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Orange County Artists

ARTIST: Ten Mile Tongue

Whatever summation you've come to about the state of heavy rock in Huntington Beach, there is plenty more out there than the dissonant band of the month being pushed by KROQ and MTV. Witness Ten Mile Tongue. Employing melody over contained bursts of aggression within the framework of tight, inspired compositions, Tongue's sound falls somewhere between Jane's Addiction and Mother Love Bone.

Especially on the first track of their 5 song demo (soon to be included as a full length album), "Overdrive," guitarist Bruce Puckett wastes no time in laying down a crunching, Marshall driven riff over Dean Rutherford's vocals, essential establishing the credo for this band - Power.

Even when the band slips into a gentler, more cerebral mode, tripping through the textured "Open Book," you can feel the swell intensifying, preparing to erupt. And erupt it does, as evidenced in "Vain" and the resounding finale to "Wandering." Ten Mile Tongue is completed by the solid foundation of Joel Churchill on bass and Joe Steiskal on drums, while Sam Wilson's rhythm guitar work (especially when he employs the acoustic) is potent and tasteful.

Improvement would come in the form of a strong mix of back-up vocals, mainly to sustain the choruses or in working just below them, adding depth. This type of complement would give the melodies at work the layering they so deserve. A seasoned producer would fit rightly with these guys, mainly to tune and polish the product.

ARTIST: CAKEBOY

When you're an such integral entrenchment in the landscape of Orange County music as Kristoff's Cakeboy, it's safe to say their music will tell you a thing or two about a thing or two. While steady and unwavering in their sound, tonally Cakeboy demonstrates they can reach the depths of cynicism or the peaks of unabashed celebration and most places in between.

Content aside, it's hard not to keep a foot steadily bouncing throughout this radio friendly offering. With the pep of what is now being referred to as Southern twinged rock (you know, Black Crows, Hootie and the Blowfish, etc.), Cakeboy is tuned into the recipe for a good hook and are well aware what it takes to deliver the music necessary to support it. Employing the services of Chili Pepper drummer Chad Smith on a couple of tracks, keyboardist Joe Simon (known most notably for his work with Fiona Apple) and current Candlebox guitarist Robbie Allen, Cakeboy has reinforced their efforts with some of the best in the business. Kristoff holds his own admirably in this company, able to capture the Southern twang effectively, but also capable of belting it out when the need arises. Through it all, they are insightful and revealing, as their nine song CD entitled "Tattoo Time" demonstrates.

ARTIST: Eyeball

Slayer has maintained their position as the embodiment of speed metal for as long as the term has been in existence. Any true fan knows no one is harder, no one faster (for the possible exception of the openly satanic Florida quartet Deicide) and no one more consistent and dedicated to the cause.

Which brings us to Eyeball, a group whose focus has never been mired in the petty, such as achieving speeds or volumes in the same league as the mega-acts. Such is a staple of so many speed bands, engaging in a competition equal to a NBA slam dunk contest. Sure, they can jump higher and look good doing it, but can they pull off the winning shot in the championship? The game is what Eyeball is readying itself for - as for the frills, they couldn't care less. All they set out to do, quite simply, is attack each song with the same passion and commitment as the big boys. That is their recipe for success.

Eyeball extends beyond the range of simple speed metal. Readily audible on their nine song CD are elements of exploration within their music, inspired, no doubt by acts such as Rush and Iron Maiden. Eyeball is equally adept at producing seamless and intricate arrangements in their numbers, unafraid to mesh tempos, time changes, and dynamics in the blink of an eye.

While bassist/lead vocalist Sherman Jones and guitarist Derek Jones are undoubtedly the keynote contributors to Eyeball, a drummer in the vein of a Dave Lombardo or Vinnie Paul would be the final piece to the puzzle. Certain song sections seemed to be screaming for the ferocity of a pounding double bass flurry, or lightning fast tom or snare rolls, rumbling beneath Jones' wails and the thick wall of guitar sound Jones is so adept at providing. If a third member of that caliber were attainable, there is no reason why Eyeball should not be added to the roster of the Roadrunner Records family. ARTIST: Lo-Fi Champion

The beauty of simplicity. Love. Friendship. Beer. Surfing. Perhaps a trip to Japan. Concepts that when sung about forthright over the barest yet purest of musical elements, reach us the deepest. It's one of the most powerful elements present in rock and roll, yet one so difficult for so many to harbor.

That's why the unit known as Lo-Fi Champion is one of the best kept secrets in the Long Beach / Orange County power pop scene. They do this as well as anyone, while effortlessly branding each song with their trademark straight-faced humor. If there's one thing missing in the music scene today, its acts who can deliver a powerful performance and still be inherently funny and personable both on stage and recorded.

Lo-Fi does and is, all the while setting the mood with brash punk, surf and rockabilly licks fused into a tight pop format. But one of the most impressive aspect of Lo-Fi is the combination of Dan Perkins' lead vocals with the backups of drummer Mike Vallejo's and bassist Roberto Escobar's. All stand up individually, but when combined are truly a force.

This group stands to benefit from the employment of different instruments and sounds in its recordings. A harmonica riff or some strategically placed banjo, the twang of a metal guitar, or perhaps just someone banging on the frame of a screen door would suffice. This music stands the chance to be ethereal as well as pure, and some tasty filler might complete the package. Nothing to get in the way, mind you, only to enhance. And in Lo-Fi Champion's case, that's all they really need.

ARTIST: Con Job

From the buzz Con Job has been generating lately with their musical tribute to the Los Angeles Lakers Championship run, "Lakers in the Staples in the Year 2000," it's hard to believe this machine needs any more positive publicity. But we at INFLUX are happy to give it to these modern pioneers of 80's heavy metal.

It seems as though the "Lakers in the Staples," which the band performed live on 97.1 FM's Jonathon Brandmeier Show, achieved rotation status on KROQ's The Kevin and Bean morning show and on Howard Stern's nationally syndicated broadcast, may have been a fluke for a band much better known for such hard rocking classics as "Snake Charmer," "Black Widow" and "Big Bang." But blatantly selling out has never been a problem for this Sunset Beach fixture, seemingly willing to do just about anything to keep themselves in the faces of the populous whether they want them there or not. Ahh, the beauty of blind persistence.

And indeed they have. With a new repertoire of songs present on their new CD, "Barely Alive" (which will be re-rereleased while headlining the 13th Floor show), Con Job breaks impressive new ground with their sing-along "Con Job Anthem" and the startlingly melodic "Con Job Ballad." The latter seems to be conveyed directly from the swelling heart of lead guitarist/vocalist Michael Moran, who has been known to break down, uncontrollably sobbing during certain poignant live renditions of the number.

But enough of us bragging about Con Job. Find them at their next show and they'll do it themselves. ARTIST: Brook Lee

"Haunting" would be the most obvious term to encapsulate the vibe Brook Lee's "Sorry I'm Late" brings across. After all, with just about every number on the 12 song CD focused around the steady, minor-ish strumming of a worn acoustic guitar and Lee's spoken word monologues, it's hard not to imagine yourself cruising Route 66 right as dusk sinks into the landscape. Haunting is good in this respect, because those are the kinds of images that linger long after the songs cease, that replay themselves in your mind, perhaps just a singular line running itself over and over again.

Lee toys with a range of notions, anywhere from identity, love, forgiveness to solitude, all the while blessing each effort with a tinge of hope and understanding, no matter how bleak. That seems to be Lee's greatest gift when the contents of the album are assessed as a whole - his ability to depict the most desolate of situations with an ear open for a resolution or a plausible method for circumventing the pain.

While Lee has established a fine first coat for "Sorry I'm Late," more prominent percussion tracks would boost and emphasize the value of the production. The CD comes across at times simply as a guy brooding into a microphone, which is difficult to sustain for the complete duration of a full length album. Something more is required to give this effort the nuances needed to fortify its staying power.

But it is clear what Brook Lee is attempting to give us - an unabashed look into what most passionately troubles and delights him. And judging by the, well, haunting way his message is relayed, he's done a pretty swell job.

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