While many young, so-called Punk bands these days have memories that go back only as far as their big brother's Descendents CD collection (at best), Death In Graceland are built -- directly or not -- on the Punk-Before-It-Had-A-Name Rock of The Stooges, MC5 and the Dead Boys. Put it this way: You won't find any cutesy lyrics or processed, auto-tuned vocals on Come On, Touch Me, the band's tremendous, relentless seven-song debut effort. DIG embody the danger and pure Rock & Roll abandon of the new-school of reckless Garage Punk, led by figure-head bands like the late Murder City Devils. And they do it as well, if not better, than many of their more acclaimed counterparts. Such wildness translates well in a live setting, but it's harder to pull off in a studio. That's exactly why Come On is so triumphant. The album skillfully captures the uninhibited energy, with the switchblade stab of the group's dueling guitars sounding so urgently visceral it'll nick your chin if you're not careful. Singer "Matt" also possesses a dynamic vocal personality; like Iggy and Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, he can float effortlessly between banshee wail and vampiric croon, without ever sounding like an actor. The harness of energy wouldn't mean squat if this was just another bunch of drunk, tattooed hoodlums thrashing around their basement. DIG has an effectively dark, almost artful writing ability, channeling that Johnny Thunder-like treachery through a filter of razored dissonance and imaginative arrangements, resembling at times what early Fugazi might have sounded like had they all been Jack Daniels enthusiasts. It's chaotic, to be sure, but there's method to the madness.
More reason DIG might not be known as just a "local band" for much longer: They kick off a two-week U.S. tour on Friday with a gig at The Void in Northside. (deathingraceland.com) -- MIKE BREEN
· UFL -- FAMILIA
Unified for Life (aka UFL or "Da Life") is a hometown Hip-Hop outfit that hits with all of the talent and impact of the best national Rap acts. Their Trynesty Entertainment debut, Familia, eschews coast-oriented styles and puts forth a Midwest-flavored mix of intelligent Gangsta Rap, old-school flow and Funkadelic samples. Rhymes are laid down courtesy of Mista Caz, McDice Colleone, Smoke Da Da and Mysean, whose creative wordplay and humor temper the politics, preaching and inner-city storytelling on the disc. There are also plenty of references to the 'Nati sprinkled throughout the lyrics. These MCs' vocal styles run the gamut, from gritty toasting on "Psychodrama" to smooth R&B crooning on "My Thang" and in the choruses of "To G or Not To G." Delivery is consistently powerful, clean and confident. This is one of the features that gives the album such a unique flavor; the raps all sound very real without being the least bit amateurish or rough around the edges. Production is totally pro as well. The bass bumps and the impressive variety of beats slice through the mix on every one of the 17 cuts on the disc. Tracks like "We Boogie We Party" and the title track use funky guitar and keyboard licks, and the tasteful use of oddball vocal effects is reminiscent of OutKast. This helps to establish UFL's style and set them apart from cookie-cutter Rap artists. Familia is a solid effort that showcases what good Rap sounds like before it gets run through the Hip-Hop homogenizer. (trynesty.com) -- EZRA WALLER
· HARLEY QUIN -- I'VE GOT A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS
Me too. From the first note of the lead-in bass riff, it's clear that Harley Quin are paddling out to try and catch the big Pop Punk wave. All is not lost though, because this young and talented trio has a lot to offer in terms of musicianship and energy. While their style might not be wholly unique, furious playing and superb production make this disc a keeper. The guitar and bass are very well executed, but Mark Lienhart's uber-accurate drumming really shines. It is the driving force behind most of the songs, keeping the throttle pushed wide open. You'll sweat just listening to Bad Feeling. Attention to detail in recording and mixing is also a strong point, and one where there are welcome bursts of creativity. The three-second acoustic guitar interlude and synthesizer at the end of "A Girl to Give Your Hoodie To" is a great example of how spending the extra time making ear candy can definitely add interest. Jamie Sivrais and Evan Sharfe share vocal duties, filling the disc with creative harmonies and counterpoint. Lyrics cover all of the ground you'd expect from Emo punkers: Girls coming, girls going and the ever-important "One Last Summer." "Without You," the first song, says it best: "I wrote this song for you, and it's nothing new, the same song I wrote one thousand times before." Memorable songwriting is about expressing the same sentiments in new and unexpected ways, something this trio doesn't quite have a handle on yet. It's forgivable in this genre, however. It's more about the Rock. But by far the biggest problem with the CD is that all of the songs run together. There are no great hooks that you look forward to on repeated listens. Some creative lead guitar could spice up their sound and provide that extra bit of je ne sais quoi to set Harley Quin apart from the crowd. (harleyquinrock.com) -- EW