There are a lot of great bands out there floating under the vox populi radar, and they're not getting airplay, and they're not getting a major deal, and they're not getting on the soundtrack to Scream 16. They're not on TRL, they don't dance in pyramid wedge formations and their manager isn't some fat loser from Orlando named Lou. But dammit, they are making great music, and they deserve to be heard. So how do you find them, when there are thousands and thousands of bands all over that fifth dimension we call cyberspace?

Welcome to The MP3 Files.

Our agent will comb through the nooks and crannies of the Internet, turn over rocks, wade through bombastic "sounds like" claims and bring you back dossiers on some truly worthwhile artists who deserve your attention. If you like what you read, you'll be able to follow the link to use your ears as well as your eyes. Most of the bands will have product available at reasonable prices, and you just might find some artists who worm their way into your "favorites" pile. When possible, we'll attach a direct link to an artist's website, but when in doubt, travel to MP3.com and search by the artist's name. Artists profiled in The MP3 Files have willingly made their product available for download in the hope that you'll like what you hear, and if so, you'll act accordingly. Many acts also sell their music directly, or provide their product at a deep discount at sites like CD BABY.

So put those feet up, have that glass of Holiday cheer nearby, slip into a cozy pair of headphones and start clicking away, as we bring you the first five cases of 2002...

Case File 041
Teenage Frames
Chicago, IL
http://www.teenageframes.com/

If you like the Stooges and the New York Dolls as much as I do, then you're going to have a big smile on your face when you hear these guys. Now don't get me wrong - glass won't shatter and I don't see a high heel shoe anywhere - but vocalist Frankie Delmane was spawned from the same muck. And hell, with song titles like "Drug Power," "Teenage Letdown" and "Back To The Motor City," what do you expect? The Teenage Frames kick ass, pal! "I'm Going Home" has more swagger than Jagger, and if that ain't Keef ripping those rhythm chords it's Dan Baird fronting the Quireboys. When they slow it down, it's Johnny Thunders sipping margaritas ("Living It Up"), but when it cranks I hear echoes of The Ramones ("I Want To Go Out Tonight"), The Boys ("Just Can't Seem To Take It"), The Black Crowes and The Sex Pistols. Once in a while, Delmane's rasp slides off the chart, but so what? With three seventies-named cats like Eric Vegas (who co- writes everything with Delmane), Jim Holiday and Ted (Don't Call Me Johnny) Cougar as the power trio, I don't care. The last record is called 1% Faster. I think they underestimate themselves.

Case File 042
The Scooters
Cardiff, Wales
http://www.thescooters.com/

These guys waste no time showing off their vocal chops: the title track from Peepshow features some dazzling harmonies by guitarist/vocalists Anthony Carey and Chris Kelly. Their sound, while unique, does have a dash of Squeeze in it, both vocally and lyrically. "On With The Show" sounds like a Difford/Tilbrook track covered by the late great Odds. "Except Me," a stunning slower track, has harmonies right out of the Brothers Gibb textbook, while "Bones 2 Ashes" leans more to the Crowded House/Oasis side of the fence. The lead vocals are stunning throughout, and the crafty arrangements display a versatility most bands do not have, especially on a debut record. (There should be a rule that every band has to pull out the Hammond B3 at least once per album). Simply said, this is one of the best pop records I've heard in a while, and the bonus tracks reinforced my enthusiasm. Stick around for unplugged versions of "Rocky Raccoon" (fun) and a wonderful version of the Hunters And Collectors track "Throw Your Arms Around Me," done every bit as well as Crowded House did anytime they pulled their favorite encore out. Go buy this record now!

Case File 043
The Welterweights
Kansas City, MO
http://www28.addr.com/~welterwe/welthome.htm

One look at the back cover will tell you all you need to know about this band. The photo shows the band loading gear into an old car. The print below the picture says, "produced by Lou Whitney and The Welterweights." Lou freaking Whitney! That means that you have the seal of approval to crank this puppy up and get ready for some foot-stomping roadhouse roots rock. Here Goes Nothing is chock full of straight ahead barn burning like "Little Disasters" and "Little Red Light" (you're pretty safe with any song that starts with the word "little); "Hardly Used Car" is a good'n too. And as much as I love Whitney, those three tracks I mentioned were produced without him, which tells me a ton about the band's heart. "Been Around" smokes, and with "Whinin' Boy" they take on Chuck Berry like they were Jason And The Scorchers. There are also a couple of slower, dreamier tunes; "Coward" works, but the harmony vocals on "Already Away" detract from a well written song. Overall a solid effort from the heart of America.

Case File 044
The Dirty Truckers
Boston, MA
http://www.room7.com/truckers_main.htm

Gravel voiced (and I mean that as a compliment) Tom Baker leads this crew who sound like they're from the South instead of Boston. Bush League Romance comes with simple instructions - "made to be played loud!" - and with a title like that you can imagine how disheveled the relationships are in these songs. "Settle Down," a strong rocker, cleverly tackles that age old "are we lovers or friends" routine; "Backpack" is equally lyrical, as is "Hotel Highway View." But while their subjects may have long faces from lost love, the band has a great sense of humor, listing album titles that didn't make the cut in the liner notes and detailing instrumentation as "Swashbuckling guitar" or "Deep Purple bass." Guest Dave Minehan adds some flashy axe to the mix as well. The DTs toss in covers from Squeeze and The Replacements, and if you had to slot their sound in a category, they might be the midpoint of those two classic bands. A real winner!

Case File 045
Joy Focus
Chicago, IL
http://www.joyfocus.tv/

An unusual three-piece band, as two musicians play everything while the third handles all the vocals. Super Happy Family Wish Record sounds like the $5.99 special at Lee Ho Fook's, but the band's image is a hybrid of cartoon imagery and professional wrestling. You probably wouldn't know what to expect when if you saw the record in the store, but Joy Focus covers a few bases anyway. "Hello" and "Undone" are nice showcases for Joy's vocals, which can sound almost teen-pop on some tracks yet sultry on others. As for the music, Rick Currance and Ray Kainz can knock out some infectious pop (like the bouncy "Two Days") or play funkmaster ("Count Me Out") as the need arises. Despite the sometimes dense production, I like the way the band plays around with arrangements and vocal layering; it gives each of the seven tracks its own personality. I doubt anyone will hear a song of this record and bolt for the store to buy it, but slap it in the changer with some other artists and hit shuffle play - you might be pleasantly surprised.

The MP3 Files, Bill Holmes' occasional column for COSMIK DEBRIS, will bring more exciting, deserving artists to your desktop! If you have some suggestions for overlooked artists who deserve some attention, drop Bill a note at bholmes_fm@msn.com. Even a good detective appreciates a solid lead now and then!


(C) 2002 - Bill Holmes