off the band's fusion-based chops, which embrace just the perfect amount of world music influences. Taken as a whole, the album is a rollercoaster of a journey, weaving various moods and rhythms into an eclectic tapestry of sound.

After a long-winded and unnecessary spoken introduction, the band gets down to business with the hard-hitting and twisting turns of Escher, a song which builds with waves of intensity. A quieter and more traditional side is shown in Caleidoscopio, which features lyrics sung beautifully in Italian. Trip On Metro moves quickly with sharp accents, dancing around slightly offbeat rhythmic lines, and is also the shortest track clocking in at 6:36. The band slows it down considerably in the epic and laborious La Via, a tune which lingers in ethereal keyboard atmospheres and lonesome vocals.

A stunning performance captured in the right place at the right time.

MISH MASH Mandate: Presto Prog

Moonjune Records Website

Randy Moore & The Fabulous Deltones
Randy Moore & The Fabulous Deltones

Norca Records
11 song CD

Randy Moore and his Fabulous Deltones stick with a no nonsense, middle of the road sound which is two parts country and one part rock.

Rope Me With Fire opens the disc with a strong driving sound, ripping along with a foot on the gas. If it weren't for the steel guitar, it could almost be compared to Hootie & the Blowfish, simply because Mr. Moore has that ragged-yet-emotive voice and the song structure is tight and catchy. The good-time vibe of Life Is Good has a definite modern country feel, celebrating the lazy days of the Georgia summer with lyrics pronouncing "This must be the promised land." The guitars are thrown into overdrive for the political When the Odds Were Even, while Big Bertha opts for laid-back rockabilly blues. The heartfelt A Mother's Prayer has the atmosphere of an Alabama ballad, gently gliding along a simple piano line.

Basically, there are no real surprises here. But, it is a good solid effort with more than a few memorable tunes.

MISH MASH Mandate: Country Cookin

Shane Ashley
My Emotions

Gabby Records
11 song Cd

If you judge a disc by its cover, you might think Shane Ashley's My Emotions is little more than drippy love songs, pitifully lamenting lost romance. After all, it features a sad looking photo of Ashley with the words "My Emotions" plastered underneath in a sugary font. Thankfully, this disc has much more to offer than an excuse to reach for the Kleenex box. It just so happens that Ashley has a firm grip on passionate pop songs that move and groove with empathetic power. While these tunes may deal with lost love, they do it with a sense of strength and resolve.

Lovers We Can Never Be sets the tone with its slow groove and Latin guitar lines. It's a world pop blend which touches on Lisa Stansfield and Sade, always relying on the absolute dominance of the rhythm. The renewed attitude of I Can Love battles with the hardened-heart stance of Hurts 2 Much 2 Love.

In the end, Ashley has reminded us that this love thing is usually unpredictable at best, with multiple layers of joy and hurt rolled all into one.

MISH MASH Mandate: Cry Tough

Shane Ashley Website

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