The Hidden Hand, Barrett Martin, Lil Jon ... 

THE HIDDEN HAND Mother Teacher Destroyer ****


The Hidden Hand combine the tech-y finesse of Opeth with the bawling elf overtones of Big Business and the fuzz ‘n’ buzz of Sea of Green and Corrosion of Conformity. There’s something ultra-satisfying about the plump, swollen riffs—like rolls around Fat Albert’s stomach, they’re something you can really grab onto. The Hidden Hand effortlessly possess the meaty dissolution that all stoner bands would kill for. One of the best tracks is “Black Ribbon”; it’s weepy and gargantuan and beautifully despairing. Among the best stoner albums of the year. (Southern Lord)


BARRETT MARTIN The Painted Desert ****


Screaming Trees’ drummer Barrett Martin (who’s also recorded with R.E.M., Queens of the Stone Age, Air and CeDell Davis) traveled extensively studying world percussion after the Trees’ breakup in 1999. Sinister guitar and Spanish trumpet with a cacophony of chimes in “Mirage” could be the theme for Jericho’s walls falling, or for a noir detective panning a crowd. Experimental jazz meets exotic percussion is probably the closest description for The Painted Desert’s unique sound. (Fast Horse)


HANZEL UND GRETYL Scheissmessiah ***.5


Blending accessible industrial with black metal and run-of-the-mill chugga-chugga rawk tastes nice, especially when every song of said mix is about fire or sex or both. “Burning Bush” is probably a reference to the obvious, but don’t rule out political possibilities. German band Hanzel und Gretyl take on the raw industrialism of native brothers Rammstein with more solos, samples and breaks; they also recall Ministry and—hate to say it—Danzig, occasionally. (Metropolis)


LIL JON & THE EAST SIDE BOYZ Crunk Juice ***


Crunk Juice might just be the most blatant marriage of underground music/lifestyle and beverage product ever launched. Although it’s unsure whether Lil Jon or rotund execs are behind the creation and marketing of energy drink Crunk, the album gets at least a B. Natty, grimy and raw, Lil Jon is like the Ying Yang Twins with better beats. Obligatory guests: Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Chris Rock and (hey!) the Ying Yangs. (TVT)


ENDOCHINE Day Two ***


Endochine’s first track starts off sounding like Radiohead but veers into an almost Shins-style indie gloom for the rest. The vocals of “Secret” cloy with the winding, bittersweet honey of U2’s Achtung Baby era. The abstract melodic off-rhythm of Radiohead begins to sneak in again on “A New Beginning.” Coldplay and The Verve peek out on every other track. Unfortunately, Endochine are a substandard version of mainstream melodic greatness. (Trevolution)

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Rebecca Vernon

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