There I was, hopped up on goofballs, crashed out in the freak room with the other layabouts, feeding Chee-tos to the ferret and watching another episode of B.J. and the Bear. But my bliss done got broked by an ill-timed phone call from one of those overearnest young suburban musician types who was inquiring if indeed I got the CD he sent and could-I-possibly-deign-to-write-about-it-soon-thankyouverymuch. Now, I've tried to give extra special cuddly attention to each and every piece of local music that's been sent my way since my installment here. Much of it isn't fun to listen to, but a respectable proportion of it is. I can certainly understand a follow-up call to make sure the package has arrived safely, or to ask what I thought about it (it's still flattering to imagine that someone actually gives a shit what I think), and as I've said, I really do try to get to everything... but there's something about being cajoled into doing so that makes me enter into the process with trepidation.
Back in Denver I had fallen in love with many of the local bands. One in particular, Space Team Electra, featured possibly the most exciting performer for miles, singer-guitarist Myshel Prasad, who always maintained an aura of mystery about the outfit that served only to strengthen my interest. In other words she knew how to play hard to get. See, Space Team Electra wasn't trying to get over. They never sucked up to me or anyone else in the industry. When I interviewed Prasad and her bandmates -- usually in comfortable surroundings over a bottle or two of wine -- she'd wax poetic and try to explain the magic, celestial place from which the music came. Inevitably the following day she'd send me a letter to clarify and/or contradict some of the statements she'd made.
"I do believe in total creative self-determination," she wrote to me once. "The spirit of the music should determine its course in the world,... the methods of establishing those connections should be another expression of the same force, the same place of origin that generates the music itself. None of this "play the game' shit."
Most of the time, I had to track down Prasad to get her to talk; she wasn't interested in pushing Space Team Electra on me. I wish all aspiring artists would sell themselves more subtly and less fawningly. And because I feature local music in this column, I wish every artist would indicate where it is he or she is from exactly: Due to my rather chaotic filing system, a one-page bio sheet with contact information is much more likely to become misplaced or discarded than a compact disc, and too many locally produced CDs arrive without a phone number or street address to indicate their birthplaces.
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For instance, I know Cassius Clay (email@example.com) is a local band because its members kept prodding me to review their now months-old Special Guest Star (CIA Records) via phone calls and e-mails, but nowhere on the disc does it indicate the group's hometown. Still, I'm glad I finally got around to it. The best of Special Guest Star's tunestack, like the edgy "Been Waiting" and the soaring "Sweating Bullets," rocks with a frenetic, Ric Ocasek-on-crystal meth aplomb. Most enjoyable are the tracks resembling the Cars or the Rentals, with big, synth-driven hooks.
Right on the back cover of Asp Soup's All You Can Eat (Out of Sync Productions, www.aspsoup.com) are the words Pembroke Pines, Florida, which I found very helpful. On the disc's lead-off track, "L.P.O.," the quartet chants "Lower Power Objective" over a chunky-style guitar bulldozer, and the other 11 songs offer little more than that rote, hair-swinging fury in addition to an utterly pointless rendition of America's "Sister Golden Hair." Every so often the testosterone ebbs, allowing a slower, more melodic scent to surface, revealing, alas, lyrics like the horrific chorus of "Missing You": "I never planned for us to part/For us to be so far away/From the day that you were born/You were supposed to be with me."
Bandwidth thanks the members of Alijah Peel (www.alijahpeel.com) for including a phone number with their band's self-titled, self-released album; the 954 prefix proves they must be from somewhere around here. Unfortunately the music they sent is even worse than Asp Soup's manufactured manliness, recalling all the unimaginative metallic bunk that proliferates these days. "Maybe," a graduate of the mullet academy, owes a substantial student loan to the power ballads of days gone by. It must be duly noted, however, that (just like the two discs reviewed above) the sound and production are awesome for being recorded locally.
Remember the Ocean (www.remembertheocean.com) doesn't sound much like a South Florida band, but the evidence to the contrary on its debut, Ruth (released via TheHoneyComb.com), is compelling: recorded in Lighthouse Point, mastered in North Miami Beach, and liner-note thanks to Delray Beach's illustrious Dada. Kristin Larkin's gossamer vocals and guitarist Earl Coralluzzo's jangly, college-radio cartwheel recall the sunlit sitting rooms of the Innocence Mission. The sound of "Summer," which begins the collection, sparkles in the rain as Larkin's confident, aching alto twirls with Coralluzzo's Johnny Marr-come-lately chiming. Thanks to availability of inexpensive recording equipment technology, Ruth also sports a sound as professionally polished as anything in the pop-music marketplace.