The Creeps -- Small Doses -- Bottled up in this little gem from Spokane's homegrown punk rockers, the Creeps, are 16 songs that will hit you hard, hit you fast and hit you often. This band embodies our town's blue-collar punk ethos. They've harnessed all that angst and surely some rage against the staggering economy and focused magnificently on their self-titled album (on Manhole Records). Seething guitars shred through chords at lighting speed and smash like a freight train into the oncoming drums that pound with the fury of a Bruce Lee movie.
These guys have been doing their thing in this city and beyond for a while now and have honed a live show that will leave you gasping for air and nursing your bruised eardrums. Together with Lee Stoker, the band also performed production duties and proved themselves as engineers as well as juggernauts on the stage. The rhythm section combination of Larry Reiner and Al Guest (bass and drums, respectively) combine for bone-crunching beats and allow vocalist Jon Coker and guitarist Kory Kissell to tear up listeners with strong vocals and hard-edged punk rock guitar. These efforts combine for 27 minutes of three-chord bliss that will satisfy punk purists and newcomers alike. -- Clint Burgess
Amy Bleu -- Renegade Angel -- If you're a girl, and furthermore, if you're a girl with a guitar, you're gonna need a way to set yourself apart from all the other girls with guitars. It's all too easy to be lumped into the "folk" category, especially if you regularly gig at area coffeehouses and sing about the inner machinations of the human heart.
Originally from Portland, Amy Bleu has hollowed out her own shadowy alcove in focusing on the darker end of the emotional spectrum. Aurally speaking, her sound is a little like Missoula's Amy (Amy Martin), but Bleu's compositions are concerned more with the inner world. In fact, if Bleu is folk at all, it's only in the punk-folk sense. Songs like "Crazy Woman," "Negative Swirl," "Sad Girl's Love Song" and "Suicide Manifesto" are honest, raw, melodic yet seething. Her musicianship is solid, her songwriting intriguing. The Inland Northwest is lucky to have this remarkable new talent. -- Sheri Boggs
Rawk Final Four 2004 -- Nothing screams adolescence more than teenagers banging on guitars in their garage. In Spokane, RAWK the Inland Northwest gives those committed young musicians a once-a-year chance at local stardom in their annual battle-of-the-bands competition.
To promote the third year of the competition, RAWK pre-released a compilation CD showcasing the music of all 20 of this year's competing bands. The disc is largely a mix of some of the better-than-average alternative bands, with a few rapcore, punk and metal bands mixed in. The compilation shines on more than half of tracks, particularly on the ones by some of this year's winners: The Reign, Dancing Cadavers and For Years Blue. Even other non-winning or yet-to-win bands like Derby and United Effect add to the above-average quality of this compilation. RAWK veterans Manifest, Lucia's Grey Dot and Municipal Source return for another year of competing for one of the four winning titles. -- Leah Sottile
Crackerjack Tattoo -- If middle-period Metallica or Megadeth is your cup of sweet poison, you should consider checking into this rather intense and sturdy self-titled debut from Spokane's Crackerjack Tattoo. The cover art -- featuring a scantily clad female warrior surrounded by skulls and trolls -- is a fairly accurate indicator of the grim sonic mayhem found within.
Guitarist Ryan Weikleenget (did I get that spelling right?) squeezes an amazing number of notes per second into his searing, metallic leads. And the rhythm section of Dave Bridges (bass) and Mike Hart (drum) plows a tight row while vocalist Dusty Richardson spews the seeds of destruction and doubt with his raspy, growling delivery.
No syrupy sentiments here. The five-song heavy-rock document includes songs with such titles as "Enemy," "Injustice," "Time to Kill" and, simply, "Hell." On some of the tracks ("Adrenaline Freak," for one), Richardson's vocals sound a little strained, but overall this is pretty solid, well-rehearsed and well-recorded stuff. Beware or buy, depending on your sensibilities. -- Mike Corrigan
Velella Velella -- By the Wind Sailor -- From the ashes of Rand Univac rises Velella Velella. The opening track of this album features a sample that says it all: "For today is a festive day -- the old and new stand side by side in classical harmony." V. Velella is definitely new, and old. They combine the DJ beats and loops of today with the spacey analog synthesized blips of yesteryear.
The album covers the entire range of inspirations and genres. It all combines, however, to present a surprisingly cohesive collection of compositions that will inspire perhaps dozens of people to buy a Korg MS-20 on eBay. Andrew Means and Michael Burton are known for their eclectic music style and have maintained that and more on this album. The dynamics of the recording are wonderful. The combination of electronic sounds and traditional instruments (i.e., guitar, bass, piano) inspire a variety of reactions from the listener. Dancing, toe-tapping, chilling out or the soundtrack to an ultra-hip house party are just a few of the applications of this album. A new underground dance revolution is afoot, and V. Velella is one of just a few leading the charge. -- Clint Burgess
The Dearly Departed -- With songs like "A Man Is Meat," "Corn Liquor," "The Devil Is Real" and "Zero Gravity Cum Shot," it would be easy to believe that the Dearly Departed is just another Spokane-metal band obsessed with boozin', brawlin' and bitches. Close, but that's not totally the case.
The Spokane-based trio is a true garage band, playing the blues of a horny shipwrecked sailor left to die with a few old instruments and some cardboard boxes. As their titles reflect, the Dearly Departed write their songs from the bottom of an empty bottle. It's an album of base-level, drunken conversations about the devil and sexuality -- and the band pulls away with a solid product. Singer Hidde Hanenburg makes a rough attempt at mimicking the vocals of Social Distortion's Mike Ness, and then combines that with an unpolished Dire Straits sound and rolling marching-band drums. While the harsh vocals can be a little grating on the ears, they seem like the only way the band's primal lyrics can be conveyed correctly.
The Dearly Departed is hardly a devil-worshipping metal band; instead, they're a charismatic example of what a solid blues-rock band should sound like. They don't try to play anything too flashy or flamboyant. That's just not what their music is about. -- Leah Sottile