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Issue #59 February 2004

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The All Music Guide


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Hanzsolo
Grayson Wray
West
The Central Standards


Hanzsolo
Closet Pop

Self-released
11 song CD

All I can say is, I'm floored. Listening to this is like stepping on a piece of bubble gum---it grabs onto you and it just won't let go. Hanzsolo, AKA Hans Erickson, has produced THE underground pop album of the year, better yet---a timeless pop masterpiece if there ever was one. Honestly, the only problem I see is the dumb name, which George Lucas will probably put out of our misery if he ever gets wind of it. For now, ignore the name, trust me on this one!

Erickson seems to get right down to business with the slippery rock groove Trying Not To Fall, but we soon find that this is only the warmup. By song two he simply kicks it into full gear with the incredible sugar pop of Cling To Me, an acoustic driver that is so catchy and cool that it can't help but stick in your head like superglue. From there, Erickson gives us the tearjerking The Endblock, which sets up the slam dunk---the perfectly meandering and melancholy Matchbook, the type of song that Brian Wilson only wishes he could still write. Wow...

But, by far, the climax here is the clever pop of I Wish I Were Your Hair, with lyrics that simply dazzle: I wish I were your hair / I'd catch the breeze to kiss your cheek / I wish I were your sun streaked hair when you let me down / So that I could trace every line about your face / Your shoulders would be my resting place just let me down. I would go on, but I'm only wasting your time, when you should be busy buying this album.

MISH MASH Mandate: Pop Perfection

Hanzsolo Website


Grayson Wray
Picasso's Dream

Impressive Music
16 song CD

What an appropriate title for this strange amalgam of popular music. Grayson Wray pulls from a host of influences and sounds, creating an album that rambles and careens without a focused direction. While this admittedly doesn't always work, sometimes it does, and the result can be fabulous.

Wray is at his best when he flirts with standard pop sensibilities. The fun part is that he only borrows what he needs, without taking us down the same old roads again. This is most evident in songs like What's Inside and With You I'm Alone, where he uses deconstructed beats and disjointed melodies to piece together these beautiful pop songs. There's a late-Beatles quality to his approach; think the weirder moments of The White Album-meets-Abbey Road and you might get an idea of what's going on here.

Much like the album's namesake, Wray takes his art and turns it around so we can look at it from a completely different angle, and that's quite a feat.

MISH MASH Mandate: Picasso Pop

Impressive Music Website


West
We Feel Better Now

Two Dupes Records
16 song CD

Ah, the noise! West kicks out the slow, loud jams in the vein of Fugazi and Jesus Lizard, plodding along with beautifully dissonant rage. All the while, the angst simmers and bubbles below the surface, giving the sound an anxious feel that can't be shaken.

Bloodshed starts the disc with a howling guitar riff set over a steady, heavy-footed beat. From there, the band picks up the pace for the driving and forceful Get Off, which in turn gives way to the almost-pop of Ten Million People. By far, the best cut on the album is the dark and mysterious Skin, which features Genevieve Maull on guest vocals. She delivers a perfectly creepy performance, which is enhanced by the mirrored male murmurs which linger below her voice.

If you like your music a little on the uncomfortable side, then this is right up your alley.

MISH MASH Mandate: Uneasy Listening

Two Dupes Records Website


The Central Standards
Refrain

Self-released
14 song CD

As soon as this disc from The Central Standards starts to play, you're taken back to the glory days of R.E.M. Don't get me wrong, TCS doesn't exactly try to sound like the jangle grand-daddies, but they do a great job of emulating that long-lost indie romance that R.E.M. used to possess. It also doesn't hurt that one of the duo (either Jeff Capps or Ted Horrell) sounds a little like good ol' Uncle Stipe.

Whatever the case may be, the guys have their act together, and the songs are incredible. Capps and Horrell have a knack for this stuff, the songwriting is flawless and their harmonies blend with ease. It's a somewhat polished sound, but not overly slick---just rough enough around the edges to keep it firmly grounded. This one's a keeper.

MISH MASH Mandate: Automatic For The Jangle

The Central Standards Website