The World/Inferno Friendship Society "International Smashism!"; The Holmes Brothers "Speaking in Tongues"; moe, "Dither" 

Now Hear This

The World/Inferno Friendship Society, "International Smashism!" (Gern Blandsten Records) — This five-song promotional sampling of the extraordinary Brooklyn-based, nine-member outfit The World/Inferno Friendship Society is one of the most unusual releases I've heard all year. Featuring ex-members of bands as diverse as Eve's Plum, Blues Traveler and (can you believe it?) Dexy's Midnight Runners, this amalgamation of individuals with such far-reaching musical tastes results in a peerless style. While the group tours to support its newest full-length album "The East Coast Super Sound Punk of Today," this endearing EP gives the listener a hint of the group's remarkable ragtime/punk sound.

A range of songs from the band's past releases are included on this album (most of which have appeared on records done for the New Jersey-based record label Gern Blandsten). Standout cuts are the unusually chipper, Linus-inspired hymn "Pumpkin Time" ("You got to rise me up from the pumpkin patch") and the just plain creepy "Glamour Ghouls." The World/Inferno Friendship Society may have a name with connotations of hellfire, but the band is a breath of heavenly fresh air.

— Angelo DeFranzo

The Holmes Brothers, "Speaking In Tongues," (Alligator Records) — The Holmes Brothers stand as one of the more surprising discoveries of the past decade. The members had played in cover bands for a decade and a half before forming the Holmes Brothers in 1980 and signing a record deal nine years later. Their earthy, bluesy soul sound was as authentic as anything heard since Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf roared through the blues scene of the '50s and Wilson Pickett shouted and rocked the soul world of the '60s.

"Speaking In Tongues," touches on all of the Holmes Brothers' influences, but puts the accent decidedly on the group's gospel roots. More than half of the 13 songs on the CD — including three Holmes Brothers originals — are firmly in the spiritual tradition. Yet "Speaking In Tongues," which is ably produced by Joan Osborne, is a CD that demonstrates how effortlessly the lines between blues, soul and gospel cross. Songs like the Sherman Holmes original "New Jerusalem," the Wendell Holmes tune "Jesus Is The Way," and the cover of Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down," rollick with funky, bluesy abandon. When the Holmes Brothers step slightly outside of the gospel form on "Homeless Child" (one of three Ben Harper songs covered on the CD) or the deeply felt cover of the O'Jays' "Love Train," they once again brew up an ecstatically gritty sound.

"Speaking In Tongues" may not be the ideal introduction to the Holmes Brothers, but those who don't mind some serious testifying will find this high-spirited collection to be another first-rate addition to the Holmes Brothers' impressive — and overdue — catalog of albums.

— Alan Sculley

moe., "Dither" (Fatboy) - Their career path followed that of many other bands. Moe. released 3 CDs on their own before signing to a major label. However, when "No Doy" (1996) and "Tin Cans & Car Tires" (1998) failed to meet expectations, Sony and moe. parted ways.

In most cases, such a split would doom a band's prospect for ever achieving success again. Not moe. — This is their finest moment.

"Dither," released on their own Fatboy Records label, is the kind of recording Phish fans wished for but never quite got. Where the mega-popular Vermont group came up with songs out of jam sessions, these fellow New Englanders write great works for the studio, leaving improv for live shows.

The band's three front men stack their voices in a weird unison harmony much of the time. The effect is spine-tingling on "Faker." Another pleasing aspect is their use of early '70s keyboards, like the mellotron, Moog synths, Fender Rhodes and Hammond B-3.

Where the sonic movement of "Captain America" will bring out the best dancers of the neo-hippie shuffle, "So Long" is dreamy space rock. "Can't Seem to Find" will take you down a country lane with memories of the Grateful Dead.

Start you engines, wandering dropouts — it's time to become disciples of moe.

— Jeff Maisey, Landmark News Service


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