Local Licks 

This week we review Swamp Voodoo, Sean E. Depp, Spawn Atomic, & the Free Leonard Peltier compilation.

Various Artists, Free Leonard Peltier. Single-message hip-hop albums are more palatable when they're direct and specific. Thus, Oakland producer A-Ron might actually find an audience for his new Free Leonard Peltier compilation, inspired by a long-running campaign to release the Native American activist from prison. A-Ron's artists do a good job of staying on topic, using either Peltier-themed rhymes or Peltier-themed speeches. That said, the catchier tracks are the ones that don't bear any apparent connection to the album's title. (LP-DOC & P.C.G. Productions)

Swamp Voodoo, At the Wheel a' Betty. Jam band Swamp Voodoo does a remarkable job of hovering on two chords, often for amazingly long periods of time. It's like listening to your senile Aunt Gerda tell a very long story about the past. The band lets its instruments natter on for a while, laying guitar, sax, and harmonica overtop a murky backbeat. Then Slick Black Truck Drivin' Man mutters through the lyrics. (self-released)

Spawn Atomic, The Retro Future. Ah, another ferociously tight San Francisco punk band with lickety-split guitar licks and gross-out lyrics. Largely indebted to The Misfits, Spawn Atomic draws inspiration from sex, zombies, alien queens, comic book villains, and Planet of the Apes. Drummer Syd Slaughterhouse is a raging beast. Singer Dave Shallow Grave subscribes to the notion that no lyric should ever by sung, when it can be shouted. (Giant Girlfriend)

Sean E. Depp, Catharsis. The latest from enterprising hip-hop crew The Understudies, Catharsis features sputtery raps from Berkeley emcee Sean E. Depp. He's a big fan of simile (e.g., I'm a dick like Cheney) and he enjoys biting other people's lines without any apparent sense of irony (e.g., The revolution will not be televised). Producers Whatson, Citizen, Myers, and Shonsteez contribute backing tracks with varying levels of intricacy. The best part is when he gets on "that soldier shit." (Study Music Group)

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