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The Counter Elites’ Are You a Counter Elite? (Simple Living Ferndale) sees the Ferndale duo yelling and snarling about, Grrr, corporate greed and, Wuuaarrgghh, capitalism, and stuff. “Hope is in the hands of evil – so are the dreams,” they yell on “The Hands of Evil,” and they’re pissed about it. Jonny Genocide and SW Semi-automatic (yup, that’s his name) write songs that are over in a flash, though they’re catchy enough that they enable the band to make political unrest fun. Here’s the catch though – you could be forgiven for thinking that the Counter Elites thrash through songs in a Ramones-meets-Napalm Death sort of way, but the truth is a little most intricate. They can really play, and the little Zappa-esque jazz spots suggest that these two guys can do what they want. They happen to want to be loud and angry.
Billy Brandt & Sarana Verlin’s Goin’ Home (Drum Dancer) sees the two musicians continue what has thus far proven to be a fruitful partnership. Interestingly enough, Verlin was one of the original members of Dark Carnival, the dark, arty punk band that would go on to include Niagara and Ron Asheton. Also, has anyone ever noticed that, one slip to the right, and Billy Brandt becomes Billy Brandy? Sounds like a porn star name, but let me assure you that he isn't. These days, Verlin and Brandt are making music that blends folk (particularly the renaissance brand) with chilled rock and a dab of country. Both of them, and the people that they have chosen to record with, are accomplished musicians; Verlin is a wonderful violinist, adding texture when necessary. Not every song hits home, but they’re never boring. Earthy and born out of honest intentions, Goin’ Home is worth spending an evening with.
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