**** Bret Michaels
*** Rikki Rocket
** C.C. DeVille
* Bobby Dall


PINEHURST KIDS
Bleed It Dry
(Barbaric Records)
*

Buffy is almost on. Tonight we find out how Buffy's going to get Dawn back from Glory. But before that, I wanna check out this Pinehurst Kids disc. I've never heard them before, and when I load the disc, it tells me there are 35 minutes of music. 28 minutes to Buffy, so the big question will be--will I want to hear the last seven minutes once Angel is over? Hmmm. Starts well enough. Fairly duh-duh-duh-dum guitars, slightly screechy vocals, extra speed, and some microphone effects on the chorus. It's kind of like the September 1995 CMJ sampler disc. I know this band's struggle: "How do we bring the Beach Boys, Cheap Trick, and Sonic Youth records in our collection together?" Lyric sample: "Is it not enough or too much to take?"--Jesus, on track two, you make me wonder this? Isn't it time for a Simpsons rerun? Oh, now we're punk rock! Is it 8:00 yet? JAMIE S. RICH


ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO

A Man Under the Influence

(Bloodshot Records)
***

Alejandro Escovedo has pedigree enough for three musicians. He was at ground zero for West Coast punk with the Nuns, a cowpunk progenitor in Rank and File, and a guitar-rock standard-bearer in True Believers and Buick MacKane. But his most accomplished music has been his powerful and elegant solo output. With his gritty, plain-spoken voice hinting at an open-throated hopefulness with a rue-lined lower register, Escovedo's singing takes the fore of his songs. It's an intimate, personal sound--an amalgam of folk-blues and spectral balladry cycling through love, hurt, and redemption. "There's heaven and then there's somewhere else," Escovedo croons on "Don't Need You," with a plaintive resignation that haunts all the houses and bedrooms he passes through, a man under the influence of love and the sad places it wanders. NATE LIPPENS


R.E.M.

Reveal
(Warner Brothers)
*

Even beneath the K-Mart muzak-style string section, the cast of Studio Musicians (including Scott McCaughey, the guy from the Posies, and a horn player named Fergal O'Ceallachain) playing the newfangled gadgets known as "sequencers," and guitar solos cheesier than a train full of clowns, you can still hear Michael Stipe's voice on Reveal--barely. Unfortunately, every song is drenched--soaking, really--in Studio Production. It's ANNOYING, because the melodies and lyrics within the songs themselves are really good, and it'd be nice to hear Michael singing without being distracted by a bunch of piano and sampled beats and did I mention CHEESY guitar solos? It's all so psychedelic, like REM just realized they have tons of money and bought a bunch of samplers on the internet without knowing how to use them subtly. Reveal doesn't seem honest to me. JULIANNE SHEPHERD