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Warren Zevon
The Wind
Artemis Records

Warren Zevon lost his battle with cancer on Mon., Sept. 8, and in tribute to the overall bizarreness of Zevon’s career and songwriting, principal mourners included the likes of “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Zevon dealt with his approaching death with the same morbid cynicism that he incorporated into many of his songs, announcing at one point that he was merely hoping to hold on until the release of the next James Bond movie. However, those close to Zevon say he was actually hoping to make it through what amounts to a self-written eulogy—his new album, The Wind. Probably Zevon’s best since 1978’s Excitable Boy (which featured his biggest hit, “Werewolves of London”), The Wind offers an account of Zevon’s “dirty life and times” with much candor. The lyrics are dedicated variously to a long-lost love of Zevon’s life and to his children, but for a farewell album, The Wind is surprisingly lacking in sentimentality. Zevon did not altered his style, nor lose his wit, just because time was running out. He did, however, attract a number of notable names to appear on The Wind, including Bruce Springsteen, Ry Cooder and Tom Petty. The album’s only true “goodbye” song is the closer, “Keep Me in Your Heart.” Fans of this bull in the china shop of folk music surely will, particularly after such a wonderful parting gift. (Mike Keefe-Feldman)

Kings of Leon
Holy Roller Novocaine
RCA Records

I don’t trust the Kings of Leon. I have no reason to trust them. Before I’d heard note one of Holy Roller Novocaine, I found out that London promoters had to super-size the band’s show to accommodate British fans who snapped up tickets for the original venue like pigeons in Trafalgar Square snapping up bread crumbs. Why the hype for this band, whipping the Brits into a lather when barely anybody in America even knows who they are? Because the press—theirs and ours—has been hyping them as the “Southern Strokes,” and if you think Strokes hype was intense stateside, well, that was nothing compared to the feeding frenzy over there. So is all the hype (you’ll get yours if you haven’t already, don’t worry) justified this time around? I don’t know—do you really like the Strokes or was it all just power of suggestion? The best song on Holy Roller Novocaine is the wistful “California Waiting,” and it sounds a lot like the Strokes with Southern accents. Kings of Leon definitely have the look of Next Big Thing—Dixie jailbait, like a young Allman Brothers—but I predict it’s going to be hair today, gone tomorrow. (Andy Smetanka)

Pharaoh Overlord
No Quarter Records

Minimalist instrumental stoner rock featuring members of Finnish Kraut-metal cult Circle, light on the “stoner” (I don’t think Finland even has any stoners) and heavy on the “minimalist.” Okay, let me backpedal a little—Pharaoh Overlord is only stoner rock if Gong is stoner rock, and that all depends who’s doing the defining. For some people, almost anything can be considered stoner rock, but I think these Finns are still taking their cues from Krautrock acts like Can and Faust—beloved of stoners, perhaps, but that’s not exactly the same thing, now, is it? What you get on Pharaoh Overlord’s II is six lengthy compositions with about three moving parts each, all endlessly repeating bass lines and space guitar drifting in and out (plus assorted sound effects, like the voobah-voobah sound of someone shaking a thick sheet of plastic). There’s very little of the stony guitar crunch and almost nothing in the way of a unified riff attack common to American stoner rock. Good stuff for sitting around and zoning out, but mostly this just sounds like what it is: Circle members chilling out under a different name. Hints of power, but no real display of it, like a thunderstorm that comes near enough to hear, but not close enough to be scary. (Andy Smetanka)

The Starvations
Get Well Soon
Gold Standard Laboratories

If records were faces, this one would have three days of stubble and look like it hadn’t slept in twice that long. Not always a pretty listen, but a rewarding one. Get Well Soon sounds like one punk rock man looking his demons square in the eyes and forming a garagey country-folk band to exorcise them with tunes like “Pray for Foul Play” and “An American Funeral.” The recording is pretty undistinguished, but I don’t think I’d have much use for a record like this that sounded too slick—it just wouldn’t have been honest. Vocalist Gabriel Hart sounds like a scarecrow looks, and the instrumentation (two guitars, bass, drums and accordion) is ramshackle, but so earnest that when a song like “An American Funeral” really gets clipping along, you swear you’re hearing a pick-up band composed of Pogues and Bad Seeds members with the guy from Gang of Four singing. Fans of Gun Club should also take notice. I bet this band is huge in France, or at least they could be—French people seem to love gothic country gloom-and-doom stuff like this and 16 Horsepower even more than they like snails smothered in butter and cheese. (Andy Smetanka)

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