Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline
Virgin Records

Gomez are undoubtedly a diverse and original band. Last year's Liquid Skin was on every music magazine's best of the year lists. So it's no wonder that they have released a compilation album of to satisfy their fans. It's just a shame that the album couldn't have been better, or at least put off until the band has been around long enough to record enough unreleased gems.

Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline has it's moments. "Bring Your Lovin' Back Here" and "Flavors" are two early songs that draw the listener in. "Bring Your Lovin'" is straightforward, riff-driven song that relies heavily on the repeated chorus and the hooks that lead up to it. "Flavors" combines a down-to-earth folkiness with quirky arrangements and pulls the listener in with an incredibly sweet sounding chorus. "78 Stone Shuffle," the band's first single, is another fresh point, full of experimental sounds and a groovy slide guitar. The Beatles-influenced "We Haven't Turned Around (X-ray)" is another refreshing song, giving the impression that this album is good.

But all these songs are in the first half of the album. "Shitbag" starts the downward drift, sounding like a song from a much less talented and imaginative band. It's short, showing restraint at least, but "Steve McCroski" follows it with its dragging vocals and skewed arrangement, instruments flying everywhere. This is just the beginning of the directionless music that carries the album toward its last song, a cover of the Beatles' "Getting Better," which they recorded for the Phillips Magnavox commercials.

The album is packaged with their latest EP, and that isn't much better. It's more of the same - lots of experiments, which is good in this time of bloated rock. But many of the experiments don't work and should have been saved for family and friends, people that might really enjoy them. -Steven Tweddell

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An Education in Rebellion
Portrait/Coulmbia Records

This really is one big-ass country.

It has to be, given that Americans can have such radically different experiences of the same time period. Many recall the 1990s musically as a period stretching between Color Me Badd to N'Sync - occasionally punctuated by a Celine Dion mega hit. Thankfully, the decade wasn't so completely wasted for a whole bunch of other folks.

And for that latter group, the Union Underground record works as a comforting reminder that our Clintonian musical heritage won't be summed up with "Mmm Bop."

The Union Underground record packs in a truckload of seminal 90s influences and delivers them like they mean it. Relive the magic of Alice in Chains on "Killing the Fly." Rock your fool head off as though Nine Inch Nails still commanded center stage with "South Texas Death Ride" and "Natural High." Imagine White Zombie is partying like its 1995 with "Turn Me on 'Mr. Deadman.'"

Maybe effectively recreating these sounds of a bygone decade isn't a sound long-term strategy for building a career. (Unless you're Green Day. Then you can be a 1970s punk band for as long as you care to.) But that really is the band's problem. The audience's only concern is to enjoy this fond musical memoir of those lighthearted days when tanks rolled in Waco, Gingrich shut down the government, and the president got a historic blow job. Ah, memories! - ADG

Liquored Up and Laquered Down
TVT Records

Their novelty act has lasted 15 years, and it would seem that Southern Culture on the Skids have had their day. Liquored Up and Lacquered Down is their latest attempt at white trash rock. Though the lyrics are much the same as in past albums - songs about big haired women, corn liquor, and a decadent, uncivilized South - the music is more mature and original.

The title track offers a Tex-Mex flavor that is a nice change from the garage, trash, and surf that the band has perfected. "Drunk and Lonesome (Again)" sounds like an old George Jones song, with new member Chris Bess's keyboards a welcome addition. There's even a pretty successful attempt at serious songwriting. Bassist Mary Huff's "Just How Lonely" sounds like old Pretenders, sincere and from the heart. As far from moonshine and mosquitoes as the band has ever gone, the song sounds like an attempt at a hit. And finally, "I Learned to Dance in Mississippi" is about the night that they dropped in on Junior Kimbrough's juke joint in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Full of energy, barbecued goat, and lessons in dancing, the song captures the late-night madness that music and homemade liquor can bring.

Several songs, however, sound exactly the same as their old material. "Corn Liquor," "Damaged Goods," and "The Corn Rocket" recreate everything that gave the group their loyal fans in the first place. Far from bad, the songs are just not new for the band. True fans will enjoy this album, as will newbies, but those that have dabbled in SCOTS and tired of their act will find only small incentive to listen to the sound of frying chicken once again. -Steven Tweddell

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