I've started publishing CD reviews in Relix. I don't think their stuff is online, so here is everything I contribute to the upcoming April/May 06 issue (Zappa cover):
PEARLS AND BRASS
The Indian Tower Drag City
The power trio is rock's platonic ideal, stripping the music to guitar, bass and drums and excising preening, non-instrumentalist frontmen. ZZ Top, Grand Funk Railroad and the James Gang worked like hard boppers, transcending the blues they revered. Pearls and Brass labors mightily, but falls short. Heavy isn't just about loud guitars, which they've got; it's mostly about rhythm, which they ain't got. Drummer Josh Martin flails like a headbanger, never swinging half as hard as Don Brewer, never mind Frank Beard. The mix disappoints, too: Randy Huth's got gnarled riffs aplenty, but his guitar and Joel Winter's bass are a muddy wall, not separate and complementary, GF style. Steady gigging and better engineering, respectively, can fix each of these problems. Better luck next time.
VERNON REID & MASQUE
Other True Self Favored Nations
Living Colour forced adventurous rock fans to swallow hard and ignore Corey Glover's hambone post-soul vocals if they wanted to feast on Vernon Reid's Robert-Fripp-meets-Greg-Ginn riffage. This brainy, assured instrumental album is the long-awaited payoff for their sacrifice. Covers of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" and Radiohead's "The National Anthem" find Reid pushing vocal melodies through masochistic amps; deeper in he takes on Tony Williams' "Wildlife," eulogizing the jazz-rock pioneer in shades of blue flame. The originals are the real keepers, though: among others, "Flatbush and Church Revisited" lays gritty hard-rock snarl over a convincing reggae rhythm from the always airtight backing band and the stomping "Mind of My Mind" could be an outtake from his old band's underrated Time's Up...