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Notes From The Underground

[whitespace] The What-Nots
Matt Koumaras

Not a What-Hit Wonder: The What-Nots strutted through the Aptos Club last Tuesday night.

What's Hits:
The What-Nots at the Aptos Club and the Gods Hate Kansas but not this CD

AT THE APTOS CLUB on Dec. 15, the What-Nots strutted through a cozy early-week show. "Too Much of Everythin''' compelled pinball wizards to abort the last ball and begin line dancing in country-fried rapture. "Overdressed," with the band's staple of fluid tempo changes, is aching to be the fight song for the Red, White and Blue nudist camp. Phil, a graduate of the Bob Mould vocal training academy, earned top honors by tapping his voice into gritty overdrive; he also delivered some beautiful, chiming Superchunkish guitar leads on "Replay." Eden's cascading vocals and ultimate guitar tapestries, most notably on "Pretty," were more effective than seeing Barbara Eden trapped inside a 40-ounce bottle of King Cobra. The smooth bass lines, courtesy of Brendan, still reside in my brain like the Post-It notes I keep on my hands reminding me that Friday is "change-my-BVDs" day.

Kevin opened up a hard-hitting can of major-league whoop-ass on his drum kit. I hate to name-drop, but Huey Lewis was at the show and raved about this group, screaming, "What-Nots? More like What Hits!" He then grabbed me by my collar blabbering about "wanting a new drug" that would make him craft music as aesthetically pleasing.

Federation X, on a rock pilgrimage from Washington state, opened. The group consists of two sizzling guitarists, one insane drummer and more chutzpah than Danny Partridge in a pear tree. Drunk rock was on the menu, and this trio feasted on a Sizzler-like buffet of Jon Spencer-like delicacies. Federation X succeeded in capturing some dissonant moment in time that was more surreal than being robbed of all toilet paper in a bathroom stall by the members of Wham. Federation X's extended version of Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" ruled and rolled on like a freight train.

Mischief Makers

The gods may have something against Kansas, but the gods must be crazy to not appreciate the stylish debut record Mischief Is Its Own Reward, from the Gods Hate Kansas. "It's Not the Caffeine, It's the Sugar," besides boasting a title that would make Jenny Craig envious, bleeds brilliantly in the Swingin' Utters' throaty vocal and crisp guitar vein. Mike (the artist formerly known as Michael Mechanic) whips out more gigantic drum rolls on "Sunnyvale" than Uncle Jessie tumbling down Laurel Street after a canteen of moonshine. Ernst and Rion's razor-sharp guitar surges flooded my retinas with tears of Gang of Four nostalgia.

If the gods are going to attack corporate "sell-out" punk bands like Rancid on the hilariously titled "Never Start a Sentence With My Old Rap Metal Band," why do they sound so much like them (i.e., the gravelly vocal/lone-guitar-track intro) on the very next song, the awesome "Pennycheck"? Despite lumbering vocals more annoying than Jonathan Taylor Thomas in I'll Be Home for the Holidays, "You're the Man" boasts insightful lyrics about the sexism that's still rampant in the PC-scene. "Fuck Art, Let's Dance" is my favorite tune, and its awesomely heavy Joy Division-like bass from Doug is like sipping the ambrosia of the gods. Ten songs clocking in at 20 minutes breaks down to two minutes a cut, which according to my abacus is undeniably punk rawk.

For a copy, write Bad Monkey Records, 473 North St., Oakland, CA 94609 or log on to www.badmonkey.com.
Matt Koumaras

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From the December 24-30, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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