Ticklefish Icky Sticky (self-released)
Like Jim Cosgrove, local recording artist John Grant makes children's music that's designed to keep the adults engaged, too. But where Cosgrove's recordings sometimes veer into the land of children's television homogenization, Grant (a.k.a. Ticklefish) writes semi-acoustic upbeat rock songs with lyrics geared toward the kids. But his melodies and arrangements are clearly inspired by the modern “adult” world of the singer-songwriter. Icky Sticky is truly an “everyone's” record—with plenty of appeal for mom and dad, and enough camp, silliness and general oddness for the little ones. It's the perfect rock 'n' roll introduction for Junior. Available at www.ticklefish.net.
The Big Spank Random Acts of Spank (self-released)
On record as live, The Big Spank offer up a tantalizing mishmash of funk, metal, jam rock, thrash, reggae and other musical styles, all packaged neatly in a box labeled, “Ska.” The sextet's latest release, Random Acts of Spank, even give passing nods to death metal (“Gringo”) and Afro-Cuban rhythms (“Mike Go-Go”). A mostly laid-back, sipping-umbrella-drinks-in-a-hammock-on-the-beach record, the Big Spank's newest creation reveals a slightly less frantic outfit than they're often known to be onstage. It also reveals a group of musicians deliciously in the pocket and primed to groove.
Helmet Size Matters (Interscope)
The thrill of victory: I open a small package from Interscope Records and find the first new Helmet record in seven years and rush to jam it into the CD player with haste. The agony of defeat: Size Matters kinda sucks. Don't get me wrong. I love Page Hamilton. Helmet's last record, Aftertaste, is among my favorite post-hardcore records. But Size Matters comes dangerously close to sounding just like almost any of the nü-metal millionaires Hamilton claims to have reformed Helmet in response to. I'd rather listen to Dillinger Escape Plan, and, as a longtime Helmet fan, that bums me out.