Sepia Tone

Right on! Shake some action! First time on CD for this red-hot reissue of Boston garage punk, first released (and long since deleted) by proto-indie Sire Records in 1978. Organist/singer Mono Mann (aka Jeff Conolly) later went on to form the equally rocking Lyres, and these 11 early tunes show that by 1978 Conolly was well on his way to taking his rightful place in the garage pantheon alongside his ’60s idols. His tomcat yowling (at least eight identical shrieks per song, he quips, with notable coherence, in the otherwise unreadable liner notes) sounds unmistakably like the Sonics’ Gerry Roslie, a debt acknowledged here in a spot-on cover of the Tacoma legends’ trademark “Cinderella.”

No fancy stuff or funny business here—just nothing but a good time. Any track off DMZ could still go toe-to-toe with most of the what passes for roughed-up garage punk these days and come out of it caked in gore and flecked with bits of shredded Swede. File this one away alongside your Real Kids records when you need something to cut through the waxy yellow buildup of over-hyped and underwhelming garage-punk dilettantism. (Andy Smetanka)

Oblio Joes
Swallow the Moon
Elemenopee Records

Whatever else can be said about Missoula’s longest-lasting pop band, Oblio Joes have never gone wrong by sticking to what they know, and what they’re best at, which is ragged, rambling, shimmering and shambling romantic mid-tempo pop with End Times lyrics and killer vocal hooks. The songs get more distinctively Oblio Joesian with every new album (Swallow the Moon is their third proper full-length), but in some ways, after all this time, they’re still just adding new verses to the same epic song that came to singer/songwriter/guitarist John Brownell in a cough-syrup haze 10 years ago.

Brownell, I think, is the most gifted songwriter in Missoula. But his songs usually shift between the same two, maybe three gears (which is to say, the same two or three Dan Strachan beats). The Band No One Could Hurry has never played this briskly, and, as a lyricist, Brownell has come a long way from the recurring on-the-lam fixation of every third Oblios song circa All Ages Show. Still, I don’t get the feeling of a journey in progress—more like an orbit. Like a groove on an LP that reveals new pleasures even as it keeps inscribing itself, getting smaller and smaller, going round and round and round. (Andy Smetanka)

blio Joes play Saturday, April 17, at Area 5 with the Weeds, Helena’s Western Union, and K Records recording artists Mirah.

Larry Hirshberg

Larry Hirshberg might not win every beauty contest out there with his new solo album, Headstrong, but at least his teeth are his own. Recently, having striven to play up the performance aspect in a review of a local album released—with questionable wisdom, I might add—devoid of any original songs, I was taken to task by a member of the band in question for misattributing a few titles to the umpteenth artist to cover them instead of the performers who wrote them. Shoddy work on my part, I admit, but he should feel silly for playing only other people’s songs and then having the cheek to get all proprietary about them.

Yeah, well, really hanging your musical innards out there for everyone to point at is kind of scary. But other Missoula musicians are willing to take the plunge, and I’d rather hear one local album of hit-and-miss originals than 10 covers, regardless how awesome. As it happens, Hirshberg’s Headstrong is mostly hit, with just a few misses that barely detract from an otherwise excellent public airing of bruised feelings. “Peace Fuck” is a tough bit of gristle to work down, but win a few, lose a few. Hirschberg assumed responsibility for all 12 songs here, and in Missoula, 2004, that’s really taking a stand. (Andy Smetanka)

The Soul of John Black
The Soul of John Black
No Mayo Records

The Soul of John Black set The Top Hat off into a dance frenzy last week with its hip-hop-laced rhythm and blues. The first set percolated with unstoppable energy, well-placed rapid-fire snare hits typically reserved for marching bands and swooping tenor vocals. But, as it turned out, the band hadn’t learned enough songs to play two complete sets of music, so, in a slightly embarrassing tribute to Hermans Hermits (“Second verse, same as the first!”), act two featured almost entirely the same songs as act one. Lame—but also perplexing, seeing as the Soul of John Black has this shiny 13-song debut under its belt. The album features several talented musicians, but the heart (and, OK…soul) of The Soul of John Black is John Bigham, a guitarist and vocalist who writes songs that will unite followers of Outkast and Prince. Bassist Chris Thomas, formerly of Fishbone, keeps the bottom interesting along the way. Add in a posse of female backup singers, some hot keys and a perfectly minimal and non-distracting use of the turntables and the soul soup’s on. Undoubtedly late night party music, the disc proffers the ideal ratio of upbeat numbers to slow jams (a little over 2-to-1). And unlike the live show, no repeats. (Mike Keefe-Feldman)

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