Blur's self-titled disc is an assortment of alternative rock oddities. The chimey fab opener "Beetlebum" leads into the oddly pleasing rock romp of the current single "Song 2" (most recognizable by its repeated bronco-busting scream of "woo-hoo.") The rest of the disc samples the sonics of Ziggy Stardust on some tracks ("M.O.R.," "Look Inside America") while ambling into unlistenable goofiness on others (the echo-drenched "Theme from Retro" and distortion-heavy punk take-off "Chinese Bombs."). In many ways, this album is a musical in-joke, borrowing sound effects and styles from all over the '70s rock map. It's nothing if not adventurous.


Savage Garden
Savage Garden

If you buy this album hoping for more songs like the Roxette knock-off hit "I Want You," you'll be disappointed. This Australian duo's debut is full of pleasant, hummable bits of synth fluff, but none of it is as sticking as that first single. Savage Garden may well be a Johnny Hates Jazz for the '90s.


The Cicadas
The Cicadas
(Warner Bros.)

Rodney Crowell has teamed up with a crack bunch of players to form The Cicadas, a country rock band that knows how to make folks kick and sway. Opening with "When Losers Rule The World" a fun bit of tongue-in-cheek by Crowell and Ben Vaughn, the album continues on through a strong stack of 10 songs, including the driving rock of "Blonde Ambition" and the cleverly bittersweet wordplay of T-Bone Burnett and Bono's "Wish You Were Her," which plays on the postcard seal "having a wonderful time, wish you were here." This is the summer album for fans of both roots rock and country.


Nanci Griffith & The Blue Moon Orchestra
Blue Roses From The Moons

Griffith's latest disc captures her and her band at their finest: live. But live with a twist — this is an album of new material and cover songs recorded live in the studio — no audience noise. Griffith recorded with plenty of friends, however — The Crickets joined the BM Orchestra in the studio and "I Fought The Law" writer Sonny Curtis joins her to reprise that song. Griffith also lends her waifish pipes to Nick Lowe and Paul Carrack's "Battlefield." But it is her own poetic compositions (as always) that steal the show here. "Everything's Coming Up Roses" is a bit of celebratory country rock and "Wouldn't That Be Fine" (which features a guitar lead Mellencamp would be proud of) offers some of her finest lyrics:

"If I could wash away all these years with language
could this naked love survive the light of day
if I could be the one who walked away
would you be missing me...wouldn't that be roses, wouldn't that be fine?"




The Moon Seven Times

Champaign, Illinois' Moon Seven Times have been quietly carving themselves a solid niche of ethereal, heartache rock. Their third album presents 11 new ambling, moody tracks of beauty and contemplativeness, led by Lyn Canfield's emotive, haunting and sometimes whisper pipes. Sunburnt sounds sharper, more focussed in many ways than its predecessors. "Nashville" is a gently strummed acoustic gem, "Further" mixes the heft of air with a funky beat and angel backup echoes, and "Bug Collection" melds a trumpet, some aggressive guitar crunches and a blue-soul belt of a chorus. If the band only had a major label to push them, they'd surely be reaching more people than they have managed to so far. On the other hand, ethereal bands tend to get fired from major labels pretty quickly when they don't write top 40 hits, so maybe it's a good thing that Moon Seven Times is a well-kept secret nurtured by Roadrunner Records. Fans of Grey Eye Glances, October Project, Grace Pool and The Story should seek this album out for a listen. And watch for the band to play Chicago — based just a couple hours downstate, they tend to play here every few months.


Jonathan Rundman
(Salt Lady Records)

Rundman is a Chicago area singer/songwriter (by way of Oregon and Michigan) with a knack for rootsy guitar pop. His latest collection sounds like a batch of demos by Paul Westerberg or Chris Stamey of The dB's. Oft-billed as a "Midwestern" style performer, Rundman mixes up acoustic with electric guitars and sometimes thin, but emotive vocals. He also tosses in some harmonica, organ and fiddle on occasion. His Recital includes 17 tracks, and for those who want to catch a dose before buying, he'll be playing a free show Sunday, June 29,at 8 p.m. at MoJoe's Coffeehouse, 15447 S. 94th Ave, Orland Park (708)403-5354. For more album information call (708) 366-6347.

The Good
Milky White

What can you say about a band that has its album delivered for review inside a Fruit Loops cereal box? Released on Chicago's Whitehouse Records, Milky White is a harmonic rock fest with a distinct '70s flair — despite some alternative guitar distortion, when the band harmonizes in its typical lower ranges, I can't help but think of things like Alliota, Haynes and Jeremiah's "Lake Shore Drive," and other early 70s acts. But these guys have a great lyrical sense of humor, '90s-flavored guitars and some killer harmony sense. And they got big gun Chris Shepard (who's worked in the past with Smashing Pumpkins) to produce the record. Check your local record store or visit the Whitehouse Records web page for more info: