Local Licks 

This week, we review Better Than Aliens, Maus Haus, Michael Zapruder, and Cousin Dale.

Better Than Aliens, Better Than Aliens EP. In the summer of 2006, Better Than Aliens frontman and multi-instrumentalist Marty Mattern rode his 1977 Honda motorcycle from his home in Boston to Fairbanks, Alaska and down to San Francisco, with the intention of starting a band. These five competent and dynamic indie rock tunes represent the first fruits of his labors, with more sure to come. (self-released)

Maus Haus, Lark Marvels. Too vocal for post-rock; too danceable for avant-garde; too strange for pop: Maus Haus is genuinely unclassifiable. Thankfully, that's not the least of it. With six members on sax and flute, guitar and bass, keyboards and synthesizers, and dual drum kits, this San Francisco band has the tools to turn nightmares to dreams and vice versa. (Pretty Blue Presents)

Michael Zapruder, Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope. There's more than a hint of John Vanderslice in fellow local Michael Zapruder's third release: both make askew singer-songwriter songs as entrancing as their lyrics are fascinating. He also follows in the footsteps of Leonard Cohen, borne out by the spectral chorus of backing female vocals in nine-minute centerpiece "Black Wine." (Sidecho Records)

Cousin Dale, Quickly, Rapidly, Efficiently ... and Fast. Cousin Dale took ten years to complete this record, so it's no coincidence the songs evoke pop-punk circa 1995: Green Day, MxPx, NOFX (singer Mike Cerruti even sounds a bit like Fat Mike), plus a dash of the Ramones. For anyone who shared their teenage years with those bands, it's nice to hear this faithful, if not pitch-perfect tribute. (Petunia Records)

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