I'm a big believer in New Year's resolutions, mostly because I'm also a big believer in having no sense of personal restraint between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. January is the nonbeliever's Lent, a time of penance and sacrifice for our multitude of sins. So aside from quitting drinking, smoking, heroin, pork rinds and everything else that makes life fun, I've vowed to clean off this goddamn desk. If Mount Vesuvius had spewed out a smoking pile of CDs and press releases instead of lava and ash, my desk would look just like the city of Pompeii. You know what that means: It's time for another Local CD Roundup!
Tory Z. Starbuck, Androidal Tissue: I really mean no disrespect when I say that the most interesting thing about local legend Tory Z. Starbuck is his hair. Really, just look at it. Go to www.toryzstarbuck.com right now and look at his hair. Androidal Tissue would have to be the new Magical Mystery Tour to be as interesting as his hair.
The Beatles, Starbuck ain't. His music, which is mostly grinding goth rock and spooky ambient, is a mixed bag: The rock (in particular, the spacey, insistent "Scans Pictures") captures the gritty, sexy sounds of low-end rock pretty well, but the soundscapes never really jell and feel pretty wanky. If you edited out the ethereal stuff, you'd have a great getting-ready-to-party soundtrack for those nights when you're wearing all black.
T-Menace, "A.N.T.I.": T-Menace used to play with Fat Monkey, the Roots-y hip-hop collective. He's gone solo now with the first single I've seen from the Federal Reserve Music label. "A.N.T.I." and its B-side "Prove to the Universe" display T's vicious MC ability: He's probably the tightest St. Louis MC I've heard. His voice is authoritative, strong like old-school teachers Chuck D and KRS-One. The production is fun and funky electro-bass squawks and drums -- and there's no real chorus, just lyrics. "A.N.T.I." loses some points for bitching about pop music being poppy (very tired, man), but, surprisingly, T-Menace actually offers some alternatives besides just being more "real": He suggests listening to satellite, Internet and college radio -- valid alternatives to the mainstream combine. And that's a pleasing alternative to just bitching.
Pretty Russ, Mr. Malloyd: I guess with Pretty Willie changing his name to P-Dub, the prefix "Pretty" was wide open, giving Pretty Russ a chance to come up. Truth be told, Pretty Russ isn't exactly pretty (I checked with a few women); he's more the sensitive, handsome type. His single, "Hate Us," is about haters, a topic just as worn out as T-Menace's bitching. Unfortunately, "Hate Us" isn't catchy enough for haters to go after: You have to give them something to hate. Much better is the paean to footwear "Chucks, Forces, Tims, & Gators." The ringing bells and rolling beat make it a fun party single, but it isn't as good as "Air Force Ones," giving it the dubious honor of being the second-best song about shoes to come out of St. Louis in the past few years. Russ gets some points for appearing to pay attention to every track on the CD, making it a much more consistent listen than most hip-hop LPs.
The Dead Celebrities vs. The Trip Daddys, Live at the Way Out Club: The punk-rock love of the Dead Celebrities and the rockabilly power of the Trip Daddys makes for a potent left hook and right cross of rock & roll. And it's a lot of fun to hear the Daddys tear through "The Way Out Club" in the Way Out Club. But mostly this disc just makes you wish you were at the show, instead of having it re-created for you. Fortunately, you can catch both bands with some regularity. And you should.
Swade, "Club Hoppin'": R&B swooner Swade brings some dancehall sweetness to his single "Club Hoppin'." His delivery jumps the beat in that Jamaican style, bringing a freshness to the ode to -- surprise -- clubbing. But he's not working with either songs or beats that capitalize on his skills: He sounds like he's not just laid back, he's coasting. With a little polish and some hooks, he could move up, but he probably won't do it on the strength of this single. As he stands, this stuff is pretty middle of the pack.
But hey, that's a Local CD Roundup for you!