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Local CD Reviews

| October 31, 2006 | 2 Comments

Ahab Rex‘s The Queen Of Softcore EP contains four remixes of the title track. The problem is the song isn’t all that interesting in the first place. Press sap the song of energy by implanting a played-out techno beat while Rex themselves sabotage their own tune by using even more generic funk riffs. The Countdown liven things up a bit with their throbbing electro punk, but otherwise this is doomed from “Album Version.” (
– Trevor Fisher

Aurora singer-songwriter Greg Boerner wrote, arranged, and produced World So Blue, his third self-released CD. He also plays most of the instruments on the recording, which is an atmospheric look at life, including the love, laughter, and sadness. Boerner’s folk, blues, and country roots permeate the disc’s program, and his vocals bring the music home with heartfelt soul and feeling. This troubadour would have been right at home during Chicago’s folk and acoustic blues heyday in the ’60s and ’70s. (
– Kevin Toelle

Boys On Trial employ a decent assortment of rock on their debut, ¡Guantanamo Boy!, yet what really stands out on this five-song EP is the continuous fervor provided by frontman Michael Ross and his bandmates. Essentially, they often carry a punk rock spirit without falling into a single mold. Not that everyone will be able to hang when they jump from punk (“Coward Or Hero”) to early-’90s grunge (“New Police”), but this trio deserve some credit for taking chances on their first go. (
– Max Herman

The Buzzerds throw a mini-party with five urban contemporary songs on their self-titled CD. “The Right Time For Love” is pure disco while “One Way Ticket To Never” sports an irresistible groove. Vocalist/guitarist Jimmy Newton and vocalist Rakhee “RaRa” Verma combine for some spirited male/female duets, and the backup vocals from other band members consistently add to the fun. (
– Terrence Flamm

Based on this three-song sampler, Frankie Ostello’s expressive voice is perhaps Central Standard‘s most compelling attribute. It wails across “All Alone,” emotively wavers through “To Whom It May Concern,” and alternates between introspection and insistency on “Bells Of August.” United with the band’s compelling bass-and-drum-driven, blues-infused punk approach, it’s clearly a winning combination. (
– Jeff Berkwits

Chicago singer-songwriter Phil Circle makes the most of a solo acoustic-based sound on his demo. He has a kinder, gentler Jim Morrison vibe and the low tones in his voice to pull it off. He is also an excellent guitarist. Check out “Waves” and “Letter To A Friend” for a sample of one of our town’s more unique voices. (
– Mike O’Cull

Raging like a natural disaster, Conglomeratorz drop the hammer on their latest CD, Naturally Heavy. The band is all about speed-picked, riff-based metal topped with plenty of demon-inspired vocals. Guitarist Mike provides some beautiful classical guitar interludes that soften the blow a bit, but the rest of the album rocks pretty hard. Check out “Cryogenic Crowd Control” if you think you can lift it. (
– Mike O’Cull

It’s difficult to stand out as a singer-songwriter, but Kristin Cotts puts forth an admirable effort on Spatial Relations. Her peculiar pitch is awkward at times, but her delivery and evocative lyrics are passionate, and her tempered, folksy songcraft is zesty and soulful. The peppy title track and the jazzy “Source Of The River” show her range and versatility. (
– Patrick Conlan

For a trippy, quirky mix of jazz, blues, and funk, look no further than local duo John Maz (drums) and Sterling Smith (keyboards), otherwise known as Conveniens. Straight out of the most authentic blaxploitation cinema – from the Huggy Bear-inspired “Know It Ain’t” to the horn-infused “Regular Grind” – for a more genuine look into the kind of music that regularly appears in Quentin Tarantino movies, Conveniens is the disc to spin. (P.O. Box 66461, AMF O’Hare, IL 60666)
– Mike O’Cull

The Digital Kill moves from insanely loud to shockingly soft in a matter of seconds on its self-titled debut, Stare, but it should’ve picked one dynamic and held firm. Instead songs such as “Her” and “Rape” invoke a sonic nausea that never fully fleshes out either direction. Don’t get fooled by the Sunny Day Real Estate comparisons, though that’s certainly a group worth emulating should the band attempt refinement. (
– Andy Argyrakis

Following their widely praised 2005 debut, “dub masters” The Drastics don’t mess with success on Chicago Massive. While the debut’s “live re-creation” of what’s normally studio wizardry was split between instrumentals and all-star vocal appearances, this year’s model goes one step beyond, offering both a full disc of instrumentals and another of vocals. While even more vocalists join those returning, the core group of four musicians also expands to seven – such that virtually every sub-genre of roots dub reggae gets covered in the 27 cuts. While both discs shine, the sprightlier playing gives the instrumental disc the edge. (
– David C. Eldredge

The ominous, bottom-heavy sound concocted by bassist/vocalist Doug Dohrn and drummer Joe Marino on Drudge Puppet‘s self-titled CD gets additional character from vocalist/guitarist Jesse Mayer’s growl. “Graveyard Jig” serves up cartoonish mayhem while the speed metal of “Breaking Bread” is fueled by Frank Pecoraro’s guitar playing. Drudge Puppet even sustains a frantic pace for the seven-plus minutes of “Evil Inside.” (
– Terrence Flamm

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Category: Around Hear, Monthly

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  1. John Maz says:

    Thanx for the Conveniens review in I.E.

  2. Phil Circle says:

    Hey Mike O’Cull! Thanks for the review! I’m really glad you enjoyed it!
    -Phil Circle
    ps, they can download “Letter To A Friend” on myspace right now.

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