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From the Mailbag:

First I'd like to thank you for reviewing our DEMO. I suppose the fault is not in our stars, but that we only have a demo. We stuck our heads up, and caught the axe. Never have I heard such a malicious review of a local artist, nor have I seen such a pointed attack on one aspect of a performance. I think you really missed the essence of our music. Post-punk? We're pop, no pretense of punk, pre, post or otherwise, hence the "coyingly effete" vocals. Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Buckley? Not to mention the last track..."Maybe on the Moon," punk? I wish you had waited to print a review until after seeing our live show. I'm sure that when you see us play, your characterization of us will seem woefully off base. I hope that having a "virtually unlistenable demo" will not preclude us from further mention in your paper. As long time readers, local artists, and aspiring scenesters, we had hoped to count the Metro Pulse as an ally. Et tu, Poptart.

Thanks for supporting insufferable and piteous local music

Local CD Review I

Adlin and Appleford
Jaundice Bitters

Rich Adlin knows his way around an acoustic guitar, and Mark Appleford can shred through a harmonica solo. This duo is obviously well versed in the time-honored folk/blues tradition. And that may be what makes Jaundice Bitters a little too hard to swallow.

What is it about Americana that is so alluring and yet so elusive? What is that intangible ingredient that separates the wheat from the white bread? I honestly can not tell you, and I've mulled it over during the repeated spins I've put this CD through. What I can tell you is that Adlin and Appleford often times seem on the verge of discovering it; there are some genuinely good moments on Jaundice Bitters. The duo is at its best when not taking themselves too seriously, evidenced in the ditty "Bittersweet Blues," with its refrain "She fries a chicken that'll keep you comin' back for more," or in the bouncy "Shakespeare's Shuffle." And even the weaker cuts have moments of brilliance, like Joel Fairstein's (who also produced the album) beautiful piano sprinkles on the otherwise underwhelming "Idlewood."

But more often, Jaundice Bitters just misses the mark. There's "It's Time," a grooveless attempt at reggae. There's a meandering instrumental, and a bland, self-conscious confessional. And of course, there are enough masturbatory guitar and harmonica solos to wow blues enthusiasts and bore the hell out of everyone else.

Really, though, what it all comes down to is the heart. Adlin and Appleford sound like a couple of middle-class, thirty-something white guys with years of guitar lessons under their belts and Dylan songbooks under their arms. What should be the rally cry for the album, "Fire in Your Belly," lacks just that. I'm just not buying it, and it sounds like these guys aren't really sure what they're selling. But hey, here's hoping they keep plugging away at it, and carry on with the search for that distinctive element, if for no other reason than simply to spite a rough review in a free weekly rag.

Local CD Review II

Industry Vs. Inferiority (One Wing Records)

With the release of their digital debut, Industry Vs. Inferiority, Knoxville's emo/streetpunk favorites Atropos take a dive into the big pond of postmodern hardcore experimentation. And, for the most part, the album is a smashing success.

Led by the sandpaper and cigarette rasp of Knoxpunk mainstay Tony Johnson (also the band's guitarist and primary lyricist), Atropos dares to move beyond the limited confines of punk's three-chord blueprint. The album's eight songs feature meticulously constructed rhythms that interweave to form a stark backdrop for Johnson's caterwaul of existential angst.

Though the band's reverence for the down and dirty punk sound of bands like Rancid and Ann Beretta is still evident, the songs tend to veer into the more challenging territories pioneered by groups like Hot Water Music, Refused, and, yes, Fugazi. The band is ambitious in its pursuit of new sounds, composing drawn-out pieces that sometimes veer into prog rock territory.

Atropos' adventurous approach is challenging to say the least. As with all experimentation, there are occasional botched results. Sometimes the songs, which usually clock in at around five minutes, seem too long, too repetitive and lacking in terms of melody.

Hardcore music was not intended to work in the pop marketplace, and Atropos' refusal to adopt hardcore clichés makes them even more difficult. Atropos' music is not pretty. Instead, the band chooses the jagged path—building tension and reflecting internal chaos and uncertainty. Industry Vs. Inferiority is an unsettling, cathartic ride. And it's well worth the effort.


Thursday: George Winston at the Tennessee Theatre or Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Choir Boys at Sassy Ann's. Piano-tinklings or bluesy-twinklings. Pick your poison.

Friday: Gran Torino with MRG at Blue Cats. Local boys who play nationally-acclaimed groovy funk.

Saturday: Mountain Heart at Palace Theatre. They stole the show at last week's Downtown Hoedown. Now catch 'em solo.

Sunday: Shannon Wright with Old Ironsides at Pilot Light. For reasons, click here.

Monday: Room 101 with Senryu at Cat's Music. Hear for yourself what the fuss is about.

Tuesday: Koresh Dance Company at Bijou Theatre. Athletic dance that's accessible to all.

Wednesday: Mountain Soul at Barley's. Local 'grass that tastes good.

—Emma "Still bummed Ewan McGregor didn't get a Globe" Poptart with John Sewell

January 24, 2002 * Vol. 12, No. 4
© 2002 Metro Pulse