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The Watchmen
By Steven Almond

Just because the world's two best bands were born and reared in Canada doesn't mean Americans should have to remove their heads from their asses long enough to hail a terrific new Canadian band. After all, the removal of the national head from the national tush would reveal, quite disturbingly, the national debt, along with Garth Brooks at number one on the Billboard charts.

Still, with that nifty NAFTA thang laxatized through Congress, it may be time to look a bit more carefully at the import bin. I, for one, am calling on all United States citizens to purchase at least one album by nortena monsters Los Tigres del Norte, along with a bottle of El Presidente, preferably to be consumed simultaneously.

Another good thing would be if everyone went out and bought McLarenFurnaceRoom, the rough and ready debut from the Watchmen. They're from Winnipeg. Ever been to Winnipeg?

A rap sheet:
Twelve tunes. One big ol' gravelly guitar. One bass. One set of spastic drums. One undulating voice. A nervy kind of energy. Not a lot of bo-shit. Bang your head. Stamp your feet. Search for the mellotron. It's in there somewhere. Ask my neighbors.

The few mistakes here -- the occasional misbegotten lyric and misfired melody -- are more a product of raw energy than overcooking in the studio. And the direct hits more than compensate. I'm still trying to shake "Must to Be Free" outta my head, and the last time I heard it was days ago.

You get the sense listening to these boys that you are getting in on the ground floor with a band bound for boomtown. They've got the chops. The musical range. The unerring ear for a hook.

As always, the risk with these young, guitar-driven troops (from Canada) is that they tend to fall through the demographic crack. Too plainspoken and grownup for the alternative ghetto. Not moussed or promoted enough for mainstream, brain-dead WSHE rock.

Let's see if they have the patience to survive a few years in the Winnipegian work camp. And let's see how many South Floridians can hunt down their album.

As for those two best bands in the world, I refer, of course, to Rush and Triumph. Or, for those of you with a modicum of a clue A Barenaked Ladies and the Tragically Hip.

Pat Travers
Blues Tracks
(Blues Bureau International)
By Bob Weinberg

If you've been anxiously waiting for Pat Travers to release a blues album -- keep waiting. If you've been anxiously waiting for Pat Travers to deliver another kick-ass rock and roll album, well, here it be.

Not that the material itself isn't blue -- you've got Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You," and "I Ain't Superstitious"; you've got Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues"; you've got the Sam Phillips classic "Mystery Train" (what would the King say about this version? Let's just say "Elvis has left the building"), and even Howlin' Wolf's "Sitting on Top of the World" A it's just jacked-up, hauled, and mauled through some ugly, nasty amplifiers until it screams for mercy (it don't get none, either), and ultimately shredded to bits by Travers's somebody-get-me-a-Xanax chord-crunching and full-tilt man-on-fire vocals.

Wedged among the classics, uh, reinterpreted by Travers and his power trio (Brad Russell, who could have bluesed down on the bottom end; Joe Nevolo practicing primal therapy on his drum kit) is a spleen-ripping original, "Calling Card Blues," and an ear-bruising cover of ZZ Tops's hard-rocking "Just Got Paid."

It may not be what its title implies, but Blues Tracks will definitely start your endorphins pumping.

Chaos A.D.
By J.C. Herz

Sepultura is what happens when Slayer and Metallica filter through Third World shantyburbs and meld the jackhammer volume of thrash to Brazilian polyrhythms and a shrieking political consciousness. Imagine Napalm Death, Ice-T, Dead Kennedys, and Consolidated shoved through a meat grinder, reconstituted on the outskirts of Rio, and translated into English.

From the first track "Refuse/Resist" ("Tanks on the streets/Confronting police/Bleeding the Plebs/Raging crowd/Burning cars/Bloodshed starts"), Chaos A.D.'s barrage of metal horror holds a mirror to the human rights atrocities it decries in tracks such as "Slave New World," "Clenched Fist," "The Hunt" (by New Model Army), and "Biotech is Godzilla" (by Jello Biafra). These scraps of vocal and political flagellation make Rage Against the Machine look like Juliana Hatfield.

And unlike their First World rock-for-freedom counterparts, Sepultura never rings preachy or self-righteous, probably because their apocalyptic soundscapes have a more immediate basis than channel surfing on cable (like wow, authenticity). It gives thrash fans a sense of perspective A so some poodle-permed junkies in Hollywood are screaming about death, who gives a shit? When you hear Sepultura's bass gunfire under descriptions of exploding skulls, you know that somewhere in the world this is going down. Chaos will jab your political consciousness -- and make your ears bleed. Chalk one up for multiculturalism.


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