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Burnin' the Midnight CDs

Last weekend at the Culture Room: New York City's Toilet Boys got campy Friday night, stroking the crowd before strafing them with showers of fire and sparks. Miss Guy, the Boys' transvestite vocalist, wore form-fitting, ass-revealing half-pants which left little to the imagination.

Only the music was naked the following night, when there was barely enough room at the Room to accommodate fans turning up for the first visit from the North Mississippi Allstars. Bassist Chris Chew, guitarist Luther Dickinson, and drummer Cody Dickinson opened a bluesy box of whup-ass, including not only the requisite R.L. Burnside and Fred McDowell numbers, but a handful of cover songs only the Dead/Phish contingent would recognize. A new guitarist/singer (making the former power trio a power quartet) also evidently underwent a gene-splice, rendering him the spittin' sonic image of a moonshine-swilling old timer. For the encore, he switched places with Cody, who showed he's no slouch when it comes to slide guitar and gutbucket blues singing himself.

For the (local) record: Actually, no one sends in records very much anymore. Reviewed below are CDs sent by musicians from our little neck of the woods.

Flash back to a simpler time, a time of black clothes, black nail polish, bloody roses, maybe even a pewter ankh for good measure. Dorian, the principal architect behind the goth-opera spires of Fainting in Coils, remembers all these dark accouterments, and loses himself in a vivid riot of red and black on The Absolution. Even the disc itself is as black as obsidian. If you can't quite recall the mid-'80s moods of Clan of Xymox, it's a good bet that the nostalgic electronica of "The Feather Mirror" will refresh your memory. Generally speaking, the relentless, often dangerous keyboards and percussion-machine patterns hold up better than Dorian's slightly over-dramatic (and low-in-the-mix) singing, which has the effect of dulling the edge of powerful offerings like "Fallen From Red" and the violently passionate "Under This Night." While sleepwalking with the clichés that typify the subgenre, Dorian probably pines for the days when folks slept in coffins and the nights when candles dripped forever. And who am I to disagree? ([email protected])

In case you're blissfully unaware, Fort Lauderdale's own Neurodisc Records pumps out a non-stop stream of releases, usually in the techno-trance or booty-bass realm, though the label has made forays into new age and ambient sonic pacifiers as well. The former descriptor is best suited to Nuevo Flamenco Romancero, an album of contemporary songs done up catgut-style courtesy of local guitarist Eric Hansen. Neurodisc never thought to cast me in a consultant's role before undertaking this project, otherwise, you can rest assured I would have piped up and pointed out that a little Christopher Cross goes a long, long way. Thus, the Peter Cetera, Wham!, and Billy Joel covers may well be overkill. A couple of choices show more taste -- the Beatles' "And I Love Her" (though similarly played-out, it's still more deserving of a faux-classical homage) and Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" aren't as wince-inducing. Better still are the pair of Hansen's original compositions, which borrow almost-but-not-quite familiar melodic phrases, and never depart from creating utilitarian atmosphere. Which, in case you haven't guessed, can be summed up by "Fourth floor, please," "Wet clean-up in aisle six," or, to paraphrase Joel, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." I may just try a nice Chianti with that. (www.neurodisc.com.)

Broward County's hard-touring quintet Stretching FM recently performed at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater, but band principals and songwriter/guitarist/vocalists Tim O'Connor and Nicholas Petakas couldn't keep the spotlight focused on themselves all night -- the goofy antics and handstand/grandstanding by keyboard man Jerry Jun made sure he'd be the conversation piece. Maybe he thought opening for Tenacious D gave him an excuse to unleash his inner comedian. But on What If I Stopped Breathing?, the band's latest, Jun's piano does a nice job prettying up "A Fall Project," and "Savannah," two standouts among these five tracks. In fact, all of these tunes are sure-footed, loud-soft mini-anthems guaranteed to provoke a smile or two on their own merits, Jun's theatrics not withstanding. James Paul Wisner, who recorded What if I Stopped Breathing? at his Davie studio, adds additional keyboards and his trademark production savvy. Lucky, lucky boys. (Second Chance Records, Plantation. www.stretchingfm.com.)

Even after several listens, it's hard to get terribly excited about Tinker's Daughter and its five-song promo. "The Day the Dream" is typically dramatic folk-rock that sounds like it's supposed to be about something important: "What is wishing for if wishes don't come true?" asks the overly emotive singer. A murky dirge called "Hurt Me" is just asking for it. The muddy recording alone warrants a bilabial fricative, and a Bronx cheer similarly awaits the material, which never manages to transcend the exhausted bar-band category. "If you hate this, give it away to someone else," recommends the CD. What a way to win friends. (www.tinkersdaughter.com.)

Not enough CDs come with instructions outlining what sort of conditions are best suited to enjoying the sounds within, and isn't it ironic that when one finally does, I'm unable to completely comply. "To increase the healing benefits while listening to this music, meditate on the color violet and actively try to surround yourself with violet light." Meditate I can do (just watch me!) but my only violet light source is a black light fluorescent tube. Somehow, I doubt that's what Marilynn Seits had in mind when she created the all-instrumental, chakra-centered, New Agey Threads of Violet Light. These sections of the day (i.e. "Dawn" "Mid-Day" "Late Afternoon," etc.) segue into one heck of a relaxing sonic bubble bath more than an hour in length. It is almost violet under your eyelids. I'm sure that Threads of Violet Light's healing electronic etudes and lullabies function as intended, but they also do a fine job of inducing a lazy calm. (CMR Moongate Records, West Palm Beach.)

It's hard to make out what the cover art of The Recipe, a five-song EP from Teri Wilson, is trying to convey: The computerized illustration could be a face peeking out from a swirl of clouds -- or is it a tree stump? Or is it even a face at all? It's quicker to get a handle on what Wilson's whimsical music, with its intentionally amateurish, autobiographical charm, is all about. "You're the chef of your own life, who can make life soup or make life cake," she declares on the homespun title track. Wilson keeps a lid on what sounds like an enormously throaty voice, restraining it as if she's afraid of bellowing more soulfully. "Cobwebs" is strangely haunting, juxtaposing a slow, brooding drone that'd make Angelo Badalamenti scowl in approval with Wilson's beguilingly innocuous minimalist Casio appeal. However, given the instrument (and Wilson's) limitations, there's not much to differentiate the songs from one another. (Whip And Chain Records, teriwilson.tripod.com.)

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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