By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Squatweiler "Call Me"/"Hot for Teacher"
(spinART MP3, www.emusic.com/albums/17557)
Honoring a different kinda schoolboy crush, shiny North Carolina glamsters find the Bow Wow Wow Burundi always at the heart of Van Halen's 1984 celebration of the grown-up girl from Cherry Lawn who David Lee Roth hopes will sharpen his pencil. But before that, Squatweilerwhose own songs front over-the-top '70s hard rock with Stacey Matarrese walking the Egyptian like a snottier Susanna Hoffsmake explicit the Black Sabbath "Children of the Grave" groove always at the heart of Blondie's 1980 Eurodisco chart-topper. If you can explain what makes this a concept single about gigolos, take the day off.
Vitamin C "Graduation (Friends Forever)"
Majestic pomp-and-circumstance opening. Then "We talked all night about the rest of our lives/Where we gonna be when we turn 25," the former frontwoman for minor-league college rockers Eve's Plum smarmily sings to her newfound teenpop constituency, in the exact cadence that Ian Hunter sang "Well he rapped all night about suicide/How he'd kick it in the head when he was 25" in "All the Young Dudes" more than 25 years back. From there you're sucked into some sorta-soft-rapped, upliftingly squeaky-clean sentiment bound to unseat "Forever Young" by Alphaville and/or "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters and/or "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men at commencement ceremonies worldwide. The waltzy classical-music part cutting in halfway through betrays a pinch of "Past, Present, and Future" by the Shangri-Las, appropriately enough: "Will the past be a shadow that will follow us around?" Will we get good jobs and make lotsa money? Her record company sent radio stations an instrumental version "so that you may customize the song with local students from your area discussing their hopes, dreams, and friendships." Not to mention fond memories of gym class, no doubt, and crushes on girls whose boyfriends have guns.
Bobby Gaylor "Suicide"
In which a balding middle-aged former gravedigger raps all night about, well, look at the title. It's spoken more like a commencement address than Vitamin C's record, though not as much as when Baz Luhrmann rapped all night about sunscreen last year. But it's as cornball as either. First he talks about what's good about killing yourself: No more acne, homework, bills, Barry Manilow, or crappy Christmas presents. Plus, it'll leave more women and Kettle One vodka for him! Then, as guitar strums pick up, he lists what's bad about it: No more waffles with whipped cream, hallucinogens, Fourth of July fireworks or sex with multiple partners. So it's a message song, get it? Ha ha, he fooled you. What a lame ending.
The Black Halos "Russian Roulette"
From Vancouver glam-punk guttersnipes whose music too often catches them with meat in their mouths, a cover of a forgotten sonic reduction of Johnny Ace's obituary notice, originally done by Dead Boys spinoff Lords of the New Church. How the singer manages to rhyme the word "roulette" with "vital" or "revival" or "rely on" is something of a mystery. But this songits whispered chuckling, its Slash-ish fanfare, its opening melody, its whole copter-ride-through-'Nam feelsounds now like a blueprint for "Civil War" by noted Dead Boys fans Guns N' Roses (hey, they covered "Ain't It Fun"). Francis Ford Coppola figures prominently as well.