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MUSIC:          BANDS          REVIEWS


AFGHAN WHIGS Black Love [1996] "From the grinding guitars to the hardboiled lyrics, the Afghan Whigs revel in the dark side". "Rooted in indie guitar rock, the band blends in slight elements of early-'70s soul and R&B, with an occasional country overtone".

EVERCLEAR Sparkle and Fade [1995] Everclear's major label debut is a tough, melodic set of gnarled, post-punk hard rock. An easy comparison is Nirvan, but Everclear's music is closer to the country-rock leanings of Screaming Trees underneath their loud, grungy guitars there is a distinct rootsiness lacking in most Seattle bands and that give Sparkle and Fade its edge.

FLAMING LIPS The Soft Bulletin [1999] "In many ways their most daring work yet, a plaintively emotional, lushly symphonic pop masterpiece eons removed from the mind-warping noise of their past efforts". "Its multidimensional sound is positively celestial, a shape-shifting pastiche of blissful melodies, heavenly harmonies, and orchestral flourishes".

GUIDED BY VOICES Under The Bushes Under The Stars [1996] "Stronger playing and cleaner production honors the pop sensibilities of Robert Pollard's songwriting". "Full fledged pop tunes".

GRANDADDY The Sophtware Slump [2000] "The Sophtware Slump upgrades the group's wry, country-tinged rock with electronic flourishes that run through the album like fiber-optic lines". "Grandaddy's most impressive work yet and one of 2000's first worthwhile releases".

RAMONES Road To Ruin [1978] "'I Wanna Be Sedated' is a classic". "'Questioningly' proves that the Ramones are just as effective when they slow the tempo down".

SCREAMING TREES Sweet Oblivion [1992] The Screaming Trees one-upped their major-label debut Uncle Anesthesia with this solid, vastly underrated effort. "Nearly Lost You" is a standout, of course, but "Dollar Bill," "Shadow of the Season," and "Butterfly" are nearly as impressive. Mark Lanegan's raspy voice conveys a weary wistfulness which adds an unexpected dimension to the group's otherwise macho garage-psych grunge. The Trees no longer sound all that punkish, trading in some of their early, noisy fury for a more '70s-indebted hard rock sound, but it's done with a graceful power that proves they were at least the equal of their more famous fellow scenesters

URGE OVERKILL Saturation [1993] The blistering Saturation is stadium rock by clever post-punkers who are smart enough to not let their carefully crafted image interfere with the music. Every one of the twelve songs is a killer, from the outlandish menace of "Stalker" to the moving ballad "Back On Me," as well as the tongue-in-cheek "Woman 2 Woman" and the radio hit "Sister Havana."

VELVET REVOLVER Contraband [2004] The album is modern smoked glass on the front of a rock club, stylized metal serration, old-guard swagger piercing through glittery cool lamina. The tracks of first-person cynicism are up and down on Contraband, but Weiland and the Gunners are also ready to throw some elbows. Sonically, it's a little amazing how Contraband sounds pretty much like what you'd expect of such a collaboration. Slash's explosive guitar entrance on "Set Me Free" gets the skin a-tingling like the old days, but he's not running a nostalgia show. "Slither" is a hard orange gasoline drinker; it's "Big Bang Baby"'s cocaine cousin, the cool one in the family with no need for sleep and exploits you read about. With Contraband, Velvet Revolver has pulled off something tidy, fashioning music that manages both hedonism and maturity. It upholds legacies while grading a new route; it might even make the haters like Weiland.