So, obviously, without deadlines, journalists don't write! I apologize for not posting for the past couple months -- it's certainly not because I haven't been listening to lots of music. Here are some cool things I've been stuck on:

Joy DivisionJoy Division recently got a Best of Joy Division collection that has kept me gothically, nostalgically tuned thanks to Rhino/London. After the recent box sets of the band's short (two album + studio outtakes) output, a "best of" would seem unnecessary, yet... this CD is a perfect distillation for the goth music fan who wants the band's best-known hit "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (which appears on neither of their studio LPs) along with the key tracks like "Control," "Digital" and "Isolation" from the rest of the band's short catalogue.

* * * * *

The Replacements have also gotten the reissue treatment from Rhino -- the band's first four albums (prior to their pop chart breakthrough with the CD Let It Be) are now available again on CD with the original song tracking. The packages also include second discs containing demos made prior to the album recording sessions.

ReplacementsFans can now catch Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out The Trash (1981), Stink (1982), Hootenanny (1983) and the self-titled The Replacements (1984) on disc with lots of bonus material. The four discs include the band's early fan hits "I'm in Trouble," "Kids Don't Follow" and "Willpower."

The discs precede the band's big chart-makers from Pleased to Meet Me (1987) and Don't Tell A Soul (1989), but they offer the band's original Minneapolis punk-rock energy, captured intact as it never will be again.

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So, way down in Florida, my publisher friend Dave Barnett (see www.necropublications.com) works as a DJ in his spare time. I've actually been to his club a couple times when I was in Orlando, and loved the vibe. I've enjoyed the CD mixes of goth-techno-electro dance stuff I've gotten from him over the years, and a couple weeks ago he clued me in that there are plenty more where those came from.

NecroPodcastDave's been posting podcasts of his mixes at www.necropolisradio.com. Described as an hour-long continuous mix of new industrial, EBM, synthpop & electro from DJ L.D. of Club Necropolis in downtown Orlando and necropolisradio.com, the latest NecroPodcast features songs from Felix Da Housecat, Panic! At The Disco, My Robot Friend, She Wants Revenge, Nine Inch Nails and more.

If you like techno, industrial and synthpop, and you're not opposed to getting some free music -- you need to tune in to these! I've already dropped a handful of them to CD to play in the car, which is the first time the subject of the following review has been knocked out of the CD player there in weeks.

 

Ben's BrotherBen's Brother

Beta Male Fairytales
(Virgin)



O
K, I'll admit it. I've been obsessed with Ben's Brother for the past three months.

Normally, when a CD gets "most favored play" status in my car, it lasts for a couple weeks, tops. Then I write a review, file the disc in my ever-expanding CD library, and move on to the next victim...

But Ben's Brother wouldn't leave.

When I first plugged this disc in to preview, I thought "uh-uh... I don't think I like that guy's voice. Kind of a cross between Cat Stevens, Al Stewart and Tal Bachman." Then I listened to it again to be sure. And again. The voice grew on me. The arrangements were subtle... but undeniably catchy. A few days and 20 plays later, I realized I was absolutely hooked.

Beta Male Fairytales is the main disc I've had in my car since the start of the year... maybe that's why I haven't posted a column in so long -- because I knew once I pulled it out of the CD player to review, its time would be over and I'd have to move on to something else.

Nearly every song on this 13-song disc is a deft mix of confessional introspection spiced with uplifting wisdom and words of hope. It's an album about supporting yourself... while at the same time supporting your friends and lovers. For example, in the bittersweet "Carry On," singer Jamie Hartman promises, "When your hope has been denied you/I will walk beside you/carry on."

A delicate mix of guitars, piano and strings underscore Hartman's vocals, which range from gritty whispers to falsetto leaps of emotion. And no matter how melancholy his melodies may sometimes turn, he always sings of the importance of being true to yourself and following your dreams. In "I Am Who I Am" he warns a lover to back off from the usual destructive lure in a relationship of trying to change the other:

"I am who I am and you can't change me
I've done what I can now I stand my ground
you're tying my hands if you rearrange me
it all falls down."

Then in "God By Another Name" he offers an interesting metaphor about taking what you can from life before it's too late -- instead of sitting still and not "living." He sings:

"what if life was a car and you didn't really know how to start it
would you sit in your car like a clown?
or get out and walk to the nearest crowded bar
and kiss a mouth, make it smile and be proud
that at least you had a good time for awhile
believe me, everybody needs a lover sometimes."

In "Time" he begs for someone not to spend their money on him, but something more valuable - their time - before singing, "As long as you treasure whatever it is/whatever it is will never be wasted."

Every song on this CD is an affecting tour de force of emotion and melody - there is no filler here! But the album's capping moment comes, appropriately, in the final song, "Stuttering (Kiss Me Again)," which has gotten some added exposure from being used in a TV commercial for Dentyne. With the best use of lyrical stuttering in a song since Bowie's "Changes" (which Hartman even references), the song deals with an insecure lover's plege to keep his mouth shut so he doesn't stutter -- and the best way to do that is to get his lover to kiss him. It's so catchy, my two-and-a-half year old son was singing along with it by the third play. It's a perfect end to a perfect disc... and only leaves you wanting more -- which is why I've kept it in the car for so long... when the CD reaches the end, I've simply had to play it all over again.

I can't say enough about the musical beauty and lyrical intensity of this disc... and nothing I say can really describe it. I have no doubt that this will ultimately end up as one of my top picks for album of the year.

 

—John Everson