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Atom And His Package
Attention! Blah Blah Blah
Hopeless

Atom and His Package is exactly the sort of thing that would've irritated the shit out of me back when I was first getting into underground music but still had no tolerance for smart people being cleverly stupid (Dead Milkmen, anyone?). And apparently, I haven't evolved to the degree that I'd hoped. While I can appreciate

Atom's facility and creativity, I also want to put a Sharpie through my left eye after about four songs. If everything sounded as good as "Friend, Please Stop Smoking" and "Head with Arms," such would not be the case. But the metallic riffs, punk-pop riffs, metallic punk-pop riffs and non-stop Package yammerage just get to me after a while. Atom's a sharp one, and I think he's great fun live, or for about seven minutes of a mix CD. A 13-track disc, however, is just too tiresome, no matter how good the lyrics. (Scott Harrell)

Mickey And The Soul Generation
Iron Leg: The Complete Mickey and the Soul Generation
Quannum Projects/Cali-Tex

A decade ago, DJ Shadow ran across Mickey and the Soul Generation's "Iron Leg" on an otherwise tepid jazz-funk comp. A quest was born. Through copious musicological research, Shadow tracked down the long-split R&B ensemble in San Antonio. This set represents the fruit of his labor. The six-piece band sprouted from the fertile cross-culturization of Tejanos and African-Americans. What

resulted was a muscular, raw-boned brand of instrumental R&B, like James Brown's Famous Flames but more tightly wound, like Booker T. but wilder, like Average White Band but not as slick. The best songs here possess an irresistible sense of propulsion. The 19 selections, several seeing release for the first time, were cut from 1969 to 1973; none made a dent in the national psyche. M&SG was among the litany of promising acts that earned local and regional success but got kicked around by the industry when it came time to take it nationwide. Difference is, this band gets to delight funk fans all over again, 30 years on. (Eric Snider)

Nada Surf
Let Go
Barsuk

The third full-length from Brooklyn pop trio Nada Surf actually appeared in our mailbox several months ago. The disc was immediately received by several staffers as an out-of-the-box classic, but it seemed prudent to let the tunes sink in until its actual release date, as so many instantly catchy records reveal themselves as time-release crap after the first dozen listens. Not so with Let Go: It remains a nearly flawless slice of arty-yet- approachable guitar pop. The excellent, overlooked sophomore LP The Proximity Effect left the threesome's hip, overdriven geek-punk origins far behind, and the moody, clean-guitar-adorned Let Go ups the maturity ante without sacrificing their compelling earnestness. Several cuts, including acoustic opener "Blizzard of 77," the beautifully austere "Blonde on Blonde," the taut, climactic "Killian's Red," and the soaring "Neither Heaven Nor Space," evince a timeless quality, relying much more on Matthew Caws' melodies and intensely personal lyrical style than on rhythm or riff. Let Go is a rarity among indie-pop albums: one that gets under your skin at the first exposure, and stays there. (Scott Harrell)

Snowdogs
Deep Cuts, Fast Remedies
Victory

In the early months of 2002, England-based power-pop trio Snowdogs' first album, Animal Farm, was released in America. It was an excellent batch of simple, sweet and beefy tunes that owed as much to Kiss as they did Slade. Deep Cuts, Fast Remedies continues the parade of hooks, but unfortunately the disc's hokey lyrical messages and altogether too serious tone threaten to render them irrelevant. Opener "Average Kid" is a generic paean to the hardships of, well, guess what. "Popstars (Love This!)" tells the story of some innocent kids who started a band, "got a sponsor by the name of Happy Cola," and generally lost their souls to corporate fuckery. And we won't even go into, uh, "Freedom for Everyone" -- or "Amazon," where it takes a trip through the jungle to make the narrator realize, hey, contemporary American culture can be sort of vapid. Vocalist Ville Leppanen delivers these and other half-assed sociological revelations with such precious conviction that it sucks the fun out of songs whose only claim to validity would've been as uplifting, idiotic smile-inducers. (Scott Harrell)

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