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Must Have CD's

by Scott Thill

Now that the violent tempests of January are giving way to the less brutal storms of February and a hopeful Spring, you can come out of the cave you were cowering within in hopes of staying dry. While there are no serious reasons to be optimistic about the 2005 musical landscape, there are some diamonds in the rough worth considering. Here are a couple:

Curtis, Blue Electric Cool

As a self-taught guitarist who grew up with my fair share of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix posters, I have a particular soft spot for those who can make some magic on the six-string stick. SoCal standout Curtis has been making waves in his native Los Angeles, including a nomination for Guitarist of the Year at the L.A. Music Awards and a nod from Music Connection magazine as well, and from what I've heard from him so far, it's been well deserved. Curtis' latest release Blue Electric Cool hybridizes surf, rock, funk and even acid jazz with eye-popping results, especially for those who grew up memorizing Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow note for note. But even if you're not a guitar fan, Curtis has the chops to win you over. Dig it.

Lydia Lunch, Smoke in the Shadows

The art-punk poetess is back with another hefty dose of noir-soaked spoken word weirdness, which is another way of saying that it's like she's never left. Lunch came to power as the leader of the late '70s No Wave outfit Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, but it is her ensuing works like Queen of Siam and 'Drowning in Limbo' that made her a hybrid hit. This time around, Lunch has fused her patented brand of hard-hitting poetry with estranged electronica and gritty rap, making tunes like "Touch My Evil," "Blame" and "Lost World" the kind of tunes Iceberg Slim and Raymond Chandler would write if they hung around with the likes of Tricky long enough. Lunch isn't for everyone, but if you can take a defiantly strong female with a death drive like no other, you're in for a treat.

The Mars Volta, Frances the Mute

The best rock band of the new millennium is back with another cranium-shattering offering of prog-punk for those of you who think that those two words could never go together. Like its last album De-loused in the Comatorium, Frances the Mute is a multi-movement fusion of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's mind-bending riffs and Cedric Bixler-Zavala's Robert Plant-ish wails, although Jon Theodore's high-octane drumwork is the backbone holding the whole ambitious concept album together. Inspired by a dairy written Volta's deceased sound experimentalist Jeremy Ward, Frances the Mute clocks in at 75 minutes, which wouldn't be weird except that the disc has only five songs on it. Look, if you've read this column at all, you'd know that it's only the stuff that avoids categorization of any type that I feel is worth a damn. The Mars Volta has built their career on that very ethic, which makes them the only band that matters in my book. Pick this one up any way you can.

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©Melt Magazine 2005