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Random Stabbings 6

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The Catz in the Hatz ”Take One” (Catz in the Hatz Records)
Stardust-sprinkled jazz favorites played by genial weekend warriors for the Arthur Murray set.  The marketing sound-bite for this SoCal-based quintet is “Jazz with an attitude” but with such foxtrot favorites as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “It Was a Very Good Year” and a baritone re-do of Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” the attitude (and sound) is pure Tony Bennett.  Steve Johnson’s (place pleasant adjective here) renderings bottle every puff of smoky piano and expel a record that will please everyone from great-granny to the most recent reality-TV-inspired ballroom converts. Shirley Jones and Dawn Wells of Gilligan’s Island fame are among their converts, for what it’s worth.

Paul Armfield and the Four Good Reasons “Evermine” (Groove Attack Records)
Sensitive-male torch zydeco understatements slow dripped Cat Stevens style in honor of your local laptop-pecking coffee-bar fixture.  When Armfield stows his chimp-at-the-wheel trilling safely out of earshot his moonlight serenades hit nothing but net (if your idea of mood music is the sort of post-breakup montage backdrop common to Meg Ryan films, that is), although your bohemian-wannabe Paris-trotting aunt will surely be more profoundly affected than anyone else in your immediate circle.  (Order at

State of Being, “Haywire” (Reverse Image Records)
Cleveland-spawned multi-genre prototype that succeeds in the face of a situation comparable to inviting your strangest bedfellows to the same party.  Mainstream listeners will block out the occasional crackly sample-breaks and hear hard rock or nu-psychedelica depending on the song, but it’s more a stew of both those styles further synth-refined into a concoction deserving of its own slick classification – aggro-indie perhaps (aggro, for all the blessedly unaware non-scenesters, is wonk-English for techno-metal).  A slightly vulnerable production prevents this from being as drunkenly powerful as, say, KMFDM, but makes it CMJ-relevant in the same stroke.  Title track combines ennui-drone vocals with buzzsaw guitar and caustic industrial patterns that peak during its zillion-layer chorus.  Fair comparison here would be Flesh Field, but then there’s the Garbage vs Melvins scuffle in “Overload” with its ear-drilling fuzz-bombs.  There’s talk of big-league interest already, which comes as no surprise.  (Order at

Lynn Julian “Cookie Cutter Girl” (Cookie Cutter Records)
Man oh man, is this chick asking for it – she looks like an SUV-driving mom dressed in a Wonder Woman costume, tiara and all, with a CD insert that’s almost a comic book but not quite, more like a knockoff of Powerpuff Girls with a few ossified grrl-power platitudes.  Fingers poise over keyboards all over reviewer-land, ready to ream her a new one, but the tunes kick in and damn it all, the pummellings are denied as the fingers unclench, howling in frustration like ringwraiths denied a bite out of Frodo:  the Cookie Cutter Girl actually isn’t bad.  A vocal cross between Shania Twain and Natalie Merchant, the songwriting here is pro-level and almost as tight as her spandex nut-outfit.

Virtual Embrace “Hellektro (Alfa Matrix Records)
Captivating nu-mod techno that shines brightest when this anti-Chemical Brothers duo’s Buggle-oid genes are freed to wreak havoc, in the squeaky bimborama floor-filler “Welcome to My World” for example, punctuated as it is with Mike Johnson’s space-ghoul mumbling.  “Grief Cry” does a fake-out of kraut-techno before springing some 60s sexiness which will hopefully inspire a wave of Batgirl dress-up among the fetishists.  “I Am” and its Exorcist-riddum tweaks hip-hop’s nose (always a constructive idea), and later mounts a torch-lit Tomb Raider offensive that alludes to far deeper thought processes than what you get from typical genre-clinging convenience.  Not to leave himself outdone by the Bollywood gobbledygook of “Dark Room,” Johnson tosses in an Alzheimer-addled rehash of BOC’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” that amounts to Loreena McKennitt getting a wedgie from a robot-zombie mourning a recent diagnosis of kidneystones. Staticky breakbeats pop up sporadically in whack-a-mole fashion, another value-add worthy of forehead stickers all around.

Indie label releases, spaghetti sauce recipes and silly questions are always welcome.  Email

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