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The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Ugly

Each disc reviewed below was released way back in 2001, and each one has patiently (or, in the case of Wallop, not so patiently) waited until now to receive its just deserts. A good year for local releases was capped off by these last-minute entries:

Even though the deft turntable work of Boogie Waters is all but buried in spots, Miles to Go, the second official full-length release from Hashbrown, is still the funk quartet's tightest collection of songs to date. Clarence "Jay" Spencer's bass and booming voice commandeer familiar live staples like "Keep It Simple," "HOD," and "Over and Done." Continuing along that path, Miles to Go begins to sound cut from the same party-hardy cloth until Rick Kanner's skipping rim shots lift "Aka" into a wondrous wah-wah excursion that would've made Hendrix and Hancock proud. Since it's an instrumental track, it hardly typifies Hashbrown, but it provides a textbook example of the band's lock-down groove. Miles to Go is unquestionably one of the finest Broward-based albums from last year. (Axis Bold Records, Deerfield Beach)

Alas, the same cannot truthfully be said of Teri Catlin's self-titled release. On its own, Catlin's muscular growl is awesome to hear, but it's flattened by the material's poetic injustice. Within the album's homespun philosophy, a pattern emerges: Catlin enjoys life ("Alive") and women ("Who I Am"). Furthermore, she really enjoys women ("Get Off"), and she won't be pushed around ("Stand Your Ground"). She likes to party a little bit ("Castles") and loves the earth ("Candyland") and her country ("Red White and Blue") as well as someone else ("Baby") and is no fan of pain ("Cry"). "I Am" sums everything up with a typically deep sentiment: "I've never felt this way before/Mystical magical universe/You've opened your door." With themes so universal (and universally boring), it's a shame Catlin can't locate the strength to become more articulate about them.

Finally, there's way too much guitar wankery for an album produced in the 21st Century. Please, leave that stuff to the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. (Matriarch Records, Fort Lauderdale)

Large-scale political events often elicit Yankovic-ish satiric songs, but Pembroke Pines-based Yarock Productions' ostensibly patriotic "Jihad Rock" falls well short of even Weird Al's low standard for wit and humor. Using the most stereotypically offensive voice imaginable, "Jihad Rock" swipes "Jailhouse Rock" for a forced chuckle or two. (Or not: "Got my beard and my long white smock/Going to the Jihad Rock.") "Jihad Johnny" is considerably less memorable, and "Terrorist Nightmares," if possible, is even less. (Self-released)

Polished Fort Lauderdale quintet Wallop manufactures competent and motivational metal, lubricated with the de rigueur pearly jam. But the sound yields (like on the emo-melodic "Combative Manuvers") to a soft, stubbly side that places The Johari Window among the region's most listenable hard-rock efforts from 2001. The pummeling introduction "3/4" thrusts Wallop's pressure-cooker dynamics to the fore, and "Stigma" and "Momentary Fade" continue at the same fierce pace until the slow piano introduction of "Ballad of J. Hollywood" reinvents the formula. Wallop wisely keeps songs short -- all under four minutes, many under three -- for maximum impact.Spearheading the attack formation is drummer Matt Goldberg, whose meticulous, windmilling work gives each song the intensity of a disaster drill. Singer Mike Hernandez would do well to lose the Maynard James quaver he's adopted, as his supple tenor is powerful enough without it. While not actually paying down the musical deficit created by meaningless legions of rap-metal oddities, Wallop admirably refuses to add to it with The Johari Window. (Self-released)

In just three songs, the Bluebird EP demonstrates why the Curious Hair is Miami's best steady-functioning, all-purpose rock band. The elliptical carousel ride of "Bluebird" and the flopping, fish-out-of-water "Jet Set" swirl with wordless vocals (from Maria Marocka and band leader Jeff Rollason) and lo-fi echo. "Futrell" is a pretty disaster, all fuzzed-out organ and distorted guitar, providing further evidence that the Curious Hair is on an upward spiral. (Evol Egg Nart Recordings, Miami)

At the bottom of the stack was something called Welcome to Miami by Phil T Rich and the Fornicators, a shoddy, homemade package that nonetheless warrants mention by virtue of its barbaric non-PC stance and prurient appeal. The title track simply ain't nice: "This once great city got no fuckin' class... it used to be America when I was a kid." Also contained in this first song is Rich's first reference to traveling up the back passage, a theme oft-revisited on Welcome to Miami.

Offended yet? Well, if the lyrics don't bother you, the near-hour of marginally adequate blues-rock will. Most of the songs function about as well as a pool table with matchbooks for shims, but "Death Defying Daddy" boasts a near-catchy chorus -- as well as the album's most offensive line: "Why wear a rubber when abortions are cheap?" Lovely. (Self-released)

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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