At the Drive-in Relationship of Command (Grand Royal) This El Paso outfit, long time contenders for the “hardest working band in show business” award, are finally getting what they deserve. The interesting thing about At

At the Drive-in
Relationship of Command
(Grand Royal)

This El Paso outfit, long time contenders for the “hardest working band in show business” award, are finally getting what they deserve. The interesting thing about At the Drive-In is that the key to their artistic relevance, their unwillingness to settle for a single genre, is the very thing that kept them from getting the recognition that they deserved three years ago.

Chalk it up to lucky timing, because ATDI’s belated recognition in the hardcore scene also happens to coincide with their signing to the respectably massive Grand Royal Records and, more importantly, arriving at the peak of their creative powers.

Relationship of Command is a glowing document of all of the above; a fantastic record by a band that exudes energy, sincerity, curiosity and commitment. Any attempt to describe it is self-reflexive.

At the Drive-in sounds like At the Drive-in. Just go out and buy it.

Grade: A
– Joel Tannenbaum
Burn Witch Burn
Burn Witch Burn

It’s truly a heartbreaking dilemma. You assemble a stellar group of Celtic folk musicians, practice a whole lot and write some interesting neo-traditional music. But it’s all for naught, because you’re the singer from the Dead Milkmen and your voice sounds totally ridiculous in that context.

You might be able to pull it off live, and getting your girlfriend to sing on a few songs may help a bit, but the fundamental problem won’t go away-“Bitchin’ Camaro” plus “Roddy McCorley” is just not a winning formula, even on paper. With all this talent in one place, however, it would be a shame to just give up. Thus, I have one word for Rodney and Burn Witch Burn: instrumental.

Grade: C
– Joel Tannenbaum
The Dandy Warhols
Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia

Known best for their MTV favorite “Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth,” Portland’s Dandy Warhols won many over with their cheeky lyrics, synth-pop style, and decadent personae. The problem that plagued their previous effort, The Dandy Warhols Come Down, was that for every catchy, clever, Britpop-esque number, there was a dirgy one lurking in the shadows.

Their latest, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, does not suffer from these problems; rather, the album’s sound stands somewhere between the two extremes of Come Down. Although this makes the slower songs not as boring, the more upbeat songs (“Bohemian Like You,” “Country Leaver,” and “Get Off”) get lost in the mediocrity. Another problem with the album is that the band seems to take themselves too seriously and the jokes they do tell are mere throwbacks to Come Down. “Horse Pills” is basically “Last Junkie–the Saga Continues” and “Country Leaver” is a copy of the previous album’s faux-country “Minnesoter.”

Grade: C
– Maureen Walsh
In Here We Fall

Electrasy sounds like what would happen if Oasis had a baby with Pop Will Eat Itself. Which, as it turns out, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Tunes on In Here We Fall vary from ultra-accessible, please-please-please-play-me-on-the-radio cuts like “Naked”, which sounds obscenely like Oasis, to the techno-fied, hip-hop/britpop of “Foot Soldierz” and “Renegades.”

Add an almost unrecognizable cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” and “Morning Afterglow,” a great love song that slowly builds into a crescendo like only a pop ballad can, and what do you have?

Well, something that may sound sickly sweet at first, but that you can’t deny liking.

Grade: B
– John Vettese
David Gray
White Ladder

David Gray, the Mancunian/Welsh folk singer, may finally be getting the attention here in the US that he has in Great Britain. Evolving sonically in much the same manner as fellow folksinger Ani DiFranco, Gray has gone slowly but surely from bare acoustic guitar on his first release, A Century Ends, to a full band, complete with sampling and drum machines, on his current release, White Ladder.

Not only is Gray a great songwriter (“Babylon,” “This Years Love”), but a fine vocalist as well. Sounding like James’ Tim Booth but with soul, Gray’s voice wraps warmly around the music accompanying him. His finest vocals are featured on his cover of Soft Cell’s (yes, the synth band that brought us “Tainted Love”) “Say Hello Wave Goodbye.” In this song, he breathes life into the cold acappella original, turning it into a truly epic and bittersweet love song.

Gray, who is produced by Dave Matthews and is on Matthew’s ATO label, has been seen on The Late Show with David Letterman, the features section of, and in Rolling Stone, all in the past two weeks. Hopefully, this coverage will bring some much-deserved attention to this very talented artist.

Grade: B+
– Maureen Walsh
So Together
(RCA Records)

Finally there’s a female alternative to the cute boy bands that have invaded MTV’s Total Request Live; Innosense, a new girl band seems eager to break into the mainstream and show Britney and Christina a thing or two about female bonding.

With their catchy tunes similar to those of the Spice Girls, Innosense may be here to stay. However, it won’t be due to their musical prowess. The five women band is a refreshing change. If you’re not in for bubble-gum pop, however, I suggest you let this one go. Many songs sound eerily familiar – “Beep Beep” is especially reminiscent of an old Spice Girls song.

The songs vary in tempo and mood, with some of the faster tunes carrying a Scandinavian flavor, giving it good dance potential. An attempt at being hip fails, with “” The song is more late ’90s, than today, especially after hearing Madonna’s “Music.”

Grade: C
– Jigsha Desai
Jump, Little Children

Jump, Little Children is far from typical. They are the alternative to alternative. Instead of jamming in garages and playing the club scene, the group began at the North Carolina School of the Arts where they were training to be classical musicians. The group soon decided that pop music was their true calling, and abandoned the world of Beethoven for the world of Beck.

Magazine, the band’s CD debut is an eclectic mix of songs, with influences from almost every genre of music. The track “Cathedrals” is a testament to the group’s classical training. “Come out Clean,” which has a guest appearance by Dee Dee Ramone, presents the band’s punk and rock influences.

While this CD will not find itself in the five CD rotation, or even the top of the shelf, it is worth the occasional listen. In this MTV world of pre-packaged teen bands, Magazine is a refreshing change.

Grade: B
– Ellen London
La Ley
(Warner Music Group)

While I only mildly doubt La Ley’s sincerity, I strongly doubt their ability to rock my socks off in any meaningful way. La Ley apparently enjoys superstar status in Mexico and South America, via a brand of “alternative” rock that is probably intended to distance them from the Latino pop hordes.

The results are not promising. Too often, La Ley sounds suspiciously like Achtung Baby-era U2, or worse, the anonymous music that plays at the climactic moments of Party of Five. These guys obviously have something going on, but whatever it might be is buried beneath overproduction and bad rock cliches.

Grade: C
– Joel Tannenbaum
(TVT Records)

This is the inexplicable yet very welcome second album by MTV’s parody “boy band.” Nothing this time around achieves the sheer majesty of the first album’s “Say it, Don’t Spray It.” Don’t get me wrong though, this is brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that 2GETHER should be allowed to speak for themselves through these choice lyrics:

“You got my sweaters, my hat. I can’t find my cat. The hardest part of breaking up is getting back your stuff.”

“See all the girls with their hands in the air. You can tell by the screams, this ain’t Lilith Fair.”

“You’re looking so fine tonight, baby. I just wanna drive you around in my Viper… Yeah.”

The album’s real winner is arguably “U&U&Me,” not because it’s so great or anything, but because it’s high time that group sex had its own anthem.

Grade: A
– Joel Tannenbaum
Various Artists
Crime and Punishment in Suburbia Soundtrack

What we have here is a movie soundtrack that’s all about disaffected teen angst. It’s apparently all about the Pixies too, as Frank Black and Joey Santiago each contribute some instrumental cuts for the film’s score. Black contributes a fast, travelling guitar lick backed with some feedback and reverb-drenched drones, and Santiago adds a countrified tremolo guitar with harmonica and a home-on-the-range feel. Furthermore, Far gives a fair, slowed-down cover of the Pixies’ “Monkey Gone To Heaven.”

As for the rest of the soundtrack, none of it really grabs you. Magnapop’s “This Family” is catchy, and The Toadies give a nice wake-up bomb, “Mister Love,” near the end of the album. But cuts by the likes of Guided By Voices, Modest Mouse and Sleater-Kinney aren’t all that exciting. The soundtrack on the whole creates this disaffected teen angst mood pretty nicely but expresses it in such a way that all you’re inspired to do is sit in your room. Oh well.

Grade: C
– John Vettese

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