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[whitespace] Making a List

There's no time like the present to start looking back at the year that was

By David Espinoza

DECEMBER IS FINALLY HERE, and that means it's time for some preliminary year-in-review columns. Instead of countdown lists and such, I'll focus on a few of my favorites each week. What was a rather disappointing year for many Spanish rock bands (Argentina's Bersuit Vergarabat's Hijos Del Culo failed to catch on), turned out to be a success for Columbia's Aterciopelados.

With their fifth album, Gozo Poderoso, garnering much airplay on Spanish radio, reformed punk rockeros Andrea Echeverri and Hector Buitrago have again proven why Aterciopelados is still one of the best Latin rock bands around, rivaled only by Café Tacuba. Like Bjørk, Echeverri and Buitrago seem at home experimenting with pop melodies while keeping their more subculture roots intact. The new album may be the most pop-oriented to date, but as is the case with many artists with exceptional songwriting skills, the record is only a byproduct of maturity and the need to do something different.

While one of the most popular hits of the year happened to be a cover of the '70s soul-disco classic "Lady Marmalade," a little-known rock & roll band from Detroit called the Dirtbombs released an all-cover tribute album dedicated to other soul artists. Only the band's second album, Ultraglide in Black is a stunning effort by soul-punker Mick Collins and crew that does more justice to the likes of Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye than any major pop act could ever accomplish. With a nod to the raging, balls-out attitude of Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Johnny Rotten, and with a vocalist who sounds like Jimi Hendrix reincarnated, the Dirtbombs rework Stevie Wonder's classic "Living for the City" into a modern-day story about a Mexican family trying to make ends meet in the urban jungle. Just brilliant.

The opening bass line to title track, "Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks" by New York's the Rapture should go down in history as one of the best lo-fi licks of all time--right up there with Guided by Voices' "Lethargy." The artsy and experimental trio has been associated with the No Wave sound, and to be sure, the sloppy guitar riffs and drumbeats set to crusty discolike bass lines are very reminiscent of early-'80s bands. The barrage of feedback and steady drumbeats on track two serves as a reminder that there's no limit to what degree of delicious noise three people can make--just ask the Lowdown.

On the local band tip, Sin in Space technically released its debut album, Asteroid Band, this year, so it still makes the cut. Among the few full-length albums that local bands have managed to release over the years, Sin in Space's 12-track beauty sets itself apart with guitar leads and songs that surpass generic underground talents and are primed for big-time exposure. To date, there isn't a band in town that can match lead vocalist Cassidy Meijer's fire. Right from the beginning, with the furious modern-rock "Fortune Teller," all the way to the folklike sing-along finale, "Asteroid Band," Sin in Space offers one of the strongest debuts ever seen in Santa Cruz.

Coming Up

It's hard to believe that the sounds generated by Bethany Curve's fourth album, You Brought Us Here, come from usual suspects like guitar and drums instead of synths or keyboards. Apparently lacking a bass player at the time, Bethany Curve recorded the nine-track CD with just two guitars, drums and vocals. The result is a dreamlike album soaked in ethereal guitar effects, haunting vocals and echoing drums. At times, Bethany Curve's heavily layered sounds wander very close to New Age territory, but don't be fooled: this one-time SC-based crew is pure shoegazer. Bethany Curve hits the Rio Theatre Dec. 8 (Saturday).

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From the December 5-12, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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