The Strokes This Is It RCA

One look at the precalculated thrift-store chic of the band members made me really not want to like this album. It seemed like they were trying way too hard and barking up a long-since-dead tree. This was all before I put the record on, mind you. So much for preconceived notions. This Is It is neither tired nor contrived, it’s just … good. The Strokes have a late-70s New York City punk sound that will ring new and vital against the worn-out music in your stereo. The last couple tracks are some of the record’s best. “Hard To Explain” and “Take It Or Leave It” combine infectious melodies and thumping drumbeats that resonate in your chest cavity. Julian Casablancas’ vocals are both raw and unassuming, becoming the hook that draws you in. It took me a couple listens before I could really get into the album, which is a good thing-if I like something right away it usually means I’ll hate it in a week. This one’s guaranteed to be around for a while.-J.S.

WitcherySymphony For The DevilNecropolis RecordsSweden brought us Volvos and Johan Olofsson, both as gnarly as army tanks. Witchery, Sweden’s heavy-metal savior, is just as rugged and heavy. Back in ’98, the band released Restless And Dead -an infected, stinging shot in the arm of the predictable, progressive sounds of metal at the time. Like a baptism in blood-Witchery killed. Symphony takes us back to the days when Metallica had balls, when Kreator was scary, and Voivod made our guts turn. It wails like Satan’s hammer on your face until it’s a mess of smashed bone and tattered flesh. This is deep, dark, satanic metal at its very best-a geyser of hellish, distorted mayhem. Crank it to death.-J.M

Mixmaster Mike Spin PsycleMoonshineDon’t let the ghetto cover art fool you, Spin Psycle is off the hook. Mike uses the wheels of steel like instruments to create a wicked breakbeat style of his own-blending space-age samples and old-school loops with a tight mix down. Not only is Mixmaster the current (and maybe illest of all) Beastie Boys DJ, he’s also a world-champion turntablist. After winning three-consecutive first-place titles at the DMC (an international DJ competition), Mike was banned from the contest because no one could slice or cut faster.Mike unleashes furious Gang Starr, Fatlip, Beastie Boys, and KRS One throughout the mix-tape style album. This record shows why the Beastie Boys are on point when they claim, “Nobody can do it like Mixmaster can.”-Jack Spilberg

Old Man GloomSeminar II-Holy Rites Of Primitivism/RegressionismSeminar III-ZozobraTortuga Recordings Writing about music is like painting about thinking. Within a vacuum, logic is lost to force. Nothing is anything, and the former becomes the latter. Deep below and far above the plane of understanding rests the basic principles of our true science. Old Man Gloom knows we do not exist except within that vacuum of our mind. We are not physically here, and this recording contains 87 minutes and 52 seconds of proof. Electronic black-hole silence and alien ape-speech replication taunt us. Heavy guitars, leaden drums, and the fire and roar of the forest forsake us with truth for asking.-J.M.

VueFind Your Way HomeSub Pop Records There’re three chapters in the rock ‘n’ roll bible-sex, drugs, and … well, you know the third. Vue has studied the good book, and the band’s faith emerges everywhere on Find Your Way Home. While this record is a definite cast back to 70s rock, it avoids psychedelic-era candy pop for the dark and gritty sounds of the Birthday Party and the New York Dolls. Hailing from San Francisco, Vue has a pure rock sound and the confidence to pull it off. The band members aren’t about to take your shit, and they’re not worried about being the next greatest thing-they just want to rock. It’s youthful energy and that magical combination of instruments-drums, guitar, and bass-that makes this album kick all the ass.-J.S.

GradeHeadfirst Straight To HellVictory RecordsGrade returns to hardcore with its seco release on Victory Records-a follow up to 1999’s Under The Radar. Kyle Bishop and company offers up an emotional album that encompasses the supreme writing skills of this Burlington, Ontario-based band. Grade redefines its vision here, blending classic punk rock with straight metal, rock riffs, and Bishop’s hellishly sensitive vocals. Notable tracks include “Overthrowing Creation Itself,” “In Ashes We Lie,” and “Twenty Moons.” These boys have delivered a quality piece of work that defines what hardcore has become over the past ten years. They’ve paid their dues, so step up, believe, and buy this album!-Chad Perrin

DJ AdogDown Tempo Buttahs Volume Two How bad does it suck when, just as you start to nod your head and feel the groove, most DJs pull the record off the mat and cue up another one for their next trick? Why are these sucker DJs afraid to let the track play? It’s simple-they have no style. They are sheep.Put this new Adog disc in and absorb the loose funk flavor and styles of a DJ who weaves dynamic beats, eclectic samples, and raw breaks. Adog leaves trends behind and follows his ear-digging deep in the crates and unearthing bass-heavy bumpers in a way that lets the records speak for themselves. After successful releases through Gravis and Analog, Adog has put out another on his own. To get this in your stereo, contact Adog at: adog10101@hotmail.com.-J.M.

SuperchunkHere’s To Shutting UpMerge RecordsI recently had the opportunity to see Superchunk play a free show in Seattle before the release of this album. This band is definitely one of the nicest, most modest bands out there today-coming only to entertain and rock without any drama or pretentious attitudes. The group paced the show with some of its new songs from Here’s To Shutting Up and pleased the mixture of old and new fans with songs spanning its discography. To top it off, the band ended the show with an all out, gangbusters version of “Slack Motherf-ker.” Hell yeah. New songs like “Late Century Dream,” “Art Class,” and “Florida’s On Fire” have a similar vibe to the band’s last album, Come Pick Me Up-music that develops fond memories and means something years later. But Superchunk’s sound takes a slight veer in the road on “Phone Sex” with the addition of a pedal steel guitar played by John Neff, lending an unexpected, warm country sound. Trombones and trumpets have been exchanged for keyboards on this album, which adds a new dimension, but I think the horns may have made the last album a more complete package. All in all, Here’s To Shutting Up is a definite sign that Superchunk is creating distinctly more polished albums, evoking new moods, and reaching possible new listeners.-Shem Roose

SolexLow Kick On The Hard BopMatador RecordsI’m all about kitsch and I love fun, campy music like Solex. This one-woman band is made up of Elisabeth Esselink, a second-hand CD-store owner from Amsterdam. She’s either a control freak or just plain practical, either way she does it all by herself-recording, producing, and mixing all previous records in the basement of her music shop. Solex songs are mixed with samples that Esselink collects from live shows and the discount bin of her store. And what she comes up with is far from today’s hip-hop or rap-rock sampling. She uses sounds others would discard-paying homage to obscure treasures and using them in unique and fun ways.Low Kick And Hard Bop is kinda poppy with a retro feel-think Beck but with more vocals. The lyrics are tough to understand because the music overwhelms them, and Esselink uses English phrases she’s picked up from TV (such as talk shows and soap operas), so don’t count on them making any sense. The songs themselves remind me of a big-band production with themes from the rumba era, beach-blanket bingo, and blues, mixed with urban and updated recombinations. This is guaranteed to be different from anything you or your friends have.-Rebecca Herath

Repeat Offender: What, no Johnny Cash in your collection? Pull your head outta your ass and get down to the corner music store.

Johnny CashJohnny Cash At San QuentinColumbia Records A country album? Are you kidding me? That’s probably what you’re thinking right now, but let me tell you something, friend-this album is more punk than anything you’ve ever heard. This is music from a man who grew up picking cotton on an Arkansas farm. In other words-it’s the real deal. While most country singers stuck to playin’ the Grand Ole Opry, Mr. Johnny Cash found his audience in the prisons of America. Opening with “Wanted Man” all the way through to “Folsom Prison Blues,” it’s hard to believe they let him play these songs in front of a room full of convicts. You can hear the prisoners get so fired up with the lyrics “San Quentin I hate every inch of you,” that you think there’s going to be a riot. Which brings me to my favorite part of the album-his tight rapport with the crowd. It’s almost like he’s one of them. Every time I listen to this record, I find myself thinking, “Man, that sounds fun. I wish I was in prison.” Then I remember, “No I don’t.”-Chris Coyle

Music That Gets J.J. Thomas Hyped To Ride:”These days it’s all about the mix. Usually my driving-to-the-mountain music is an upbeat blend of hip-hop and reggae. As far as albums go, my winner would be the new Guru album Jazzmatazz-it’s good all the way through, and it will grow on ya.”

J.J.’s Mix:Big LWu-TangThe FugeesPrasBiggie SmallsDel Tha Funkee HomosapienAZSnoop Dogglection? Pull your head outta your ass and get down to the corner music store.

Johnny CashJohnny Cash At San QuentinColumbia Records A country album? Are you kidding me? That’s probably what you’re thinking right now, but let me tell you something, friend-this album is more punk than anything you’ve ever heard. This is music from a man who grew up picking cotton on an Arkansas farm. In other words-it’s the real deal. While most country singers stuck to playin’ the Grand Ole Opry, Mr. Johnny Cash found his audience in the prisons of America. Opening with “Wanted Man” all the way through to “Folsom Prison Blues,” it’s hard to believe they let him play these songs in front of a room full of convicts. You can hear the prisoners get so fired up with the lyrics “San Quentin I hate every inch of you,” that you think there’s going to be a riot. Which brings me to my favorite part of the album-his tight rapport with the crowd. It’s almost like he’s one of them. Every time I listen to this record, I find myself thinking, “Man, that sounds fun. I wish I was in prison.” Then I remember, “No I don’t.”-Chris Coyle

Music That Gets J.J. Thomas Hyped To Ride:”These days it’s all about the mix. Usually my driving-to-the-mountain music is an upbeat blend of hip-hop and reggae. As far as albums go, my winner would be the new Guru album Jazzmatazz-it’s good all the way through, and it will grow on ya.”

J.J.’s Mix:Big LWu-TangThe FugeesPrasBiggie SmallsDel Tha Funkee HomosapienAZSnoop Dogg