Paloalto "Heroes and Villians" (American) Rock
As the American Recordings official bio duly notes, Fred Durst (of "Doing It All for the Nookie" fame) has called Paloalto "a real band with a real sound and real songs!" That said, we must tread lightly on Durst's definition of "real." If "real" means "somewhat convoluted, Radiohead comparisons, a stockpile of experience-based lyrics that remain generally unremarkable throughout and slick Rick Rubin production skills," then by all means! It's real! The songs don't offend your intelligence, but they aren't exactly brilliant either. Paloalto suffers from its songs sounding the same, which isn't altogether awful when they sound O.K. "Fade Out/In" makes you think that there's going to be some rocking going on, but it decrescendos into "Last Way Out of Here" and you're kicking yourself for getting your hopes up. Paloalto is indeed a real band that manages to write real songs, so at least it has Fred Durst's astute observation backing it up.
- JEN TURNER
Shinedown "Leave a Whisper" (Atlantic Records) Rock
At first listen one might label Shinedown's debut album, "Leave a Whisper", as nothing more than a Staind-influenced rock album consisting of Jason Todd's heavy guitar riffs, Brent Smith's catchy voice, Brad Stewart's rumbling bass and Barry Kerch's hard-hitting drums. However, after repeated listens, Smith's immense vocal talent shines through and Shinedown's skillfully played instruments work together to create a unique sound that packs a punch.
Shinedown doesn't resort to screaming and deafening riffs to convey frustration and anger; its musical and lyrical talent does that just fine. Each song on "Leave a Whisper" rocks listeners but has its own unique identity and meaning that become more apparent with repeated listens. "Fly from the Inside" starts this album off and doesn't waste a second before it grabs listeners and shocks them that such talent can rock so hard. "Stranger Inside" and "45" also stand out from this album. Do yourself a favor and pick up "Leave a Whisper" if you want to see how rock is supposed to be done.
- GRANT RITTER
The Flaming Lips Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell EP (Warner Bros.) Rock
"Ego Tripping" starts where the full-length "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" left off, combining pop hooks with electronic whimsy. However, gone are the other-worldly lyrics about a giant pink robot falling in love with its would-be destroyer. The wonderfully dreamy opener "Assassination of the Sun" shows the band at top form. The Lips also include an instrumental "I'm a Fly in the Sunbeam (Following the Funeral Procession of a Stranger)" in the vein of the Beach Boys' "Let's Go Away for a While," followed by a let's-make-sweet-love-all-night-long anthem "Sunship Balloons," where Lips front man Wayne Coyne sings over a bouncy beat.
Despite the four excellent new tracks, "Ego Tripping" falls short in its inclusion of three new remixes. Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel and the Postal Service offers a disappointing version of Lips' single "Do You Realize?" The backbeat would sound more fitting in a Mega Man level.
The other two remixes are both takes on "Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell" also from 2002's "Yoshimi." Both are repetitive and only mildly interesting.
"Ego Tripping" ends with a plea for world peace, "A Change at Christ-mas (Say It Isn't So)." Where most bands would sound lamer than lame, the Lips manage to pull it off with an admirable earnest quality that continues to fuel its music with plenty of fluffy Care Bear heart.
- DANIEL LONGINO
They Walk Among Us Mathematics, Art in Progress (Aeronaut Records) Brit pop
A slightly foreboding band name leads a first-time listener toward mixed expectations. They Walk Among Us hails from Wales, but unlike other bands sharing the British music scene, it doesn't quite scratch our anglophile itch the way Coldplay or Radiohead do. "Mathematics, Art in Progress" attempts to mix too many different brands of music into one botched lump. The potential of the few presentable tracks on the album is, sadly, crushed in the drab fist of the rest of the songs. This m?lange of cheery harmonies, synthesized piano, a less-than-talented vocalist and sound effects leaves the listener feeling overwhelmed and confused. On the whole, lack of originality and excess bad ambition plague this album from the first notes - which happen to be flying saucer sound effects.
- REBECCA ARMENDARIZ
The Oval Portrait "Life In Death" (Eyeball records) Hardcore
Hailing from the legendary New Jersey scene, the Oval Portrait is basically a toned-down hardcore band. It does have some great breakdowns and a bit of screaming, but for the most part relies on tortured lyrics and gruff vocals. Most of the songs on "Life in Death" end as quickly as they begin. Most songs are about two minutes with a few three- to four-minute tracks thrown in. The Oval Portrait is somewhat reminiscent of Thursday without the outstanding lyrics and production, or Glassjaw without the extreme anger and interesting musical experimentation. The band does employ a lot of interesting effects at the ends of songs but they last too long and drag out what could have been a cool sound. The Oval Portrait is not unoriginal, but is not original enough to achieve greatness. With some better production work, the band might sound a lot better.
- JORGE DEL PINAL
No Motiv "Daylight Breaking" (Vagrant Records) Punk
No Motiv has been a force on the punk scene since its first album in 1996. A change in the band's lineup has brought a shift in the band's sound for its fifth release, "Daylight Breaking." The album deviates from No Motiv's original punk roots with a slightly darker tone and a rock-like vibe.
Unfortunately, the band's heartfelt confessions and valid social commentary are lost in the clich? images of the lyrics. The monotony of the melody and lack of variation in tempo makes for a boring 11-track album.
"Daylight Breaking," the title track and the first single, is gaining exposure on Fuse TV; however, the song has nothing to boast except for a catchy refrain. The album is saved from being a complete bust by the eerie sadomasochistic theme of "Audition" and the instrumental energy of "Fall From Grace."
This album may end up being No Motiv's ticket to stardom, but is by no means its best release to date. No Motiv fans will agree that the band should have stuck to its lighter, energy-driven sound.
- LISA LEONE
Subhumans Live in a Dive (Fat Wreck-Chords) Punk
The Subhumans are the type of band that is most identifiable on back of the jackets of only the most decorated punks who wear their identities through patches and pins. Beyond the iconography, though, the truth is most of us have never actually been to a Subhuman show. Even if we have, it was likely not the band we came to see and almost certainly wasn't the headliner. Why, then, would Fat Wreck Chords slot the Subhumans in their fifth "Live in a Dive" spot?
The Subhumans are actually a perfectly logical choice for the latest Fat Wreck Chords live release. They are, like most Fat Wreck bands, a mixture of conflicting elements that should not be able to coexist but somehow do. They are raw and edgy with much of the energy of the first era of punk rock bands and yet tight and crisp with the technical precision of later bands. This peculiar mix of energy without sloppiness and skill without reliance on skill is rare and satisfying.
The Subhumans are British, and not well distributed in the United States. This long and largely satisfying CD will, at the very least, reduce the cost of trying them out for size to a mere $11. The CD itself is an entertaining and diverse mix. Most of the material is drawn from their most popular CD, "The Day the Country Died," but it is justifiably better live. The production is of a surprisingly higher quality than previous "Live in a Dive" CDs. The enclosed comic, enhanced CD material and monster track list justify the already low price. In short, if you are a punk rock fan, there is no reason not to buy this -eventually. Buying this won't give you that "I have new music" feeling, because, obviously, this is a live album and because the Subhumans are an old and replicated sound. They do, however, remain interesting and enjoyable.
- AHMED NZIBO