VALIS Vast Active Living Intelligence System

VALIS are a super-group of sorts including members of two of the heaviest bands to come out of the Seattle scene of the late '80s (in pure poundage), Tad and Screaming Trees. Though no longer playing with Valis, Dan Peters of Mudhoney gets writing credit on half the songs on this album. The name Valis comes from the title of a quasi-autobiographical, semi-schizophrenic science fiction novel by Phillip K Dick, the man whose stories inspired films like Blade Runner, Minority Report, and Total Recall. Now, a cool name and good pedigree should spell pure rock gold, but in the case of Valis their second release is a collection of average post-grunge with a space rock twist. Muddy production buries some decent hooks in a monotone soup that lacks defining dynamics. The flat muffled drum sound and Van Conner's weak, thin, sometimes off-key vocals, though occasionally echoing Ozzy's trademarked whine, are serious handicaps. There's obvious potential that could be realized with their next full length, due out this year, but this release can only be described as passable. (Lunasound)