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Stunt Monkey
For the Ear

Stunt Monkey has a funny way with words, and the mild punk accompaniment contributes to the band's quirky sound. On "Bachelor Pad," Stunt Monkey sings, "Martha Stewart hates our new decor/We matched the sofa to a stain that's on the floor." On "Cartoon," a song about wanting to be a cartoon character, the lyrics run "I'll never age/I'll never die/My life is sponsored by Eskimo Pie." With themes ranging from an elementary school crush ("Handball Queen") to more serious topics like depression ("Suicide"), For the Ear will take you for an enjoyable ride that ends all too quickly. (Sarah Quelland)

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Lecture on Nothing
Lecture on Nothing
Pop Mafia

Wonderfully zany, this studio project consists of scraps of words and sounds encompassing everything from gospel-hour organ and somber Allan Watts-like snippets to left-field funk overlaid with sexy female blandishments. "Strap It On" best illustrates this massive unruly experiment. Commencing with what sounds like the opening guitar figure from "Spanish Harlem," the "tune" flaunts a crazy collage of voices: a Frank Sinatra sound-alike sunnily enjoining us to "wake up to reality," futuristic vocoded interjections and, lurking in the distance, the subterranean menace of a two-note synth. The implacable pulse of "The Art of Love'" is a funky Frankenstein fashioned out of a Stanley Clarke bass line, the Artist's brazen black rock and a mock Gurdjieff (by way of Robert Fripp's cutup recordings) babbling on about heavy petting. Interspersed is an ongoing, if incoherent, dialog about the Heimlich Maneuver. Of course. (Nicky Baxter)

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The Promise Ring
Nothing Feels Good
Jade Tree

A band hasn't bit into me as hard as Milwaukee's Promise Ring in a long time. What's to get excited about? Promise Ring's sloppy, cross-referential lyricism for starters. Wrapped in near-perfect power pop, the line from the title track "I don't know anyone or if anything will be all right/I don't know Billy Ocean or the ocean floor" makes perfect sense in the Promise Ring circle. Nothing Feels Good is stocked with such head-scratchers ("Delaware are you aware of Air Supply or television/Are you still there--is this thing on?/Are you awhere are you tonight?" from "Is This Thing On"). "Why Ever Did We Meet" could be the most perfect pop song of recent memory, and the disc's first six tracks fly by in a sweet rush of masticated strings and cymbal crashes. The Promise Ring may eschew maps, but the group is fully aware that it's heading in the right direction. To them, getting there is all the fun. (Todd S. Inoue)

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Buick Regal

The Delta blues/hip-hop crew from San Francisco's Mission District has finally released its first full-length album. Lead by cottonmouthed James "Earf" D'Angelo, the former rapper of the Goats, Rooster searches for truth (or at the very least, a good time) at the bottom of a bottle of cheap whiskey. The merging of styles is fundamentally sound, but at times, like on "Train I Ride," the vocals make up for the lack of experience. As long as Rooster sticks to familiar territory ("Mu Ma Yeah," "Summertime"), Buick Regal satisfies. Earf's staggering vocal style echoes Lazy K. or G. Love but with a higher blood-alcohol level. "Sugarmoms" pairs muted trumpets and turntable cuts to recount a story about lovers. "Virgin Megastore" sticks heads in the gutter, finding sexiness in mini-mall proliferation. Note: This Rooster is not the San Jose cover band. Far from it, actually. (Todd S. Inoue)

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Web extra to the January 15-21, 1998 issue of Metro.

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