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This review was first published on CLUAS in 1999
Other albums reviewed in 1999

Indie Exposure

Releases from Alias Records

To blunt daydreams about night things in the middle of the afternoon, I set the trajectory for the latest releases from California's Alias Records label (once home to Yo La Tengo & American Music Club).

Alias RecordsArchers Of Loaf fourth outing White Trash Heroes is somewhat of a let-down. Additional synth keyboards and varied samples do help avoid generic pigeonholing à la slim-fitting indie rock, yet their use is rarely succinct enough for the record to sound anything but an overwrought paean to well-worn influences (Iggy, J Mascis & nowhere in between). One Slight Wrong Move does though have cool vocoder and teeth-flossing keyboards and Banging On A Dead Drum some scuffed John Spencer moves but all in all it's more Shakin' Stevens mediocrity than anything else.

Knapsack in comparison match the shapes perfectly and push the emo bracket with cello, piano & organ on their third L.P. This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now. It's Swervedriver's Mezcal Head through the punk mincer, chock full of blinding hooks and throw-away lyrical gems ("Measure in degrees the arc of how we fell and tell the them all to go to hell" - Change Is All The Rage). Beauty in this tension indeed.

Despite stateside touring jaunts with the likes of Elliot Smith, Palace, Wilco and Richard Thompson, Detroit born Paul K is a relative unknown this side of the water. Expect, Saratoga, the follow-up to last years acclaimed A Wilderness Of Mirrors, to brighten these corners soon. It is a classy alt.country blues rocking shindig running the gamut of great American songwriters. On The Floor and The Truth Ain't On The Sign are shots of lowly slung Paul Westerberg. Elsewhere there are flecks of Greg Dulli (Once It Happens) and Willie & Emmylou (You Took It Too Far) while Artificial Heart, Airport Road are resplendent. Seek and thou shall find.

From Boise, Idaho come Caustic Resin with a record darker than an artic winter. The Medicine Is All Gone is all crashing guitar pileups reminiscent of Screaming Trees and classical Crazy Horse, shot through with the sickly dementia of Modest Mouse and the starkness of a freefalling Joy Division ( "I am every bit as sick and deep in trouble" - Niacin ). Words often fail when describing Caustic Resin but suffice to say men with beards never sounded so warped and beautiful and they're not even cross-eyed yet!

Ronan Quinn

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