Electricity (Slowburn Records)
THIS LOCAL POWER trio has gradually been dismantling the Old Pueblo alternative scene's well-documented resistance to stylistic subtlety -- if it ain't ska-punk, rap-metal or cheese-whiz pop like the local modern rock stations program, fuhgeddaboutit! -- while consolidating a bit of an international rep as well. No less than UK-based tastemaker Ptolemaic Terrascope sez the band's the tits, comparing it to underground hard rock legends The Pink Fairies and Edgar Broughton Band as well as contemporary acid gobblers The Heads and Alchemysts. And rightly so; just like the big boys, SZS ploughs right into the gut, slices up through the sternum then plants big depth charges of brain candy on either sides of the frontal lobes.
Electricity is more conceptual than last year's self-titled debut. It includes between-song spoken interludes and some (presumably congenital) looniness that helps keep the aforementioned explosives' fuses sizzling. But it's the music that matters, and SZS delivers the diverse goods. High points include a rumbling, fuzztone'd garage number, "Secret Spark"; a moody swagger equal parts noir blues and swamp-rock, "Inna Di Poemhall"; a spangly, Byrds-Kinks janglerocker, "Loaded"; and an astonishing, Eastern-flavored spacejam with a tongue-twister of a title, "Namnea Habebea Nam." (I think that used to be my TM mantra, but I can't recall....) There's also an 18-minute final track, "Last Blue," that's part Grand Funk stomp, part experimental sound collage, and part vertiginous mania that you'll just have to hear to believe. Suggestion: Stock up on motion-sickness tablets. -- Fred Mills
Idyll Swords (Communion)
WORD IS THAT Dave Brylawski (former guitarist and vocalist of late Polvo fame) returned from a recent trip to Turkey and immediately headed out to buy himself an Oud, a prominent instrument in Eastern music. Brylawski then teamed up with two other Chapel Hill, North Carolina, scenesters, Chuck Johnson and Grant Tennille, to form Idyll Swords. Fans of Polvo might initially, and inaccurately, declare the band Polvo Light; but the Swords substitute acoustic guitars, banjos and various Eastern instruments for the guitar-driven math-rock that Polvo perfected. The only link to the past are Brylawski's calm and softly high-pitched vocals. Beginning with a traditional Chinese song "Wild Geese Descend on Level Sands," to the traditional Turkish number "Kehen Yorum Billa," and even a cover of Fred McDowell's "When the Train Comes Along," the Swords cohesively combine Eastern music and Delta blues, pulling off a great album that's a must-have for fans of Calexico and the like. -- Brian Mock