BANGS
Sweet Revenge
(Kill Rock Stars)
***

Hello, Bangs. HELLO! Come in! Please, sit down. No--not there. Over here, with all my favorite albums. I can tell we're going to be great friends, like me and Poly Styrene. You are all the good parts of the Go-Gos, when Belinda Carlisle was still Debbie Danger and the element of power chords was still on par with the melodic vocals. Even your ballads evoke all the angsty mystery of the Motels. Oh, Bangs! I'm so glad you're here. Let's put our hair in pigtails, and have scooter races in the street. JULIANNE SHEPHERD



GALACTIC HEROES
How About San Francisco?
(Magic Marker)

***

With melodies that compliment the sunny days ahead, Mike and Ricky (the Galactic Heroes) employ a phalanx of instruments to paint a pastel mosaic of road trips, ice cream trucks, and porch swings.

Mastered by Elephant 6 initiate Rob Schneider, How About San Francisco? is grounded in rollicking bass lines and layered harmonies. Apparently, their philosophy is "if it makes sound, there must be a way to use it," as they contend with everything from kazoos and water xylophones, to a cup of laundry change and a 4-square ball. Their lyrics tell of quaint adventures in a variety of cities with every summertime activity described in detail. The Galactic Heroes pop is so thickly laid down, one's attention is in danger of dissolving like cotton candy amid the la-la-las and bop-ba-bas. Luckily, they have managed to anchor their songs with their lyrical narratives. JON WILLETT



ARAB STRAP
Elephant Shoe
(Jetset)
**

Imagine Giant Sand's Howie Gelb growing up in post-industrial Scotland with 'ludes as his drug of choice instead of weed and beer. I present to you Arab Strap's Aidan Moffatt, owner of the most narcoleptically detached vocal chords in modern times. His ennui is fueled by the dank Glaswegian blight he's currently mired in. Like Gelb, Moffatt ruminates and mumbles about existence. He asks the big questions like, "Do you really need pyjamas (sic) in this heat?" Arab Strap surrounds Moffatt's voice in sparse, hair-mussing arrangements that mirror the singer's lazy quest for substance. I can see Moffatt now, numbed to near-perfect completion, singing into an old microphone. Is he wearing ruffles? Yes, and they are bright, canary yellow. His fingers are tobacco brown and his shoes are smeared with ashes. Moffatt is the Nick Cave for a purposefully slowed down clique. Elephant Shoe is the perfect time-killer when life stuns you into submission and it's too nice to go outside. TED THIEMAN