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Wednesday, November 14,2001

Starlight Mints

Time for another corny pop rock act. But this time the surf's up. Your standard four-piece rock outfit, the Starlight Mints blend humorous intentions with cool, trippy surf sounds that replicate the likes of Jan and Dean, and Elvis Costello, on their EP Popsickle.

The album cover grabs your attention immediately, featuring a Sesame Street-syndicated puppet who seems to be well beyond his popsickle licking and well into a drug-induced psychosis. And the songs seem to reflect this '60s-pop-rock principal mixed with a more modern synapse of Weezer or Beck. Shared by Allan Vest and Kure Croker-who each use a completely different tone-the vocals "counter-balance" each song's sound. One voice sounds reminiscent of Blur's Damon Albarn. The lyrical content is structured as that of an elementary school student's first poem; the title track features a circus-style groove with meaningless lyrics such as, "Take one for the money and two for the blow and three all together now here we go... it's the double dutch-dutch thank you oh so." But on "Pusher Girls," the music gets a little groovier, with some interesting piano melodies riding over funky bass textures.

The Starlight Mints are very amusing, but it's hard to understand what they are trying to achieve with their adolescent musical sounds and messages.


The Bouncing Souls
How I Spent My Summer Vacation / Epitaph

Back in high school, I was a punk in a punk rock band. When we weren't busy beating on our instruments (yes, the musical kind) we were listening to our role models: the Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, X, Hüsker Du, TSOL... the list goes on. That era of punk eventually faded away-with a few exceptions like X, who put on a kick ass show in Denver a few months ago-and for a while punk appeared to be in hibernation. Slowly, "Punk: the Next Generation" emerged. Though I feel that many of the bands currently labeled "punk" fail to live up to the standards of speed, anger and pure visceral effect set by old-school punk, I am just happy the genre has not gone the way of the dinosaur.

The Bouncing Souls latest release, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, contains 13 songs that bridge the gap between today's punk and that of the mid-'80s. Since the band was formed in 1989, this is not overly surprising. Driving guitars, double-time drums and yelling vocals abound as do the classic themes of the importance of best friends ("Manthem") and the omnipresence of ex-girlfriends. "Late Bloomer" paints a perfect picture of punk love, albeit in a new-school musical framework. "Your smell I could not forget/that's as close as I could get/you were so fucking cool/I'm no good, you're no better/wouldn't we be perfect together." Black Flag it ain't, but punks and punk rock live on with Summer Vacation.


The Dickies
All This and Puppet Stew / Fat Wreck Chords

What's the name of that awful piece of clothing worn by Cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation? Better yet, what's the name of that cool 5-piece punk band from the Bay Area? Why, The Dickies of course.

The cover of All This and Puppet Stew is a cartoon drawing of a joker character pointing a pistol at the head of an already beaten lady. From this image alone, one can envision the frustration relating to the five years that it took the band to write and record their latest release. Reflecting the classic punk cliché of mixing fast, heavy-hitting tempos with humorous vocal arrangements, the album is wrapped into one fine package full of three minute songs. Don't be dismayed though; The Dickies are very tight musically, adding a variety of interesting surprises, like the use of mandolins or voice chants. And song titles like "Donut Man" and "Whack the Dalai Lama" easily grab the listener's attention. "Sobriety" is full of vocal retardation: "When I was 17 I had my first drink, now I'm 43 and I'm seeing a shrink."

Ignoring some of the childlike lyrics, one can enjoy the musical styles of pop-punk masters Blink 182, Green Day, and, especially, the Descendents. The five-year project is a "must listen" for those into the humorously twisted-and musically talented-punk reverberation.


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