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FALSTAFF 12/13, BIG HORSE Instrumental proficiency, eclectic whimsy, and stateliness a la Red-era King Crimson distinguish this local trio's new II (Homestead). Singer-guitarist Ian Schneller's tortured bray lends pathos to the quiet ballad "Home" as effectively as it animates the punked-up melodrama of "Lamppost." Still, the inclusion of an extended-jam reprise of one song ("Candlelight"), six minutes of silence, and a "hidden" throwaway live Chicago-Prince medley--which effectively reduces the amount of real content to less than half what it was on the band's self-released '95 debut--comes off as an attempt to mask that old devil, writer's block. GREAZY MEAL 12/13, DOUBLE DOOR Currently a top-drawing show band in the Twin Cities (the "bubbles, butterflies, sugary breakfast treats," and dancing girls help, I'm sure), this eight-piece funk troupe even boasts two former members of Prince's New Power Generation. But on its debut CD, Visualize World Greaze (TRG), the grooves are only adequate, the rapping gratuitous, the vocals a pale shade of Prince and Stevie, and the songwriting reminds me how much I like dusty radio. PANGS 12/13, CUE CLUB The lyric "Live or die on a 45!" (from "World on a 45") sums up the philosophy of this local Brit-influenced three-piece, whose elemental arrangements, moderate tempos, and sing-along choruses adhere to the style of punk's less aggressive antecedent, pub rock. Regrettably, nothing on the pleasant enough '77 Sunset Trip (Powder Keg) stands out as a killer single. BOUNCING BALLS 12/14, PHYLLIS' MUSICAL INN Singer-guitarist Don Hedeker served as the musical half of the poetry-music duo Algebra Suicide from 1983 to 1993, but despite having a real doctor of mathematics, Brendan Burke (ex-God's Acre), aboard on drums, there's nothing calculating (let alone poetic) about this kinetic quartet's straight-ahead pop-punk, which runs fine, if a little sloppily, on Hedeker's overflowing vitriol. FALLING WALLENDAS 12/14, DOUBLE DOOR This local quartet seems bent on seducing the critics, and references to three of my all-time favorites (Todd Rundgren's "I Saw the Light," Phil Spector, and Plato) in the first 49 seconds of its sophomore effort, Belittle (IMI), made me wonder if I'd soon be snared. But despite an abundance of admirable pop-rock craftsmanship and intelligent lyrics, an overall lack of vitality only moves me to quote the comparable 10cc: "I'm not in love." HOME 12/19, EMPTY BOTTLE This spaced-out indie-rock quartet recently relocated to New York City from Tampa, Florida, where it started as a Bo Diddley cover band and recorded seven cassette-only super-limited-edition self-releases (the eighth came on eight-track only). Stretchy Mercury Rev poppiness and lo-fi Sebadoh offhandedness on number 11, Elf :: Gulf Bore Waltz (Jetset), might seem trite by themselves, but guitarist Andrew Deutsch retains the primal rhythmic drive of the group's roots, and dollops of cheesy prog synthesizer intimate that keyboardist Eric Morrison knows his Styx. Home will also play earlier in the day at Reckless on Broadway.

--Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Greazy Meal.

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