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CD Reviews

By Joel M. Rosenberg
Staff Reporter

Squirrel Nut Zippers: Hot

When I first heard this album at a Tower listening station, I couldn't believe my ears. No jazz reissue or another new performance of an old arrangement. The Squirrel Nut Zippers, out of Chapel Hill, N.C., are a 90s band that have taken old school 30s jazz and given it a new edge for an awesome mix.

The music makes you feel like ordering a whiskey in a bar filled with cigarette smoke and sweat. Definitely music to hang out to, and almost irresistibly perfect for dancing to. Named after a Massachusetts old-time chewy peanut-flavored snack, the band features a brass section, banjo, guitar, bass, traditional traps, and other assorted instruments, including winds. The Nut Zippers are getting bigger and bigger, having played at MTV's inaugural ball for Clinton last month.

Ironically enough, Hot (their second offering, after The Inevitable) is actually a CD-ROM - not bad for a band playing in the style of the earlier half of the century. It's an awesome introduction to the band, including biographic material, interviews, and even snippets of songs from the first album, along with lyrics from both.

The Nut Zippers are a "musical seance," and hearing it can transport you to another time, expect the music will be better than it was in that time. It's a great introduction to this music and can mix up your CD collection a bit.

yeP!: yeP!onymous

While explaining this band's name can turn into a "Who's on First?" routine, hearing these guys groove should clear up any misunderstandings. Having never heard yeP! before, I decided to check them out at the Middle East a few weeks ago. My reward was finding one of the most refreshing groups I've heard in a while.

Their pseudo-eponymous freshman album has elements of 70s funk like Tower of Power ("Mutha Funk in Soul"), 50s Chuck Berry ("Boogie Woogie Gator"), 90s folk-rock ("Clean Sweep"), plus a bunch of other great stuff. Pseudo-eponymous because they define eponymous in the booklet: "Comprising an unusual collection of rock-oriented funklectic bluegressive jazzska cartoongrass hip 'n' groove songs (when preceded by y')." There you have it.

They jam in the Dead/Phish tradition, play some covers live (even tease the Looney Tunes theme and "Ring Around the Rosie" on the cut "Principles and Practice") and are all around entertaining. The lyrics are great and the musicianship is even better. Pedal steel guitar, banjo, brass, percussion, tuba, fiddle, and harmonious backups fill the tracks behind bass, two kicking guitars, keyboards, and drums. They're not afraid to take on weird rhythms, hinting at Rush's "Tom Sawyer" to open "Stealth," among other examples. In fact, with their range, it doesn't seem like they're intimidated by any type of music.

Not only is the music good, but they're another "fan band." They allow taping at shows, interact well with the audience, and are so readily accessible you can still book them to play your gig - better hurry, though. Be the first one on your block to get into yeP!, and you can be the first wearing shirts with their cool logo on it. They'll be back in the New England area in April and May.

Nirvana: From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah

Nirvana exploded out of Seattle, defined this decade's music and ended with a bullet. They influenced innumerable bands, and while there's no new music coming from them now, From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, their live album released last October, helps make accessible what many missed back then and can never experience again.

Bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl sifted through more than 100 hours of tapes to find the tracks for this album. It's not the over-polished piece Cobain felt Nevermind was but instead a raw offering of the hard-core nature of the band. You can feel the anger in Kurt, where "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is even faster and grungier than the album. You can also hear the personality of Nirvana as they introduce a song with "This is a new song we don't really feel like actually going through the trouble of putting out ourselves, and it's for all you bootleggers to go ahead and go."

The songs were recorded between 1989 and 1994, in venues ranging from small European clubs to the Del Mar Fairgrounds on tour with Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The audience is great to listen to, as it is on most live albums and helps define and interpret the music at the same time.

Muddy Banks isn't an introductory Nirvana album, but it's awesome if you're looking for a Nirvana bootleg without the hassle of taping. Krist describes it best, "Crank this record up and realize the bliss, power, and passion - Total Nirvana!"