Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Your monthly imaginary horoscope told in album reviews!

August 2005 AstroPOP! is brought to you with musical reviews by Chris Estey.

Some people have earned their pride—and this is a good month to fan your flames among all the poseurs, Leo. Some might consider your spirit hubris, but The Black Halos know you got to walk it like you talk it, and they do on Alive Without Control rough trade-produced in the studio by Mr. Endino (ironically, as they leave Sub Pop). This is the soundtrack to those nights of doing some business from uptown to downtown (title track), despite your poverty ("Third World USA"), and the weak minds of those who oppose your rock and roll confidence ("Burning Trash.") Some may only see the sleaze in your Gotham-juiced hellfire club anthems, but there's an underlying optimism and tenacity to live that will get you through the sweltering city this summer (e.g., "Last Call at the Toothless Saloon"—this isn't some band's first firecracker record?).

You're a producer, Virgo, and like the people who put together the creative S.H.E. Warped tour, it's all about getting shit done {"providing a cool fun place where girls and guys can exchange ideas about pro-grrl music, art, lifestyles, politics, trends"}—as an earth sign, you dig your hands in. In the middle of your beautiful work-maelstrom in the next four weeks, you're going to need some music that grinds as hard as you, with a heart full of passion—and that album would be the debut Play Like A Girl by band-named-after-leader Jerra, who calls bullshit on male manipulation ("Drama King"), trips on lust and anger ("Slow 2 Burn"), and can throw some insanely-catchy-chorus dirt in some sucker's face ("The Others").

You're in the middle of pulling a bunch of shit together, Libra, and that's good to see. But August is a month of decisions, and you're going to have to learn how to adapt no matter what happens. Still, it's great to see how things get pulled together out of the air—like the playing on This Microwave World's first album, Red States), in which the bass work of Brandon Loe weaves a wonderful funk-spiraling canvas for the almost-atonal organ of Evan Lawrence. You can't do the same things over and over, though, Libra, expecting different results—like Sean O'Neal's voice, which could really use more variation in intonation. But when you do go for the jugular, as the band does on "She's Insecure," it seems more like a culmination of all that relentless anxiety, and the caustic air of revival fills the lungs. (Good call on TMW adding the deadly accurate but rhythmically fluent Kevin Bybee on drums, raising the band above the stiffness of their competitors in this brimming genre.)

Scorpio, let it go! Get over it! Soon it will be autumn and you need to forget those things that drive you so bat-shit. I wouldn't recommend meth, you're too confident already. Instead, drain out all the content like fluid, and just let your controlling nature embrace the chaos—as Agape does on their approach to electronics, which sounds like classic Wax Trax! bands meet the Locust. This six song drill-to-the-head was even mastered by Dan Maier, who has balanced levels for that latter band, whom Agape has also opened for, so dress up in black, slick your hair back, and dance till your shanks collapse.

"She's in command of my heart," Vancouver power pop legends The Pointed Sticks sang at the end of the 70s (and at the beginning of their Sudden Death reissue "Perfect Youth"), a band that like you Sagittarius my sweetheart uses its pyromaniac tendencies to burn up the rule book while sometimes forgetting how much smoke it causes. Sagittarius is best represented by such a band that originally featured monster Subhumans drummer Dimwit (R.I.P.), that actually released an EP on Stiff (produced by Brinsley Schwartz!), a punk band not afraid to sing sweetly or add soulful Springsteen-style horns ("No Use For U") to its pubby mix. As irresponsible as you can be, Saggy, your exuberance carries you over every time, even when you're scary ("If you're perfect/there is no right and wrong").

It's easy for most people to lose track of time in this season, Capricorn, but you're the opposite—you need to relax a little and keep something for yourself when the occasion calls for it. Take Joel Peterson of The Faint for example—he wrote most of the new Broken Spindles' record Inside/Absent whilst on tour, sounding like it was something to do during a wind-down. He avoids electronic layering, tinkering away on piano and keyboards, singing journal entries, ideas that pop into his mind, avoiding the excess of his primary band's noisy melange. He took it home and just eased it into existence, and like reading a musical diary, or 'zine, it shines with a simple beauty. It's mysterious—like someone born during the holiday season who has to find their own private joy in the celebration of their existence occurring.

You are a flower that will bloom planted anywhere, Aquarius, but sometimes where you're planted can seem awkward. And yet, it's exactly where you should be this month—in a place that sounds awkward, but gives much pleasure where you are. The combination of "new wave" and "bossa nova" sounds awkward too, but they supposedly mean the same thing in French and Porteguese respectively when pronounced "Nouvelle Vague." Two older French gentlemen named Marc and Olivier who remember the dark days of the 80s bring back a delectable sequence of arguably timeless songs, and put delicate strumming and brushwork and additional percussion behind the silky voices of two Parisian girls apparently surnamed "Pain." What really grows on you isn't the uncanny juxtapositions, such as turning the Clash's "Guns of Brixton" into a Leonard Cohen style rumination on civil war, or the initial burst of creativity "This Is Not A Love Song" by Public Image— though the anomie of the latter is actually preferable in this format. The sublime reinvention is in how "Too Drunk To Fuck" by the Dead Kennedys gets creepier and yet more provocative by the giggling and ambivalence of the gender switch (taking an anti-Mentors style rant into artful territories) and the Specials' "Friday Night Saturday Morning" becomes THEE soundtrack of my hangover this morning—turning a public anthem into a personal abyss. Lovely tending, beautiful crop.

Pisces, August will be a breeze for you. Take chances, shift around, find new ground. You're definitely swimming against the grain right now, but that works for you. Swimmers run up against it every way they can—melodic one minute, complete chaos the next, antediluvian punk producer Kurt Bloch turning their car jamming into a nightmare commute of drum rolls, vocal shrieks, and runs up and down he frets. It lurches, it burns, and it never gives up—just like you. Sure, I'll never play this EP again after reviewing it—it's like the Minutemen, only not eloquent, revelatory, or even much interesting. But it does create empathy, which Pisces excel at—put that lead singer out of his misery! Please, Pisces!

It's time to stop thinking about switching apartments again, and to start thinking about finding true love, Aries. You had it once, and it wants you back. You are so rational and precise you're metaphysical, your higher language beautiful and perplexing. You combine an Epicurean intellectual sensibility with futuristic tendencies, so opened-for-Scream Club Canadian freak-fi Gordon B. Isnor's effortless, uncanny mixture of Spanish guitar and cheap synthesizers, great drum programming with sweetly melodic keyboards, and disturbingly vague and vaguely disturbing lyrics mixed with coy anthem-like compositions, is the perfect soundtrack to those psychodramas you will host in your box-like apartment off Broadway this summer ("Just A Fleeting Thing").

Get away from the cracked mirror, it can't be fixed! Is it usefulness you seek to repair it to, or are you afraid of your own self-image? Let the hot air swarm you like a warm blanket, let the chilled gin flow through your insides, lie back and stare at the ceiling whilst listening to the lush strumming and humming of Player Hater—which has possibly the worst band name of late. Very good vocals, like an American Music Club without the ragged homoerotic Beatific cesspool of self-loathing and satire, or an always-heartbroken, non-feedback ballad Starflyer 59-style. Jeff Gomez seems to like himself, name of band regardless, and just wants to make some observations about selfish lovers.

There is redemption within entropy, so you need to settle down and accept some things this month. You are the master of masking and unmasking at the same time, dear Gemini, and we can see both of your faces quite clearly, even through a scanner darkly. Your song is "I Will Always Find A Way" by Suffering & the Hideous Thieves, from their new album Ashamed—a demented alternate universe doo-wop, with a malicious Judas kiss-off, due to be included on legions of mix CD-Rs sent between fans familiar with the band's baroque but throttling, violin-virulent, luscious gypsy-skronk ("Don't you ever stop believing I'll be leaving you forever more").

In the murky depths of your puddled emotional trenches, Cancer, there is a need for salvation, even if religion is a ripe stink to you. This month you should focus on the past, South of now. As Luaka Bop artist Jim White chillingly sings in "Still Waters," the first song on his multi-artist soundtrack for his upcoming film Searching For The Wrong Eyed Jesus>: "There are projects for the dead and projects for the living / Though I must confess I get confused by that distinction / And throw myself into the arms of that which betrays me / To see how far the arms of Providence will come to save me".
Like you, White has no love for the faith himself but is fascinated by the fire the crucible arouses in criminals, poets, and holy fools who make art and run nations. Gonzo-freak writer Harry Crews opens the album with a liturgy of spoken word about storytelling, and the secretly-iconic Handsome Family, the passionately-pendant Cat Power, the fire-and-brimstone Sixteen Horsepower, and the immortal David Johansen among others are here to wade into the Baptism pool with you.