Your monthly imaginary horoscope told in album reviews!
Virgo (August 23 – September 22)
"How do you remain humble?" may be the question you ask yourself this month, Virgo, hitting your stride in Spiritual Gymnastics. Similarly, the band Sub-Division's miraculous introductory EP is not simply a return to the primary alchemic elegance of electronic death disco bands like Throbbing Gristle and Suicide kneaded by the space-conscious caress of the Sugarcubes: Mexico City¬ís evil twins Amira and Amed Batlezar lead an anti-pop¬î group that is a doorway to the numinous. Following the release of the tasty Capes EP, spiritually aristocratic new label Hard Soul Records should be truly enjoying the victory of musical eternal recurrence. Just remember, Virgo, even though science must come to mysticism, you still have to live with those past which you evolve.
Libra (September 23 – October 23)
Libra, you believe the mind is the most valuable thing an individual has. But some months you're even smarter than people give you credit for, as when Devo was transmutating from a Residents-influenced Ohio skronk band into a formidable electronically-enhanced rock monster. However, we have CD and DVD documentation of that live period of their, um, evolution — evident on DEVO: LIVE 1980, available on a wonderful dual disc format through Music Video Distributors. They still have guitars and use them mechanically (as on their eviscerating reinvention of "[I Can't get No] Satisfaction" much more satisfying than the original), but the keyboards break down the riffs into perfect hormonally-challenged computer-rock ("Girl U Want," "Whip It," "Gates of Steel"). In other words, Libra, don't let them underestimate you — use your smarts to get laid this month.
Consumer alert: The bonus two-song live material of Mark Mothersbaugh and company performing without keyboards as a gospel band is worth the $14.95 this costs alone.
Scorpio (October 24 – November 21)
Sometimes a Scorpio can walk across the surface of their Empathic nature, feeling what they need to feel whilst getting to the other side of the human stream. Sometimes this just seems like the fear of not wanting to get too emotionally involved. Portland, Oregon's The Imprints try to maintain a fresh approach to thoughtful, emotional pop, and producer Pete Droge of the Thorns (with Matthew Sweet and Shawn Mullins) helps bail the band out of any textural cliches on its debut album, Sounds of the Aftermath. However, I don¬í't know what sorts of songs Rob Stroup may have written with his previous group, the Baseboard Heaters, but this collection seems bound to be placed alongside the recorded works of Semisonic and Matchbox 20. You can sing and play, but can you dance poetry? Give it a try, and get out of the shallow end, Scorpio.
Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)
Sagittarius, you shoot out sparks in the next few weeks when no one will expects it. On Silenzio Violento the band Morricone Youth (also from Portland, OR) play your soundtrack for the month, from the blistering soul of the album¬ís disco-kissed second track "Starshine," to the creepy noir depths of your darkest fantasies in songs like "Monster" and "Drunk" — as we go from sweaty summer into haunting autumn. You are historically active (Jefferson Rabb¬ës keys, David Spinley's sax), dynamic (versatile, seductive female vocals from Dreiky Caprice), and mobile (grooving John Castro bass), and that can be felt even when the scenario gets low and dirty—spies and fetish models and beaten chanteuses abound in your life, my sexy, dangerous friend, and you need an album for your ever-changing moments before the onset of winter.
Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
Gurdijeff once wrote that we are "food for the moon" — that humanity that refuses to evolve just becomes emanations for a growing moon that drains our energies into the lowest regions of the cosmos. You, Capricorn, are an earth sign and are aware of resources — just as on the Western States brittle and agonized heavy metal folk record, Trouble In The Union — the exploitation of the land and the negative energy of human interaction bleed into each other. Seattle's own Cameron Elliott's truly American voice sings of damaged cowboys, failed settlements, unexpected deaths, raw recruits sucked into the flames. Playing out frequently at places like the Crocodile Cafe (this week) and the Paradox, and with his other band, Transistor Heart, here Elliott is assisted by Pedro the Lion's Dave Bazan (production and playing), crafting a grim, crunching collection of protest songs against atrophy and hopelessness. Like you, Capricorn, Elliott's narrators crave security in a world plagued by chaos. This month learn from this brilliant debut full-length and preserve your energy for battles ahead.
Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
September is your month for giving in to true love, Aquarius — where will it come from? Will it be the realization that a close friend who's been helping you really cares for you more deeply than it seemed? It's amazing how relationships can grow — and because you're an air sign, sometimes your head is in the clouds and you don't notice how groovy things are becoming at first. The Greenhornes find love from their friends the White Stripes (who've taken them on tour with them through August and September), and have produced an unaffected, unpretentious EP of 60-style love songs produced by pal Brendan Benson, East Grand Blues. From the Zombies-infected anthem of "Shelter Of Your Arms" to the psychedelic gravitation pull of the driving "Pattern Skies," this Cincinnati, Ohio nostalgic trip seems like a refreshing step back in time, but the start of something sweet and wonderful too.
Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
Across the water (sign) this month Pisces comes a little mood-setting positive nostalgia for you — and a whole lotta fun rock and rolling on the surf and sand! Double Crown Records has just released three evocative guitar-crazy full-lengths that Quentin Tarantino would slap in his CD changer in a heartbeat: The UK's Bonny & Buzzy's mature, two-stepping treat Rock-Ola, a bit laid-back since these two dudes have been doing it since the 60s; the frantic frat rock of Japan's raucous Rat Holic on Wipe Out With; and the wave-crashing wax-your-board soundtracks of Dr. Frankenstein's Crime Scenes & Murder Songs. Not a bad month to sip some suds or a cocktail and check out the sunset, Pisces.
Aries (March 21 – April 19)
Prepare to feel something both a little unsettling and yet too-familiar this month, Aries. "Dance with me! Dance with me!" pogo-punk pop Goddess Gretta Fine insists on Bang! Bang!'s debut, skimpily-priced EP, Electric Sex. It's a welcome command and the band says they're "On Fire," my fine fire sign A., and though their music has an assertive, sexy dirty go-go boots allure, you might find the similarity of Fine's voice to Missing Persons' Dale Bozzio a little unsettling. Still, they can rock like the Rezillos, and co-vocalist Jack Flash trades off nicely on the sleazy vocals as well, so things keep active.
Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
You have a problem with misplaced values, Taurus, but your innate practicality pays off this month as life becomes an emotional whirlwind. Those are primary topics on the first album by Seattle's The Myriad, where five young men spin a stunning web of oblivion-fearing rock, sounding like what's popular with the kids now, but seeming much more sincere, much more as if life is depending on it. "Can't you see my blood is wearing thin?" Jeremy Edwardson begs, in the least irritating vocals I've ever heard in this genre. Sort of like how The Who popped up in the middle of a bunch of mediocre Merseybeat beat bands, the Myriad sheds pretense and passed along notions on You Can't Trust A Ladder to craft youth-inspiring anthems like "Tethered" and the touching closer, "We Will Be Disappointed Together." When you catch them live, it seems like they're playing for each and every member of the audience. Like you, Taurus, their values may be controversial, but they're at least grounded in the chaos of the real world.
Gemini (May 21 – June 21)
Jules Mazarin was a dazzling French cleric (1602-61) who bcecame a very clever diplomat. Listen to We're Already There, Gemini — as the band Mazarin expresses, you too are a colorful but exasperating chameleon, and have picked up and put down disguises within minutes others cling to for permanent identity. This month, you will truly be whizzing through psychic presentations with no hesitation. Just as this album on I and ear Records consistently arouses questions of genre-twisting phenomena (What is that noise? What kind of music do you call that? Where did they get that delicious vocal melody? Where does a strange drum rhythm like that come from?), you will be arousing many as well. Use protection, and let incandescent songs like the space-funk instrumental "Schroed(er)/inger" and the perfect satellite-garage grind-pop of "I'm With You And Constellations" show lovers just how brilliant you are.
(Special appearances by members of the Walkmen, Icarus Line, and the Lilys).
Cancer (June 22 – July 22)
Portland is going to be a rainy city soon, and Portland is a city you either love or hate. Terrible poverty, but wonderful community. I bring this up, Cancer, to encourage you to be flexible this month, for as a water sign you have a tendency to get stuck in the mire. So enjoy the flood and keep your head above the waves. The Very Foundation is a band that could fail so easily — Michael Lewis' vocals aren't very special, and the lack of an easy category could keep them from attracting attention. But Small Reserves is a seven track stack of various textures and melodies that strives to surprise, and the humor (a phone message about someone being too drunk to practice placed after the multi-layered centerpiece, "After Labor Day," showing off Freq Mastering's creative use of sound levels). They still haven't written any songs to get me all wet, but the creative spirit is a buoy in a sea of mediocre Pac NW rock.
Leo (July 23 – August 22)
Sometimes setting short goals is a good thing, especially for a fire sign — give yourself a couple days to accomplish something, Leo, and start a deadline-determined riot. This might be the month to do that, as January 2005, Ten Songs was the canvas that LKN — Laura K. Newman, who used to be the leader of Pensacola band Stella Marie, and kicked ass last year with her solo debut In The Leap Year — used to splash out this rollicking, cacophonous, Beefheart-blessed batch of invincible rock power. She tours with Donna Dresch on bass and Desert City Soundtrack sticks-chick Caitlin Love, and peels out greasy gas station guitar riffs as she kicks some poseur down or some skank-bastard out the door. This is a messy, passionate, utterly honest portrait of a hard-working Florida musician, and should be incendiary inspiration for you Leo to set aside a couple of days to Get Shit Done.