Music Awards Nominees

The Paradise Boys

More than any other release this year, the Paradise Boys' The Young and the Guest List epitomizes the San Francisco dance-rock scene. From the music -- which smoothly combines the minimalist techno of Germany's Kompakt Records and the euphoria of early house with the flailing guitars and whirring synths of '80s post-punk -- to the lyrics about nightclubbing and nonstop partying, the album reads like a tell-all bio of the post-electroclash black-clad, pointy-haired, ties-and-pegged-pants twentysomething milieu. Released this March, the Paradise Boys' debut was the result of a collaboration between Jeff Fare (aka DJ Jefrodisiac) and percussionist Bertie Pearson, with help from producer Jonah Sharp and various friends (including Elizabeth Hanley, who ably channels Siouxsie Sioux on one number). Previous to the P-Boys, Fare played guitar in seminal dance-rock act the Calculators, alongside two future members of the Rapture. He also picked up a wealth of dance music knowledge while working at S.F.'s Open Mind Music, as well as when spinning electro, disco, soul, techno, and '80s rock at the Beauty Bar, the Arrow Bar, and throughout Barcelona. Not surprisingly, The Young and the Guest List feels like a jumbled scrapbook of the last 20 years of music, shot through the lens of a giddy club kid with a brand-new vial of crank. Who knows how dated the Paradise Boys will come off five years down the line, but right now they sound just right.

Hard Rock/Punk

Comets on Fire

When Comets on Fire first started back in 1999, founders Ethan Miller (guitar/vocals) and Ben Flashman (bass) aimed to create a high-octane psychedelic onslaught that mixed equal parts distortion, guitar bombast, and sonic chaos. Ably assisted by resident knob-twiddler Noel Harmonson (who warped Miller's vocals to the howling edge of insanity with his vintage Echoplex tape delay), the group self-released an unhinged eponymous debut in 2001 that shattered minds and earned Comets high-profile endorsements from local taste-makers Aquarius Records and Krautrock Sampler author/HeadHeritage.com overseer Julian Cope. While comparisons to such seminal psych-punk explorers as Blue Cheer, the Stooges, and Hawkwind abounded, the outfit managed to transcend such influences and forge a unique sound.

Comets have since coalesced into one of the foremost exponents of noisy, acid-rock mayhem on the West Coast. With ferocious drummer Utrillo Kushner sounding like Mitch Mitchell and Elvin Jones wrestling their way down a flight of stairs and second guitarist Ben Chasney (the finger-picking guru behind Six Organs of Admittance) providing both high-powered riffage and delicate acoustic passages, Comets on Fire expanded their palette of sounds on their sophomore effort, Field Recordings From the Sun. Added textures, from a variety of exotic percussion instruments and a greater sense of dynamics, gave the album an epic grandeur without sacrificing an iota of synapse-frying intensity. Blue Cathedral, the group's latest record and first for Sub Pop, could well be the album that breaks Comets on Fire out of the neo-psychedelic underground and puts the band into orbit, where it belongs.

The Enemies

The Enemies are a trio from Oakland, specializing in old-school, fast-paced punk rock, with songs about the fragility of life, decay, compromise, insecurity, commercialization, the dark side, the road to manhood, isolation, and (why not?) religion. The group formed when the band's original bass player, Rick Jacobus, and singer/guitarist Mike Pelino, high school buddies and members of a group called Second Hand Spit, enlisted drummer Jason Willers, whom Pelino had previously played with in TFM. Jacobus was eventually replaced by Neurosis bassist Dave Edwardson in time for Seize the Day, the Enemies' first full-length for Lookout! Records. Seize's herky-jerky rhythms recall early Green Day -- all upbeat tempos, steady eighth-note bass lines, distorted power chords, and Pelino's confident yelled vocals -- and the record's 12 songs employ catchy pop-laden hooks while remaining true to punk rock's aggressive roots. On tunes like "4 am," the Enemies even channel the seething noise-pop of Nirvana, with Pelino's singing alternating between Kurt Cobain's primal growl and Billie Joe Armstrong's controlled croon. Other places, as on "She's a Mess" and "East 14th," the band dabbles in Danzig-style dark riffing, utilizing subtle, slow, chunky rhythms before exploding into a wash of cymbals, drum fills, and fast guitars. The Enemies wait until the end of the record before trying their luck with death-metal riffage ("Jocklip") and Metallica-style sadcore ("Through Sad Eyes"), proving they can just about do it all.

Parchman Farm

Far be it from us to quote from a band's official biography, but in the case of Parchman Farm -- whose press release says as much about the group's sense of humor as it does its sound -- it's too hard to resist. Big riffing guitarist Allyson Baker is said to be "a Jewish version of Ted Nugent," hence her nickname, "The Jewge." The spastic bass lines of Carson Binks are called "lead bass, but not in an annoying fretless Les Claypool way or in a nu-metal style." Drummer Chris LaBreche, it is claimed, owes his style to "Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer." The colorful combination is topped off by ex-Mover frontman and guitarist/singer Eric Shea's gritty yelps, the sort that make you nostalgic for Sabbath, the South, and The Dukes of Hazzard. The group's self-titled debut EP provides us with a heavy dose of psychedelic '70s riffing, with songs that conjure a time when pulling out a lighter at a concert wasn't ironic, mustaches outnumbered goatees, cowbells were a standard part of a drum ensemble, and "heavy metal" bands dressed like Thor. The proficient dual solo attack of bass and guitar, which in most cases would come off as annoying, here works to the band's advantage, strewing heavy gobs of distortion gravy, beneath which LaBreche employs his knowledge of every drum solo Bonzo ever committed to bootleg. "They are like a shark riding on top of an elephant, just stomping and chomping everything in sight," the bio claims -- a truth as accurate as any.

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