Gantry's Music and Book Reviews


I read a shitload of books and listen to a shitload of music, so I decided to share my opinons with my loving public. My plan is to review every book and CD I obtain from X-Mas 2001 on. Everything is on a ten point scale, and, appropriately, the scale means nothing...

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Book Reviews

Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut (8.0 / 10)

Vonnegut wrote this one during his 50th birthday and it expresses some of his fears and conerns with life as we know it. He includes some of his former characters (Kilgore Trout and Eliot Rosewater) and cleverly throws in a bunch of hand-drawn pictures. All in all a good story, but he has done better. I would highly recommend first-time Vonnegut readers start with Cat's Cradle, but still a good read if you are already familiar with his style...

The Columbia Encyclopedia - (10 / 10)

Cost - $30 at Barnes n' Noble (Bargain Book)

Review - All I can say is wow... An incredibly thorough one-volume encyclopeia. I'm a huge fan of reference books and this has made it to tier1 level, meaning it's next to me no matter what I read (along with my unabridged dictionary and atlas). It's about the size of an unabridged dictionary and is the perfect resource for getting more information than a dictionary entry. There are entries for virtually every proper noun you would want to look up. They are concise, yet usually provide all the detail you need. The only downside I have found is that the paper is very thin, which might lead to premature wear-and-tear. Regardless, it's one of the best purchases I've ever made...

Eastward to Tartary - Robert Kaplan (9.0 / 10)

Robert Kaplan does it again. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, Robert Kaplan is a travelling journalist for the Atlantic Monthly. He specalizes in traveling to typically unknown countries and writes on his experiences. In Eastward to Tartary, Kaplan goes to the countries in the following order - Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenestan and Armenia. He devotes a chapter or two to each country, discussing their histories and current world situation. His interviews range from a simple cab drive to the ruler of the country. He exhibits tremendous insight and is a fantastic writer. You learn a great deal from his books. Grab an atlas and get to it...

Ethnologue Volume 1 - Languages of the World (6.5 / 10)

Cost - $36 at Amazon used books

Review - The Ethnologue (edited by Barbara Grimes) is an impressive reference of the world's spoken languages. It pretty much has every spoken language and major dialect in the world, nearly 7000 in all. For each language, there is a good amount of detail, including reigons spoken and spoken population. While the technical aspects of the Ethnologue are top-notch, the organization is what I find suspect. The languages are separated by country, which is fine, but there is no fucking index! If you want to know anything about the Jiji language, you better know what country it is spoken in. The whole point of a reference book is to look up shit you don't know and with the Ethnologue it is too difficult to do that. Volume two of the Ethnologue is nothing but the index and some maps, so definitely grab both volumes if you plan to use it. I figured when you blow $40 for a 800-page paperback reference book, they would be nice enough to include an index. Nope, that costs another $40...

The Gimp For Linux and Unix - Phyllis Davis (8.0 / 10)

Cost - $19.99 at Barnes n' Noble (New)

Review - The GIMP is the premiere graphics program (ala Adobe Photoshop) for Linux. Given that I had zero knowledge or skill in art and computer graphics, I decided a book was sorely needed. The program, while powerful, is incredibly complex, especially to non-artists. Phyllis Davis does a great job in laying out the basics of the GIMP in a straightforward, easy-to-follow manner. Definitely aimed at the graphics newbie, though the later chapters do delve into advanced topics. The biggest downside to The Gimp for Linux and Unix was that it was based on GIMP 1.0 and I was using 1.2 - this led to some parts of the tutorials being in the wrong place, but it was still easy to find your way. If you already know the GIMP or are a Photoshop maven, this book isn't for you. But if you are the type who has no artistic ability and has difficulty doing the most basic graphic tasks (such as resizing a pic), grab it. It won't teach you how to draw, but it'll make you very comfortable with working and altering existing pictures. After reading it, I am much more comfortable working on graphics files, and it helped me to fix many of the pictures here on

The Hot Zone - Richard Preston (9 / 10)

Cost - XMas present from Zorb

Review - A very scary true story about the Ebola virus and its spread to Reston, Virginia. The Hot Zone basically follows Ebola in its various forms (Marburg, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Zaire) through its roots in Central Africa all the way to Reston. Wonderfully written - very easy to follow and just scares the living hell out of you all the way through. Really makes you think about how close we came to another Plague. Highly recommended...

How The Irish Saved Civilization - Thomas Cahill (8.5 / 10)

This is Cahill's first book in his "Hinges of History" series - his take on some of the more underappreciated accomplishments of history. In this volume, he covers the rise and impact of Irish Christianity on the preservation of modern society after the fall of the Roman Empire. Breaks everything up into almost self-containing chapters, which make some better than others. He does a great job expressing his ideas and is very readable, avoiding the mistake many historical writers make by overwhelming you with endless proper nouns. One of the drawbacks to this style is that a few of Cahill's interpretations seem a bit unfounded. Others might feel he is a bit too harsh towards the Catholic Church (though I feel you can never be too harsh to the Catholic Church), but overall the goods handsomely outweigh the bads. It's a short, easy-to-read book on a subject many readers of history do not know too much about, thereby living up to its Hinges of History moniker.

Journey Without Maps - Graham Greene (6.0 / 10)

Cost - $14 at Barnes n' Noble

Review - Well-known English novelist Graham Greene (probably best known in America for writing the screenplay to The Third Man) journeys through Western Africa in 1935 and writes on his experiences. He starts out in Sierra Leone, travels through northern Liberia, crosses briefly through Guinea, then back south through Liberia until he gets to the coast. Sounds boring, but the hardships and experiences he encounters as a white man in "uncivilized" Liberia is quite interesting. He travels by foot, sleeping in tribal villages and encounters numerous characters and pitfalls along the way. I read quite a bit of African travel books, and this one was the most difficult to read. British nonfiction authors are always a bit wordy to me, and Greene's writing style (doubly so since it's 1935) takes quite awhile to get used to. Every sentence has about 7 commas and is a run-on, though perhaps it was proper English back in the day. The complexity of his sentence structure and constant use of big words and people/places I don't know has me running to and the Wikipedia every third sentence. Still an enjoyable read, and Greene is at his best when describing his state of mind throughout the ordeal. If you are already a fan of African nonfiction and have a good vocabulary, you'll enjoy Journey Without Maps. Otherwise start out with someone like Robert Kaplan...

Out of America - A Black Man Confronts Africa - Keith B. Richburg (9.0 / 10)

Cost - Loaned to me by my dad, cover price is $13

Review - A tremendously open and honest insight into the current state of Africa, from the perspective of a Black American. Keith B. Richburg is a foreign correspondant for the Washington Post and wrote on his 3 years covering Africa in the early 90s. What makes this so different from the other books I read on Africa is the black perspective. Richburg went in with one set of ideas on how Africa would affect him and came out with a completely different set. He is completely open with his feelings and anxieties during the entire trip. Geographically, the main areas of coverage are Somalia, Rwanda and South Africa. Written with an entirely different perspective than everything else I've read on Africa, which ends up instilling me with a new perspective. Great read...

The Soccer War - Ryszard Kapuscinski (8.5 / 10)

Cost - $5.95 at Mypoic Boooks (Used)

Review - Kapuscinski is my favorite foreign journalist (with Robert Kaplan a close second). Most of his work was during the 60's & 70's, writing for the Polish Press Agency. The Soccer War covers some of Kapuscinski's adventures in Africa and Latin America. Each chapter covers a different area, telling a different story. He is a great storyteller, doubly so considering his original works were in Polish. It's a short and thorough read, just the way I like it. The Soccer War delves more into the personal side of the foreign correspondents than most of his works, which gives you a better overall feel of their lives. You can't go wrong with Kapuscinski and The Soccer War is probably the best title of his for first-time readers.

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway (7.5 / 10)

Let me start off by saying that I am not a big fan of fiction, as Orwell and Vonnegut are pretty much the only fictional authors I consistently enjoy. That being said, this book was better than I thought is was going to be. Zorba got me TSAR for X-Mas in an attempt to wean me away from my usual diet of obscure historical books. Anyway, it follows the lives of some American expatriates living in France during the 1920s. From this book, Hemingway defines the "lost generation", which is shockingly quite similar to my current generation - though I don't think we drink as much as they (or at least Hemingway) did. Story was well-laid out and the confusion and absurdity of his generation is well defined. Give it a shot...

Music Reviews

999 - The Greatest Prize in Sport (6 / 10)

Label - Polydor
Released - 1980
Cost - $1 at Hip Cat Records (Used)
Date - 5/24/2004

Review - It wasn't what I expecting, but a decent record. Though they get lumped in with the '77 British punk bands, they don't share too much sonically. Their music is a bit slower, I guess coming close to new wave. I call it rock and it's not too bad. Didn't like it too much at first, though that was likely because I was expected The Exploited or something like that. My idiocy aside, The Greatest Prize in Sport works well. Initially thought singer Nick Cash was a girl, but his voice grew on me. Good record that straddles the punk, rock and new wave genres...

AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (6 / 10)

Label - Atlantic
Cost - $1 at Hip Cat Records (Used)
Date - 5/9/20004

Review - To my surprise, Dirty Deeds was not actually released after Back in Black. It's from 1975 with Bon Scott on vocals, just came out in America after Back in Black blew up. Note - AC/DC video came on VH1 Classic as I was writing this review, solid! Side one is great, with a few notable anthems (title track, Big Balls, Problem Child). I pretty much liked everything on side one. Side two however is a bit slower and more bluesy and the songs are longer. So side one gets an 8, side two gets a 4. You know what you are getting with AC/DC, so this review is completely worthless. Enjoy!

Big Audio Dynamite - No. 10 Upping St. (4 / 10)

Label - Columbia Records
Cost - $4 at Warehouse Music (Used)

Review - Very disappointing album... I am a huge Clash fan and love the other two BAD CDs I own (The Globe & F-Punk), but this one is pretty crappy. Most of the songs are quite cheezy and the synth elements are well below the other albums. I also see that Joe Strummer produced it, but that didn't seem to help too much. It has a couple decent songs, but stay away from Upping and grab The Globe instead...

Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady (8.5 / 10)

Label - IRS Records
Cost - $1 at Hip Cat Records (Used)

Review - Absolutely fantastic. A collection of the Buzzcocks singles from the late 70s with the B-sides thrown in. Great hooks, good lyrics and great singing. The songs on this records inspired a whole generation of punk and pop punk bands. Do yourself and favor and get this, it's on CD as well...

Chuck - Westward Ho! (5.5 / 10)

Label - Fearless Records
Cost - $1 at Reckless Records (Used)

Review - Not to be confused with Fat Wreck Chord's Survival of the Fattest, which I typically call Chuck because of the CD art. A decent mid-tempo punk CD. Nothing stands out, but definitely worth the dollar I paid for it. I often put it in for the excellent first track, White. Track #3 P.O.C. also stands out. All-in-all a decent, but not great punk/rock album...

The Damned - Damned Damned Damned (8.5 / 10)

Label - Sanctuary
Released - 1977
Cost - $0.50 at Hip Cat Records (Used)

Review - Wow... I've honestly never been too big on the Damned, most of the stuff I had previously wasn't all that great. Always been a bit turned off by singer Dave Vanian, he always had more of a gothic/Danzig like sound than what you'd expect from a first-wave punk band. But this record has changed everything for me. Pure energy from start to finish - short, loud and fast. This first Damned record is a must have for punk fans, you won't be disappointed. I'm still not a fan of their later stuff, but Damned Damned Damned really hit the spot...

Dead Boys - Young, Loud and Snotty (8.0 / 10)

Label - Sire
Released - 1977
Cost - CD Trade with Mark "fkn" McLane
McLane's Rating - 9.0 / 10
Date - 11/11/2004

Review - I know it's cliche, but you really can't sum it up any better than Young Loud and Snotty. Five fine lads out of Cleveland playing and writing music the way they want to. And if you don't like it, fuck off. Old school punk, though it isn't your stereotypical 77 punk fare. Many rock elements and a good sense of melody for a 1st album. They certainly don't like women too much, especially the ones of looser persuasion. But they are quite funny and contain plenty of piss n' vinegar - boredom, disenfranchisement, mysogeny and the like. Energy from start to finish and they don't sound like anyone else, can't ask for much more...

Dillinger Four - Versus God (9.0 / 10)

Label - No Idea
Released - 2000
Cost - CD Trade with Gantry
Gantry's Rating - 10 / 10 - Perfection
Date - 11/15/2004

Review by Mark "fkn" McLane - Opening with an audio sample of a man ordering "I want you to pay attention," Dillinger Four's "Versus God" doesn't allow you to do anything else. From the opening track all the way to the conclusion of the album, D4 does it loud and fast, with insane hooks and intelligent lyrics, alternately sung and screamed by their frontmen. While D4 has a familiar sound and are without a doubt punk rock, their sound is unique in its own right. Alternating between hammering bass lines and catchy hooks, D4 has created a great album with their effort on "Versus God," one that will leave you listening to this album over and over again.

Flogging Molly - Drunken Lullabies (9.5 / 10)

Label - Side One Dummy Records
Released - 2003
Cost - $11.99 at Rolling Stones

Review - I'm a total sucker for Irish/Celtic punk bands (Pogues, Tossers, Dropkick Murphys) and this may be the CD of the genre. Flogging Molly's first album Swagger was one of the 5 best albums I bought last year, and this one is even better. Produced by the great Steve Albini (frontman of Big Black), it's nonstop energy from start to finish. In typical Irish fashion, they thrown in a couple ballads as well. One of which, If I Ever Leave This World Alive, might be the best song on the CD. It just makes you want to bounce around, go out and buy this!

Gang of Four - Entertainment! (5 / 10)

Label - Warner
Released - 1979
Cost - $0.50 at Hip Cat Records (Used)
Date - 5/31/2004

Review - Finally got a chance to pick up a Gang of Four record, and this one is typically considered their best. Their name gets thrown around all the time as an influence to just about every genre and band at some point, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Well, it's interesting but I couldn't really get into it. They definitely have a unique sound - good, rough guitar work and semi-monotone vocals. I guess if I had to compare them to a band sonically, I would say Devo (ducks). I just found it OK, none of the tracks really stood out to me. The album as a whole is fine, but I was expecting more considering all I've read. Will give it some more listens though, perhaps it may grow on me...

Kid Dynamite - Shorter, Faster, Louder (7.0 / 10)

Label - Jade Tree
Released - 2000
Cost - CD Trade with Mark "fkn" McLane
Date - 1/13/2005

Review - Quality punk/hardcore band from Philadelphia, who sadly aren't around anymore. From start to finish, the tempo of this album is fast and furious. No pausing for power ballads here... Lead vocalist Jason Shevchuk has a unique, clogged-throat type sound and it works well. I honestly haven't looked at any of the lyrics yet but the sound alone makes this CD a winner in my book. A good, no frills speed punk/hardcore blend that just works...

Joy Division - Closer (3.5 / 10)

Label - Qwest
Released - 1980
Cost - Borrowed from The Good Brother

Review This didn't do anything for me. Joy Division was one of the "post-punk" pioneers, most of the members went on to form New Order. I do like New Order, but this was simply too boring. Very minimalist with none of the energy of New Order. If you're a big fan of the depressing synth genre, perhaps you'll get more out of it than I did. For me, The Best of New Order covers all the bases...

Lamb of God - As the Palaces Burn (5.5 / 10)

Label - Prosthetic
Released - 2003
Cost - $9.99 at Best Buy
Date - 8/11/2004

Review - A newer metal band who plays hard and fast. Liked the videos I saw on Headbanger's Ball and gave it a shot when I saw it at Best Buy for cheap. It's pretty good, great guitar work and dark, deep vocals. I do seem to tire of it rather quickly though, I typically put it in and listen to the first 4 or so tracks. After that I'm pretty much done with it. Not sure if the later tracks are worse or it's to do with my limited exposure to newer metal acts. If you do like modern metal, you should enjoy this CD...

Madness - One Step Beyond (7 / 10)

Label - EMI
Released - 1979
Cost - $0.50 at Hip Cat Records (Used)
Date - 5/31/2004

Review - There's no doubt about it, the Madness are fun to listen to. One of the most popular ska bands of all time do a very good job on their first record. The first track sets the tone with a mostly-instrumental barage and the pace doesn't slow down. These guys don't take themselves seriously and most of the lyrics are silly, though not overly-corny. Fun is the only word I can use, pick this one up.

The Misfits - Walk Among Us (8.5 / 10)

Label - Slash
Released - 1982
Cost - CD Trade with Mark "fkn" McLane
McLane's Rating - 8.5 / 10
Date - 1/10/2005
Review - McLane, outraged that I had no Ramones or Misfits in my collection, immediately hooked me up with a few choice works from each band. Unlike the Ramones, who I have heard quite a bit but just didn't like, the Misfits were a bit of an unknown to me. Heard bits and pieces throughout the years, but just blindly assumed they were a metal band. I was wrong about the music and wrong about the Misfits - this is a punk album, and an outstanding one at that. Has that classic American Punk sound, yet still sounds like nothing else out there. Danzig's voice works wonderfully in a fast, sloppy element and the constant chanting and "whoa whoas" give it a Naked Raygun-esque feel. The lyrics follow a rather disturbing horror motif, though they (hopefully) don't take themselves too seriously. Hatebreeders, Skulls and especially I Turned Into a Martian are classics, simple as that. A great old school punk album with a darker sound all its own, thumbs way up...

Moby - Animal Rights (4 / 10)

Label - Elektra
Cost - Can't remember where/when I got it

Review - I was a huge fan of Moby's Everything is Wrong CD when it came out, one of the most influential "techno" albums of all time. So when I got Animal Rights, I was expecting another album in that vein. Whoops! Moby is all over the place on this one, going from acoustic country to pseudo-punk to slow-paced techno and so on. It's quite inconsistent and confusing, but that was probably his point. In my eyes though, most of the album doesn't work. "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" is easily the best song on the album (and perhaps Moby's best ever), but the rest is forgettable. When I put this in, I tpyically listen to 1 or 2 songs, which is the sign of a bad album. Go pick up Everything is Wrong or Play, both are vastly superior...

None of the Above - Self Titled (5 / 10)

Label - Rabid Cat Records
Cost - $1 at Hip Cat Record
Review Date - 5/9/2004

Review - Mid-80s Hardcore Punk band out of Texas. Reminds me a lot of West Coast hardcore acts like DRI. OK, just looked it up and DRI is also from Texas. But anyway, it has that West Coast skatepunk sound. A bit like older Suicidal Tendences but not as good. It really didn't do much for me - it wasn't bad but nothing really stood out. Would I get another one of their records? If it was a buck or two, otherwise I'd probably pass...

Pailhead - Trait (8 / 10)

Label - TVT
Cost - Can't remember where/when I got it

Review - Pailhead was a short-lived side project of two of my favorite artists - Ministry/Lard's Al Jourgenson and Ian McKaye of Fugazi / Minor Threat. As far as I know, the Trait EP is the only thing they produced. It doesn't disappoint though, a great blending of Jourgenson's industrial backdrops and Mackaye's hardcore vocals. Those who aren't familiar with either's work probably wouldn't appreciate Trait, but fans of either artist will probably enjoy it. The track I Will Refuse is the highlight, but all the tracks have their merit and Trait is a success...

Pinhead Circus - Nothing Groundbreaking (6 / 10)

Label - Black Plastic Records
Cost - $1 at Hip Cat Records

Review - The title describes it better than I can. Solid pop-punk with a harder edge than most who fit into that category. Then again, they probably don't "fit into" pop-punk but I'm ignorant. Not to be confused with Pinhead Gunpowder, the side project of Green Day's Billie Joe - though the sound is pretty close. Nothing too crazy, just plain old pop-punk done well. And I'm a sucker for punk covers, so don't miss their rendition of Katrina and the Waves Walking on Sunshine...

The Psychadelic Furs - Self Titled (6 / 10)

Label - Columbia
Released - 1980
Cost - $.50 at Hip Cat Records
Review Date - 5/11/2004

Review - Pretty good record by a pretty good 80s band. I guess you can call them alt-pop or post-punk, but a good blend of guitars and vocals. I am a big fan of Richard Butler's raspy, 80-year-old smoker voice. This is their first record and a bit faster in tempo than most of the other stuff I heard. Which to me is a good thing. If you are familiar with the band, you'll like this record...

Public Image Ltd - The Flowers of Romance (2 / 10)

Label - Warner Brothers
Released - 1981
Cost - $.50 at Hip Cat Records

Review - I am officially done trying to force myself to like John Lydon's (aka Johnny Rotten) music. I bought a PIL Greatest Hits CD awhile back and didn't like it, so I'm not quite sure why I picked this up. Oh yeah, it was fifty cents. Very artsy-fartsy, lots of monotonous drumming (by Pigface's Martin Aktins) with some of Johnny's whiny lyrics thrown in for good measure. I just couldn't get into it one bit. Though it doesn't sound like anything else out there, so I think this is one of those love/hate records. I fall into the latter, and John Lydon wouldn't have it any other way...

The Ramones - Rocket to Russia (4.0 / 10)

Label - Sire
Released - 1977
Cost - CD Trade with Mark "fkn" McLane
McLane's Rating - 8.0 / 10
Date - 1/7/2005

Review - McLane, upon hearing that I have no Ramones CDs, sent me a truckload worth. I don't know what it is, but I've never been a fan of them and Rocket to Russia continues that trend. Totally perplexing to me, as many of the things I don't like about it (and The Ramones) I like in another bands. To me the CDs sounds pretty much the same (yet I like Bad Religion and Pennywise), sounds simply like up tempo surf rock from the 60s (yet I like bands like Agent Orange) and the lyrics and tempo are often a bit campy (yet I like too many band to list). Shit, I even like bands that sound exactly like The Ramones (Screeching Weasel, the Queers) - yet everytime I hear a Ramones CD it does nothing for me. So chalk me up as an anomaly...

Rancid - Rancid 2000 (7.5 / 10)

Label - Hellcat/Epitaph Records
Released - 2000
Cost - X-Mas present from The Good Brother

Review - Rancid certainly brings a raw edge to this CD. Straight out gutter punk and done very well. Gone are the ska and reggae riffs from Out Come the Wolves and Life Won't Wait. Rancid is a great band I would would say this is their second best CD after Out Come the Wolves. No overwhelmingly great songs, but good from start to finish.

The Replacements - Pleased to Meet Me (4.5 / 10)

Label - Sire Records
Released - 1987
Cost - Borrowed from The Good Brother

Review - This is not what I was expecting at all. Paul Westerberg, the frontman for the Replacements, often has the moniker "punk" thrown around his name. As such, I was expecting another Husker Du, but instead got another REM or Goo Goo Dolls (well, later Goo Goo Dolls). This does not fit my definition of punk, certainly not sonically. Now the CD itself is ok, but I am jaded because of my expectations. Alex Chilton is a great song, but the rest was pretty much standard college/alt rock. If that's your bag, you'll like the Replacements...

Rivethead - City Sound Number Five - (7.5 / 10)

Label - Blood of the Young
Released - 2001
Cost - $4 at Interpunk

Review - I saw these guys open up for Dillinger Four a couple years ago and finally bought one of their records. It's a 7" or whatever they call it (small record) with six quality tracks. I had a few of these on mp3 and have been listening to them at work for over a year, so I knew what I getting. Quality punk (power punk-pop?) from start to finish, good energy and vocals. Most fans of Dillinger Four and the like will definitely enjoy this.

Rx Bandits - The Resignation (6.5 / 10)

Label - Drive-Thru
Released - 2003
Cost - $9.99 at Rolling Stone Records

Review - I was a fan of the Rx Bandits previous CD Progress and decided to buy their followup. It's a pretty good piece of ska-punk, though The Resignation doesn't quite fit the category. They still incorporate their ska and Jamaican roots in their music, but it's more of a full-bodied sound and more mature than Progress. They've created a more unique sound and really vary their tempo from one track to the next. It cannot be pigeonholed to a category or genre, which to me is a very good thing. I think the CD trails a bit towards the end, but I think that of 80% of my music so I probably just have a short attention span. Also includes a DVD which I have not watched yet. Worth a pickup for sure, their best album to date...

Slayer - God Hates Us All (6.5 / 10)

Label - American
Released - 2001
Cost - $7.99 at Rolling Stones

Review - Rolling Stones had a buttload of $8 CDs last time I went, so I decided to grab the newest Slayer. I hadn't listened to a Slayer album in about 8 years, but it's pretty much what I remember. Maximum piss-n-vinegar to quote Dililnger Four - hard driving, rip your throat out speed metal. Good to see that they bucked the trends and stuck to what made them one of the best metal bands of the 80s & 90s. Fast and hard with very dark lyrics, a quality mix. Not something I would want to listen to over and over, but a nice change of pace CD. Think I'll go and get Reign of Blood, one of the best metal albums ever...

The Sonics - Original Northwest Punk (5.5 / 10)

Label - First American
Released - 1977
Cost - $1 at Hip Cat Records

Review - OK, I had absolutely no idea who "The Sonics" were when I bought this record. It was in the bargain punk bin, copyright 1977 and had "Original Northwest Punk" as the title. That was good enough for me, I was thinking some older, Ramones-era American punk. Whoops! The Sonics are actually a rock band from Washington during the mid-1960s, nothing too punky about them. That being said, they definitely have an edge to them and the first side is quite good. Side two is a bit slower and lacks the energy of the first. Their opening track "The Witch" is deifnitely the song of the album. Though I'm not too big on 60s rock, but The Sonics have a unique sound for this genre and are worth a listen...

Strike Under - Immediate Action (7 / 10)

Label - Wax Trax
Released - 1980
Cost - $0.50 at Hip Cat Records
Review Date - 5/11/2004

Review - Strike Under was a short-lived punk band from Chicago - among its members were Jeff Pezzati, who would later join Naked Raygun (one of my all-time favorite bands). So to Chicago music fans, this can be seen as a historical record - not only is it one of the first ever Chicago punk releases, it was the very first release for Wax Trax Records. Wax Trax would later become the most important Industrial label in the US. Loftiness aside, the record is very good. Great blend of guitar, bass and percussion - it all melds quite nicely. It only has five tracks, but they are nice mix of tempo and the whole record is a keeper. Unfortunately, it's the only record Strike Under put out...

Suicidal Tendencies - Self Titled (6.0 / 10)

Label - Frontier Records
Released - 1983
Cost - CD Trade with Gantry
Gantry's Rating - 8.5 / 10
Date - 11/15/2004

Review by Mark "fkn" McLane - The first album from Suicidal Tendencies is definitely an entry into the punk rock hall of fame. It's rude, crude, funny, fast, and original. Although it's original, the band tends to lose focus at points in the album. They're at their best with Institutionalized, I Saw Your Mommy, and Suicidal Failure, three fantastic songs that stick to their strongest formula, alienation and suicide and not giving a fuck. The rest of the album jumps around a bit from noise rock to hardcore, and really, it's to be expected as it is their first album. The album is one that everyone should at least check out, but not something I've found myself listening to over and over again. This is not to say it isn't good, it just isn't my favorite and it didn't blow me away.

Teengenerate - Smash Hits (7.5 / 10)

Label - Estrus
Released - 1995
Cost - $1 at Hip Cat Records

Review - Like I previously discussed with Irish punk, I'm pretty much a fan of anything fast and Japanese. Shit, I even liked J-Pop when I was an anime freak. Biases aside, this is a great record. I honestly have no idea what they are saying, though it is in English. Loud and chaotic, a cross between a fast garage band and the Ramones. One negative is that no particuclar tracks stand out, most songs are pretty much the same. Regardless, it's a great listen and I'll hopefully find more from these fine fellows...

Tiger Army - Tiger Army III: Ghost Tigers Rise (5.5 / 10)

Label - Hellcat
Released - 2004
Cost - CD Trade with Mark "fkn" McLane
McLane's Rating - 8.0 / 10
Date - 11/11/2004

Review - The folks in Tiger Army are most often associated with a style of music known as psychobilly, a blend of punk and rockabilly. This is my first exposure to the genre and my emotions are bit mixed. There is an almost country-like twang to many of the tracks, which turns me off a bit. Seems to be an emphasis on songwriting and rhythm, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I find myself enjoying the faster songs much more than the slower tracks, with the fastest of them (Swift, Silent, Deadly) being my favorite. But this may be due to my ignorance of the genre, thereby trying to lump them into the punk mold. So it's a mixed blessing for me, but all new genres take time. I do know that at first I really disliked this album, but I like it more and more each time. That's a good sign, and I intend to keep on listening...

Tuff Darts - Tuff Darts (4 / 10)

Label - Sire
Released - 1978
Cost - $0.50 at Hip Cat Records
Date - 5/9/20004

Review - Another fifty cent flier on a band I knew nothing about. Tuff Dars were a 70s NY band that was part of the early CBGB scene (along with The Ramones, New York Dolls, etc). Pretty much standard rock, nothing too special about it IMHO. Not that it's bad, but there's nothing to me that really stands out. Probably won't get too many listens...

U.K. Subs - Live Kicks (7 / 10)

Label - Stiff
Released - 1980
Cost - $0.50 at Hip Cat Records

Review - Quality 70s British punk, all done live. Sounds great for a low-budget live album, seems like there about 10 people watching the show. Similar to The Exploited, but a bit more structure and less pissed off. Thick British accent on vocals, great guitar hooks and more tempo than your average first-wave punk band. Flows well and has a "light" feel to it. All in all a great intro to the U.K. Subs, gonna keep an eye out for their other 70s albums...

Various - Flex Your Head (7 / 10)

Label - Dischord
Released - 1982
Cost - $6 at Hip Cat Records

Review - For those of you who aren't familiar with Dischord records or the early 1980s hardcore scene, this record isn't for you. For those who are, be sure and pick this up (if you can find it). Pretty much the seminal DC hardcore record. I only give it a 7/10 because I'm not too big on side two. Side one, with Minor Threat, Government Issue, Teen Idles (Ian MacKaye's band before Minor Threat), State of Authority (Henry Rollins first band) and Youth Bridage is absolutely fantastic. But the other side doesn't pique my interest as much (though I do like the tracks by Void), so it's a one-sided listen for me. Regardless, pick this up if you are a fan of Minor Threat or hardcore. New-school hardcore fans of bands like Hatebreed would also enjoy...

Weezer - Weezer (Blue Album) - (8.5 / 10)

Label - Geffen
Released - 1994
Cost - Borrowed from The Good Brother

Review - Very good album that completely surprised me. I have never been a fan of Weezer and only heard the songs that made it to the radio. This album, their first (at least first commercial), came out in 1994 and never appealed to me at that time. But it is very well-made and is solid from start to finish. Lyrics are a bit goofy (hence the nerd-rock branding) and range from women to surfboards to Dungeons and Dragons to Ace Frehly posters. Blends basic rock with alternative elements very well and never really sticks to any cookie-cutter formula. Though many say it's their best album by far, I will certainly be picking up a couple more Weezer albums. For those who don't have the Blue Album (and I may be the only person who hasn't), go grab it at your local music shop. Considering their popularity, it should be easy to find used...

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