Smartbomb Yeah. Well, Anyway...

... It's all about finding the right gimmick, and the current gimmick that seems to be working for everyone these days is the cover version. Not just any cover either; it has to be a wacky take of a relatively mainstream song. That way the band doesn't have to worry about the lack of recognition, because people will know all the words, even if they've never heard of the band. At least, that's what Smartbomb are hoping for. They've decided to turn Faith Hill's "Breathe" into a high-speed romp that will make most people smile the first time they hear it, but then the terrible recognition that there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about Smartbomb at all, quite the opposite in fact, sets in. They are one of those cookie cutter, alterna-rock bands that appear on a monthly basis - they try incredibly hard to come across as being rough and edgy (even listing Fugazi as an influence), but they are far too polished to appeal to any punk worth his or her salt. Instead, they might be fortunate enough to have their five minutes of fame (because they definitely don't have enough talent for a full 15 minutes), but within six months they will be completely forgotten. (Razor and Tie, Box 503, Village Station, NY, NY 10014, www.razorandtie.com) -Michael Edwards Azalia Snail Brazen Arrows Azalia Snail (her real name) has put out her underground, psychedelic, lo-fi rock albums simmered in creative non-sequitor noise for well over ten years. Brazen Arrows, released on Dark Beloved Cloud, was inspired from having moved to the suburbs of Los Angeles, away from the frenetic pace of NYC. "I wanted Brazen Arrows to be a seductive album; I was in a state of mind where I was trying to attain something in a sarcastic but sensual way. It had to do with moving to California and rediscovering myself. I was in a pretty tranquil state of mind, going from the gamut of frustration and heartache to pure elation. I'm writing exactly how I'm feeling. Each song is exactly about what I've been going through - that really inspires me and the surroundings." Her latest album is definitely the mellowest to date, yet she still hasn't lost her melodically tripped-out edge, processing her vocals and instruments through reverb and effects. "I love being super-hallucinogenic, you want to be able to totally intrigue people and get them into that melancholy stage." Her sweet young girl voice and chintzy Casio tones, after you realise your speakers are not on the fritz, are seductive, appreciated by a listener who wants a break from formulaic pop rock and listen to something truly alternative and creatively put together. (Dark Beloved Cloud, www.darkbelovedcloud.com) -I. Khider Soft Machine Turns On Volume 2 While the Canterbury progressive rock scene is noted for its hardcore fans, this album is for really hardcore fans only. These live recording of Soft Machine, featuring Mike Ratledge (organ), Robert Wyatt (drums, vocals) and Kevin Ayers (bass, vocals), from '67 and '68 have humour and occasional flashes of brilliance, particularly Ratledge's feature, "Organistics." Unfortunately, the recording quality sucks. Had the album been released 30 years ago it would have been considered a poor bootleg. Sadly, most of the material has an inferior sound but, of course, it was never intended for public consumption. However, I'm a hardcore Soft Machine fan, so I got it, I filed it and I'll get the next one, too. (Razor & Tie)