The Fire Ants, Indian Transvestite EP (Firestarter Records)
Skie Bender further cements herself as OC's own Patti Smith, spewing soul-wrenching lines about disquiet, dissonance and disaster—all those artsy, angsty disses!—while guitarist Kevin Jacobs riffs with enough power to seemingly halve torsos. This ambitious EP (the title comes from the track "Stella"—a reference to the berdache, perhaps, the cross-dressing peoples once present in many native tribes?) is a lovely intro to the Fire Ants, as you get some of Bender's nice-warm-waif-like-croon beginnings that almost always end up with her locked into an I-will-claw-your-face-off howl (see them live, though, where Bender really goes off—her intensity is scary). On a side note, the band must really love it when the occasional news report pops up about "fire ant invasions." Now if they could just figure out a way to capitalize off all that free advertising, they'd be superstahhhzzz. . . .
Square (three-song self-released EP)
So we go away for a couple of weeks and come back to find seemingly everyone—everyone! People who don't even know one another!—yakking about this newly relocated-to-Fullerton-via-Nebraska trio called Square. The buzz on Square is huge: various Next Big Thing plaudits have been tossed around, and when the hype gets this intense, we pay attention. Hype, though, is often the archenemy of rock criticdom, so pardon us for not leaping into the puddle of drool everyone else is slobbering over them. Besides, once we purloined a copy of their EP, well . . . we don't get it. Don't get it yet, anyway, but that doesn't mean we won't. They're okay, and they have a Ben Folds Five-does-funk thing going on, but other parts are tame, middle-of-the-road, adult-contemporary fodder. Still, we'll see them live soon—all the people who've tipped us off to Square must have seen them live first—so we like to think that's where they'll really deliver. Not that we wanna stand in the way of the Almighty Buzz. . . .
Fifth Story Tenants, Fifth Story Tenants (Two Bit Records)
According to the sign we saw two weeks back at the Tower Records in Long Beach, Fifth Story Tenants have managed to move more than five copies of this quite superb little full-length—woo-hoo!Just 999,995 more to platinum, baybee! That must mean it's getting some kind of in-store play (we were tickled to hear Peepshot one day whilst perusing the skin mags not long ago), but hey, who could resist Fifth Story Tenants' damn-near-perfect rock & roll, filled with great, driving, loosey-goosey, Stones/Replacements guitars, twisted in with some nice jangly things here and there? This is a band casting with some fine, golden-barbed hooks—"The Kitchen Girls" comes straight from the University of Jonathan Richman—and even their ballads are righteously lacking in cheese.
Info: 1615 E. Appleton St., Long Beach, CA 90802
Senza Motiva (four-song self-released EP)
A strong, solid live band with Latin-tinged horns and stuff and an energy level that's always hard to capture on plastic. But they try hard here and, for the most part, make it work, like on "Afterschool Special," a breezy pop tune that still has a decent groove, with a title that conjures up images of all those badly acted "message" shows that ran on ABC during weekday afternoons in the '70s (do they still have those, or have they gone the way of the metal lunch pail?). Senza Motiva are kind of an uppity party band, like maybe a reined-in Oingo Boingo. Oh, and there's a secret No Doubt connection to 'em, which we won't divulge—guess you'll just have to go to a show and find out yourself, hmmm?
Info: (714) 681-3736 or (714) 635-9750
Spitfirevolver (four-song self-released EP)
Spittle-slick, vitriol-spewin' near-metal, though more Hsker D than Hessian, especially "Broken Heart Surgery," which stretches out about two minutes longer than it probably should but still sounds like a great hardcore mini-aria, all about love gone wrong. They come across better live, but ain't that always the case?
The Condors, Tales of Drunkenness & Cruelty (Vital Gesture)
"Our band plays quite a bit at the Doll Hut and Club Mesa," read the note from this 626-area-code-based band. Hmmm . . . well, this factoid doesn't make them that local. But then we saw that they're on the same indie label as the BellRays, and anyone who breathes the same air as the great BellRays is naturally cool by association, as far as we're concerned, so . . . aw, why not?Luckily, the music's pretty swell, peppered with lots of tasty, ringing guitars that echo everything from early punk to Stax R&B to ancient Elvis Costello/Nick Lowe power-pop to raunchy, Horton Heat-style psychobilly. The thing's bleeding with some disgustingly hummable hooks, too, even on "Drinkin' Myself to Sleep," a full-on country tune (more like the Knitters did country, though), proof that the Condors ain't scared to mix up genres. Even better that they can actually pull it off and still sound respectable.
Foxy, Foxy (Slip/ Vegas/Revelation) Whumph! A nasty, blunt kick to the head, a disc that sounds like some infernal concoction of Social D, 4-Gazm and those great old Joyride records. Makes sense, since you've got members here from all those bands—a supergroup!—with John Maurer, Lisa Parker and Greg Antista, and Kip Dabbs on drums. The best tunes—and those change hourly among the eight on Foxy; our tastes are that schizoid—are "2000 A.D." (as in "2000 A.D. don't mean nothin' to me/Looking for love on a computer screen/Same old shit, different century/Oh, yeah!"—it just wouldn't be right without the "Oh, yeah!"), the standard why-isn't-this-on-the-radio song "Sick Inside," and "Promises & Lies," an Antista tune in which Parker sings her tough-but-tender best, like she's gonna bawl her eyeballs out right before she rams her bass into a wall or something. Harsh, muscular music, meant to be blasted on the jukebox at Linda's Doll Hut during last call.
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Outerspace, The Distance There (Swirl)
Headphone rock lives! Yup, as if you couldn't guess, ethereal, moody space music is what Outerspace does. Any band that titles a song "Last Leviathan of the Shady Sea" and calls the brief instrumental gaps between their tunes "travel" may seem like it's just begging for torment. But somehow, just beneath the surface of their slow, sad atmospherics, there's beauty afoot. Could be in all the gentle, echoey guitar picking. Could be in the oddball tape loops and other assorted bits of aural strangeness that just seem so disembodied it's unnerving—there's a movement of quiet near-music on the track "Stereo Halo" that's so soft yet so racked with tension it's like watching a bad horror flick knowing that the crazed sex maniac with the butcher knife is gonna jump . . . out . . . any . . . second! We saw them live last year and called them guitar surrealists, and now we're even more convinced that tag is apropos.
Next week: the long-awaited return of local band demo/indie tapes and CD reviews—a new one every issue because there's just too much crap on the music editor's desk! Send your music to Locals Only, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247.