003_08.htmlTEXTR*ch*[mBIN ROCKIST: reviews
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Geraldine Pure Bastard Rock
Dirty hyped-up blues tunes with vocals consistently overloading the mic. (Orange Records, www.orangerecordings.com)

Ghosts and Vodka Precious Blood
One of the finer instrumental releases I've heard on a while. The songs are actually catchy and innovativeimagine that, huh? I made it all the way through this twice without yawning. This may stem from the fact that this Chicago area band actually tried out vocalists and became an instrumental band by default when they couldn't find someone that fit. Features members of Owls (the new version of Cap'n Jazz), ex-members of Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc, and Tetsuo. I also have to compliment the layout which features a number of irreverent cartoons and lengthy descriptions of the meanings of the songs. (www.ghostsandvodka.com; Sixgunlover 3203 Overcup Oak, Austin, TX 78704 www.sixgunlover.com)

The Good Life Novena on a Nocturn
"'Mama, I tried a thousand times - the pieces wouldn't fit.'
'Son, love is a punch in the eye. It's a sudden and swift surprise. It's not a candle, it's not waiting to burn.
So baby, just wait your turn.'"
-- "What We Fall for When We're Already Down"

This is a side project of Tim Kasher of Cursive with some of his friends (including members of The Faint and Lullaby for the Working Class). The most compelling aspects of this record are Kasher's lyrics and vocals and the contrast with the keyboards. This is a much quieter record than any of Cursive's songs and I have to say, not quite as absorbing, although there are some delicate and emotionally absorbing moments (see: "What We Fall for When We're Already Down" and "An Acquaintance Strikes a Chord"). That said, I have a feeling that Kasher is one of those songwriters who, by virtue of the fact that he is able to mine the core of his heart and mind and write songs of considerable depth, cannot really do wrong. (Better Looking Records 11041 Santa Monica Blvd. PMB 302 Los Angeles, CA 90025-3523 www.betterlookingrecords.com)
Gotohells Rock-n-Roll America
These St. Petersburg boys start with a nice bass of AC/DC-esque bravado, add a bit of dirt and a couple slices of cheese, and serve their fun platter of rock and roll with some extra crispy riffs. (Vagrant Records 2118 Wilshire Blvd. #361 Santa Monica, CA 90403 www.vagrant.com)

Grade Headfirst Straight to Hell
The Canadian powerhouse called Grade changes things up again and creates the perfect soundtrack to the next public decapitation you plan to attend. This is no "Under the Radar", kids. Oh, the brilliantly-crafted guitar lines are still there and the vocals still howl and seethe, but the sound is much darker. If you like lyrics about severed limbs and bloody carcasses, this will no doubt be your new favorite record. (Victory Records 346 North Justine Street, Suite 504 Chicago, IL 60607 www.victoryrecords.com)

The Gravel Pit Mass Avenue Freeze-Out
After their longest break (two years) between albums since the band's inception in 1995, Boston's Gravel Pit returns with a collection of twelve punchy songs that they reel off in thirty-seven quick minutes. Taking as its title a nod to Bruce Springsteen's "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," you might expect a collection of urban folk ballads. But then you would not know The Gravel Pit. These four transplants from Connecticut are extremely successful in their ability to straddle that precocious place where rock and roll becomes pop (see: Superdrag, The Figgs, or Chisel for further reference), where your head starts nodding and your feet start moving.

Highlights include "The Ballad of the Gravel Pit," "Unit Three," and "Star Treatment" which are all on par with the catchy should-a-been-a-hit single "Favorite" from 1999's Silver Gorilla.

The album is full of some nice harmonies (some courtesy of The Figgs' friends Pete Donnelly and Mike Gent (who plays with The Gravel Pit's Ed Valauskas, Lucky Jackson, and Pete Caldes in The Gentlemen and also plays guitar on three tracks), which only augment the vocals of singer/organ player Jed Parish. Parish sounds like he's hit his stride and has reached a point where he is secure enough to do what he wants with his voice.

The album is also marked by the crisp production of ex-Letters to Cleo bassist Scott Riebling (American Hi-Fi, The Sheila Divine, The Gentlemen). Riebling has succeeded in giving some of these songs a vintage sound quality (including the sound of a Hammond C-2 organ from the 1940s), much like Everclear's Songs from an American Movie - Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile (their attempt to write a 70's pop album). (thegravelpit@qdivision.com, www.thegravelpitband.com
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