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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

[whitespace] cd cover
They Call Him That: Wally Schnalle scored with
an album of superior coffeehouse jazz.

Local Lights:
The year's best home-grown albums

THIS TIME OF YEAR, it's impossible to turn the corner (shop) without knocking over a music critic waving a Top-10 list in the air. Instead of rounding up the usual suspects (that comes in a couple of weeks, don't worry), I bring you my totally biased Favorite Local Releases of 1997 in alphabetical order:

  • Concerning Eye/Spelling Trouble/Self-Released: Skate rock that plunges into the depths of emo. High degree of difficulty. Excellent execution. Fatter than Fat Wreck Chords.

  • Crack/Losing One's Cool/Unarecords: The Cupertino band had to leave the South Bay, and it's finally getting some recognition in L.A. The album is like Sparks and the Tubes getting a punk transfusion.

  • The Donnas/The Donnas/Self-released: The Donnas manage to personify rock & roll cool even when they're talking about uncool things ("Everybody's Smoking Cheeba," "I Want to Huff All Night"). Advance word is that the full-length version, due in January on Lookout!, is a killer.

  • The Forgotten/Class Separation 7-Inch/Self-Released: Four tracks of gritty, arresting Oi! punk featuring the members of Slip. Rancid's Lars Frederiksen produced this single, bringing forth the boot-stomping glory.

  • The Hi-Fives/And a Whole Lotta You!/Lookout!: Denery and Co. have a lock on spry, danceable mop-top pop. Most of the songs top off at under two minutes, so if one doesn't move you, the next one will.

  • IBOPA/Ballads for Benpadrone/Nubby Records: Neither a band nor an orchestra but a mutant strain of both. IBOPA adds more synthesized bounce to advance its cause on Ballads.

  • Korea Girl/Korea Girl/Not Happy Records: A quiet triumph of fine indie-pop craftsmanship.

  • New Mosquitos/The New Mosquitoes/819: Smart, snappy buzz pop drizzled with Ron Bauer's cartoonish, nyah-nyah brattiness. "Power Load," "On Our Way Home" and "Call" recall early Undertones.

  • No Use for a Name/Making Friends/Fat Wreck Chords: Cameos by Dicky Barrett, Karina Denike and an Uilleann piper--all wound tightly around jumpy punk pop--make this CD an overlooked favorite.

  • Odd Numbers/A Guide to Modern Living/819: A testament to the enduring quality of the longtime San Jose mod rockers (mockers?) and Eddie Vedder's new buds.

  • Slow Gherkin/Double Happiness/Asian Man: The majority of DH isn't representative of where Slow Gherkin is today, but the best tracks ("Slaughterhouse," "Zen and Soccer") herald the coming of a contender.

  • Soda/Super Hero/Cameltoe: Improving on Pencil Fight wasn't an easy task, but Super Hero hits the sonic watermark. Especially evident is Meegan Goad's confidence in the songwriting department.

  • Wally Schnalle Quintet/Why Do They Call You That?/Retlaw: A superbly produced excursion into coffeehouse jazz. Lush pianos, spry horns, lithe bass, prodded along by Schnalle's light percussive touches.

Punk Pop, Don't Stop

Lookout! Records celebrates its 10th birthday in 1998. A yearlong party commences Jan. 9-11 with three benefit shows at three venues. The Bomb Bassetts, the Donnas, Black Fork, Auntie Christ and the Hi-Fives perform at Gilman Street on Jan. 9. The Criminals, the Go-Nuts, the Smugglers, the Phantom Surfers and the Mr. T. Experience get busy at Slim's on Jan. 10. Uranium 9 Volt, the Groovie Ghoulies, Pansy Division and Tilt do business at the Bottom of the Hill on Jan. 11. All profits go to the Musicians Assistance Program, the FSU human rights organization and the Berkeley Skate Park.

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From the Dec. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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