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Issue #34 September 2001

An Interview Joe Bussard of
A Man And His Music
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3rd Degree
Mod-est Lads

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3rd Degree
Radio 7

11 song CD

Exhibiting a knack for no-nonsense power pop delivered with a cheeky attitude, 3rd Degree burns it up with 11 radio-ready modern rock tunes. They play by the rules, but somehow you get the feeling they're breaking a few behind your back. The songs are rife with unfounded suburban teen angst, you can almost see the condescending sneer, albeit a relatively benign and posturing sneer. They're faking it, but they know that you know, so who cares? In other words, just party on, have some fun. Radio 7 is the perfect soundtrack for your senior year, or maybe a way for you late twenty-somethings to get in touch with your long-lost youth.

The songs are great, almost too good for their own good, whether it's the playful intro-harmonies of Leave Yourself Behind, or the ripping muscular riffs of Don't Walk Away. They have a true talent for melody, and at times their songwriting reminds me of the overly infectious and shining pop tunes of the long lost PFR (Pray For Rain), especially when they give musical nods to classic British Invasion. When it comes down to it, 3rd Degree's music gets under your skin like a bad rash; you're gonna be itching to sing along whether you want to or not.

MISH MASH Mandate: Itchy Pop

3rd Degree Website


10 song CD

She sports a memorable one-word moniker, but Elza's powerful voice is as unforgettable as her unique name. It flitters and flows over her driving acoustic guitar-based music, displaying full-throated emotion. Close comparisons could be made to Jewel or perhaps Fiona Apple, but she does not go out of her way to sound like them; her voice can stand on its own.

Her songwriting is somewhat basic, but the songs have enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. On Freedom she uses a descending progression to open up her vocal range, it's a simple tactic, but it moves the song along with exotic flavor. The jerky rhythms of It Ain't Right lend a shot of adrenaline to the album, and the loose live studio recording of Gotta Be Free has a beautiful honesty about it.

If you're going to go by one name, you gotta do it with style, and Elza leaves no doubt about it.

MISH MASH Mandate: Standing With Style

Elza Website


13 song CD

Freeloader has the perfect bar-band sound. It's middle-of-the-road, no-nonsense blues rock with a lot of backbone, somewhere between the Stones, the Black Crowes and the Wallflowers. They plod along with a tight rhythm section, complimented with liquor-drenched vocal harmonies.

There's a underlying current of gospel soul uplifting the nasty guitar runs of Lemonade, while Gutless rips along with frantic Southern rock flavor. Two Chips meanders in aimless directions, and Senorita leans into some serious classic country & western. The boys kick it back into gear one more time with the no-holds barred riffs of Entitled, only to round out the album at a much slower pace on the last three songs.

Not much in the way of new ground broken here, but Freeloader does a lot with the standard sounds. They prove that if you're going to stick to the tried and true, you better do it right. And they do.

MISH MASH Mandate: Do The Right Thing

Freeloader Website


Slurry Records
4 song CD

Mudville blends a mean mix of drum-n-bass, soul, be-bop, and deconstruction in this strange little EP. It's a jumble of rambling sounds and rhythms, slouching in a lazy haze. The brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Marilyn Carino and bassist/organist Benjamin Rubin, the duo slings a mess of freeform meanderings against the wall just to see what will stick. The thing is, it kind of works in its own special way. The music is slow and lethargic, plodding away with flat rhythm accents and sludge-filled bass lines, lifted only by the mysterious siren voice of Carino. The only break from this structure is found in the acoustic instrumentation of High Rise, a light and airy jazz piece that rises up and over despite its slow tempo. Carino's vocals and the music finally work together, and it supplies the perfect complimenting climax to the EP's previous heavy-footed tunes.

MISH MASH Mandate: Slow Slouch

Mudville Website

Under the Dark End Sky

Kazmodawn Records, Inc.
8 song CD

The term "electronic music" has covered a lot of ground over the years, and Sapien is one of the few groups to successfully embrace the whole spectrum of the genre. You can hear a little bit of everything in Under the Dark End Sky, from Kraftwerk to more recent efforts by Prodigy. And this approach is bookended with a pop sensibility that embraces The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Jane's Addiction, the Clash, Depeche Mode, Devo, The Tom Tom Club, along with any number of early 80s New Wave groups. It's a wacky mess of beat sounds and pop melodies, but it ends up working flawlessly.

They master the mood, whether it's the laid-back groove of The Reason or the aggressive underlying angst of Get With It. Sapien never lets the sound get stale, twisting and turning their songmanship with a dash of dry humor.

MISH MASH Mandate: Eclectic Electric

The Mod-est Lads
They Stand Straight Up (When She Lays Down)

CD single

It's hard to tell if this is a stroke of genius or a one trick pony. They Stand Straight Up (When She Lays Down) is a juvenile take on the Beatles and the 60s British Invastion, a lovely pop ditty about a girl's fake breasts. Funny on the first listen, but not much in the way of substance, as you can well imagine. It would probably be more impressive if the Mod-est Lads did a full album of parody songs, a la Spinal Tap or even the Rutles, instead of a quick single which is more in tune with an early morning radio show.

MISH MASH Mandate: Bosom Buddies

© 2001 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved