Local Licks 

This week, we review Sassy!!!, the VSS, Christina Kowalchuk, and the Red Fox.

Sassy!!!, Get a Grip. Girls rock, and all that. But Sassy!!! is actually quite good. The San Francisco duo's debut is a streamlined, speedy punk record with none of the dumbed-down attitude so many "back-to-basics" rock 'n' roll outfits feel obligated to exude. Guitars crunch, cymbals crash, and sweetly dangerous vocals find their true calling. (Good Trouble Records)

The VSS, Nervous Circuits. Defunct Berkeley band the VSS originally released its sole full-length, Nervous Circuits — a nihilistic, gripping blend of hardcore, post-punk, and gothic electronics — on Honey Bear Records in 1997. The album led the way for groups like the Faint and Death From Above 1979, yet still feels edgy today — hence this welcome reissue celebrating its tenth anniversary. (Hydra Head Records)

Christina Kowalchuk, How Much Noise. Not sure what to make of some of her lyrics (Nothing says love like a monkey/A monkey is fun, for one), but otherwise Kowalchuk's debut is fairly solid pop-rock. Completely harmless, easy on the ears, well played and well produced, How Much Noise will no doubt find a place among those so inclined. (self-released)

The Red Fox, Waking Dreams. Oakland MC the Red Fox's appeal isn't so much in his lax, Atmosphere-esque flow — though the elongated, half-sung verses may seal the deal for some folks — nor in the moody, low-impact beats over which he delivers his life story. What truly elevates this debut from ordinary to noteworthy is his confident sampling of every flavor in the indie hip-hop rainbow. (self-released)

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