DJ Harry "The String Cheese Remix Project"; Darkest Hour "So Sedated, So Secure"; Scott Miller and The Commonwealth "Thus Always To Tyrants"; Jimmy Eat World "Bleed American" 

Now Hear This

DJ Harry "The String Cheese Remix Project" (Instinct Records, SCI Fidelity Records)

Don't let the album title fool you. This is a collection of dance music that borrows riffs, bass lines and drumbeats from live recordings of the Colorado jam quintet, The String Cheese Incident. Of all the sampling on the album, 90 percent is said to come from the band, but only a serious fan will be able to pick up that much. Most of the sampling is minimal, with Harry borrowing an instrument or two at a time and structuring his own beats and effects around them. Although almost all songs on the album share titles with String Cheese staples, each of the nine tracks is touted as a DJ Harry original.

The two lead tracks, "Wake Up" and "MLT," both titles from SCI's repertoire, contain the most recognizable samplings of live Cheese, with the latter heavy on percussion as well as funky bass and saxophone riffs. Although the first half of the free-flowing, almost nonstop 66 minutes of music suffers from a repetitive drum beat, the album works well. One of the highlights, "Molybdeneum," changes gears nicely into a keyboard-led jazzy groove, while still heavily steered by the backbeat.

The fusion of the dance/electronica and jam-through-improvisation sounds that Harry (along with The Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector 9) is bringing to national attention, combines the worlds of tour heads and rave kids. And if the future is anything like this disk, he will continue to please both camps. — Ford Gunter

Darkest Hour "So Sedated, So Secure" (Victory Records)

You are getting sleepy. Very, very sleepy. Only I couldn't seem to get anything remotely resembling slumber while the diverting racket boomed from my stereo. The band we have to thank for this subjective noise pollution is Washington, D.C.'s thrash metal, venom-spewing Darkest Hour. Taking cues from classic metal acts such as The Accused (musically), Iron Maiden (structurally) and early Slayer (in the beats-per-minute department), the band runs through eight songs in about 40 scorching minutes. There's also a strong hint of European metal influence permeating the tracks. Songs along the lines of "Another Reason" and "The Last Dance Massacre" really hit the mark for me, coming closest in style to the New York Hardcore movement of the '80s. While not engaging my tastes to the fullest, "So Sedated, So Secure" didn't put me to sleep like a number of snore-fest metal albums have in the last few years. Oh yeah, on the count of three you'll wake up feeling refreshed and won't remember a thing. — Angelo DeFranzo

Scott Miller and The Commonwealth "Thus Always To Tyrants" (Sugar Hill)

Miller, one-time V-Roy, tells it like it is from the top as he sings of new beginnings on this hard-rocking project's opening cuts, "Across The Line" and "You Made A Mess Of This Town." Sometimes it's best to cut and run, and "Tyrants" rings loud and proud with this notion. Full of big guitars often courtesy of David Grissom and a thunderstorm of drums at appropriate times, this well-written set of tunes bursts with an energy and a real emotion that makes it difficult to ignore. Miller's in-your-face vocal style demands attention and his songs hold appealing if unsettling reflections that turn on simple but true lines such as "I won't go with you when you leave/but where you're going please take me." Even when he wears the Civil War on his sleeve and slips into storytelling mode, Miller hits the right groove. "Dear Sarah" and "Highland County Boy" capture time and place with an attention to small detail that's thoughtfully expressed. Miller and his characters hurtle in restless motion down a rocky and rewarding road. Listeners are advised to jump aboard for the ride. — Ames Arnold

Jimmy Eat World "Bleed American" (DreamWorks)

Jimmy Eat World probably hates the "emo-pop" tag that has been used to describe its music. But let's face it; the band has (up until now) deserved the micro-classification. There was no denying the early symptoms: hearts openly on sleeve, high school poetry lyricism, post-adolescent cuteness and simple guitar progressions. Guess what? The boys have grown up.

The band's third full-length is a mature step forward. Jimmy Eat World now knows how to work in a big-time studio and the result is a collection of infectiously catchy pop-rock singles ("Sweetness" and "The Middle") and alt-rock balladry ("Hear You Me"). As for the rest of the album, it's tough to find any weak spots. It's likely the only criticism will come from longtime supporters of the quartet who will bemoan "Bleed American's" commercial rock vibe. That's a shame. Jimmy Eat World has released its finest work to date. So what if the fan base expands even more? At least the masses will be listening to good music. — Bret Booth


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