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ONdO Entertainment
10 song CD


If it weren't for the fact that they're so darn good at it, AutoVaughn could easily be dismissed as just another modern rock band that's enamored with 80s new wave splashed with guitar rock. Yes, they're riding that bandwagon, but the tunes are built on solid, catchy pop that grabs you and just won't let go. So, all has been forgiven.

Lead singer Darren Potuck delivers his vocals with smart and European intentions, enunciating each word clearly and avoiding histrionics and volume for a matter-of-fact tone that is purely no nonsense. It fits the band's overall sound like a glove, which is the perfect mix of big guitars and driving rhythms.

Even though there's no real new ground broken here, there's a darkness and moodiness which keeps the album on edge throughout, helping to keep it interesting from beginning to end on successive listens without wearing thin. This combination of catchy pop and anxiety shine through on the song "One More Time", a great little song which should be making the rounds on college radio by the time you ready this.

MISH MASH Mandate: Ride The Wave
AutoVaughn Website

The Exploding Madonna
The Exploding Madonna
7 song CD


I'm not sure where to begin with this one, but suffice it to say that The Exploding Madonna is all about noise. Not just random noise, but a controlled noise which is highly structured in its attack. It's a cacophonous mix of guitars, synthesizers, and distorted vocals, burying the listener in a complex and overwhelming wall of absolute sound.

The irony comes in the fact that the songs have their central basis in pop rock, albeit this foundation is buried under layer upon layer of massive sound, which in turn gives the overall appearance of progressive rock. This works in spite of the obvious musical contradictions, as some sort of hybrid musical monster. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take an aspirin.

MISH MASH Mandate: Monster Mash
The Exploding Madonna Website

Devil's Blues
Shrimper Records
12 song CD


Joy's music is anything but joyful, plodding along with a somewhat depressing and lonely movement. The songs bite with a country-fried sneer, wafting up through the air like the heat from a rural asphalt road in summertime. Song titles like Love Is Lonesome and Death And Doubt leave little wiggle room in this attitude assessment.

Even though the production is modern and well done, the band's basic and bare approach reminds me of older country and blues songs from the early 20th Century, almost as if they were recorded on somebody's back porch. It's a hollow and haunting sound, which only embellishes the overall feeling of loneliness.

At the same time, there is a strange sense of optimism which peeks through now and then, almost buoying us up from sinking too low.

MISH MASH Mandate: Optimist's Club
Joy Website


The Strange
The Strange
7 song CD


This one is chalking up to be one of my favorite releases of the year. When I first put on The Strange, I found myself wondering why this power trio reminded me of Led Zeppelin. Then it occurred to me: lead singer Brent McKay sounds a lot like Robert Plant. Not the screaming, swaggering Robert Plant, but the quiet, bluesy and mysterious Robert Plant. Think Led Zeppelin III. The music has a hint of that, also, but it doesn't overdo it---it's a nice dynamic mix of acoustic and electric guitars and piano which owes more to Radiohead than Physical Graffiti.

The great thing about this disc is the smoldering slow burn which never lets up throughout the album. It's an anxious feeling that rides in and out of each song like a wave, focusing all your attention on McKay and his incredible vocals. By far, the best example of this can be found in the song Texas, where all the elements work flawlessly together

MISH MASH Mandate: The Song Remains The Same
The Strange Website

Steel String Theory
The North Buncombe Years
10 song CD

Steel String Theory takes traditional acoustic bluegrass
and dresses it up with just a touch of bluesy rock attitude. This blend gives the songs a unique swagger, one that you usually don't find in this type of music. Add some electric guitars, bass and drums, and this could easily be a pretty water-tight rock album. Yet, the fact that this is a merely duo with a mandolin and acoustic guitar (and a few additional guest musicians) just shows how far good songwriting can go.

The songs themselves are all original, yet they still have the aura of being classic, as if they were dusted off after half a century of neglect. It's a genuine, backwoods sound whose only indication of its newness comes from the aforementioned influence from rock.

MISH MASH Mandate: Stringing Along
Steel String Theory Website

Poet's Walk
Beave Music
10 song CD

Over the past few years, Marlon Saunders and Jazzhole have done their best to keep the sound of acid jazz alive, releasing strong albums that are overflowing with the most soulful jazz you've ever heard. It's laid back and sexy, never sacrificing the ever present groove.

The band gives a nod to the sounds of yesteryear, borrowing and reviving the funky soul of the 60s and 70s, all the while adding a modern twist of attitude and rhythm---even covering and updating Boz Scaggs' Lowdown. It's not so much retro as it is respectful, building upon the past with skillful intention.

MISH MASH Mandate: Smoothest Soul
Jazzhole Website

Beautiful Baby Elephant
Micheal J. Media
10 song CD

Peal is the kind of band that makes the college girls go crazy; heartfelt roots rock with songs about the trials and tribulations of love and relationships. So it's no surprise that the liner notes show photos of the girls in their audience, waiting patiently for the show, where they surely hang onto each and every word.

They know their job, and they do it well. The songwriting is tight and direct with no nonsense, light and airy with just the right amount of angst. Thankfully it doesn't come across as too calculated, as the band knows how to make the tunes dance and bounce along with a fresh sounding resolve. It sounds like they're having fun, and it shows.

MISH MASH Mandate: An Affair Of The Heart
Peal Website

© 2006 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved


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2005 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved