GRITTY ALBEIT UNREMARKABLE, melodic SoCal punk-pop in the same chartered territory of the Offspring, Green Day and Bad Religion, ad nauseam. Automatic 7 is interchangeable with any of the bands on the Epitaph, Fat Wreck and Lookout rosters. Imagine Soul Asylum fronting a NOFX cover band while battling a serious Ritalin addiction, and this band will appear in your sleepless dreams. They cover Soul Asylum's 1986 garage-punk chestnut "Closer To The Stars," and vocalist John Hulett even sounds vaguely like Dave Pirner only with a more palatable voice and much less money. Nothing groundbreaking here in an already over-saturated '90s punk-pop marketplace--just a straight-forward, no-frills, punk-pop ass-whuppin'. They aren't slouches, they just don't stand above the rest.
THE INCREDIBLE STRING BANDThe 5000 Spirits Of The Layers Of The Onion
FOR DEFINITIVE WAY-OUT, first-wave British ultrahippie bop, you've got your pre-glam T. Rex, and then you've got the Scottish duo The Incredible String Band, who made the T. Rex of the late '60s look like Ray Conniff. Far too weird for their own time, Mike Heron and Robin Williamson had a fondness for mixing banjos and bagpipes, tossing sitars and ouds and gimlis into the spin, and concocting lyrics that make sense only under the influence of the most powerful psychotropics--all very 1967-ish, but scary even then. This reissue of the duo's second UK release is welcome, if only for such gems as "The Hedgehog's Song" and the time-tripping "Way Back in the 1960s."
LYLE LOVETTThe Road To Ensenada
AFTER WHAT SEEMED an unconscionably long hiatus from record-making, and 1994's disappointing I Love Everybody, it's great to find Lyle Lovett back to his old form. This is delightful, vintage Lovett, full of his wicked wit, keen eye for detail and unique insight. The humor is here, in jazzy, playful numbers like "Don't Touch My Hat" and "That's Right (You're Not From Texas) and a version of "Long Tall Texan." But the most impressive thing about Ensenada is the quieter numbers--the ones that creep into your heart and mind, that demand you pause and consider this reality that Lovett so deftly weaves. His lovers seem trapped by the weight of fate, unable to break the habits, lies and ties that all bind. He brings a rare understanding and compassion to these complex stories. The Road To Ensenada joins Lovett's four earliest albums as memorable classics. No surprise--but it is a relief.
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