Local Licks 

This week, we review Ricky Lee Robinson, Miggs, VIR, and Dylan Champagne.

Ricky Lee Robinson, Secret Love Tricks. Oakland's Ricky Lee Robinson dresses sharp in a bright white tux and can play drums and guitar simultaneously. Yet his debut leaves something to be desired. The songwriting is sharp but uneven; highlights "Psychic Woman" and "Jeans On" shine as superb examples of the weird, bare-bones rock 'n' roll he strives for. (Hypnodisk Records)

Miggs, Unraveled. Everyone knows it: Mainstream modern rock is dead. So what could possibly compel an independent San Francisco group to play the sort of über-earnest, studio-slick, unoriginal ("timeless") rock that ruled Top 40 radio in the mid-'90s? A shot to open for Jon Bon Jovi? To woo ailing Goo Goo Dolls fans? Miggs isn't bad, just unnecessary. (Rock Ridge Music)

VIR, Shadow of a Mountain. Finally, someone makes this shoegaze revival thing work. Oakland's VIR, formerly called Montana, lays U2-size vocals, melodies, and song structures over sinister, flatline backdrops à la Joy Division. The resulting tension, anchored by singer Sam Sloane's excellent guitar work, creates songs that don't stale. (self-released)

Dylan Champagne, New Equation. After growing up punk in San Francisco, then fronting Oakland math-rock act One Step Shift for eight years, Dylan Champagne descended to his basement for some do-it-yourself, acoustic solo recording. He's naturally adept at low volumes, and his new work holds considerable promise. (Broke in Oakland)

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