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Prisoners and Rubella get graded

Prisoners

Back in the USSA

(Smog Veil)

myspace.com/clevelandprisoners

These young garage punks sound surprisingly self-assured on their terrific debut. The album veers from the anthemic "Society's Bitch" to the snotty, Strokes-like "Little Old Me." The Velvet Underground-inspired ballad "Tied Up in Shadows" isn't very pretty, but it comes from the heart. Unfortunately, another ballad, "Eternal Flowers," never quite comes together. Still, most of the songs overcome their limitations. "You're Goin' Down" is a solid Replacments-like rocker, and "Teenage Shatner" packs a ragtag garage vibe. Available on vinyl and as a download, Back in the USSA is a promising start from these young, brash Prisoners.

Jeff Niesel

Rubella

Stalker Rock

(self-released)

myspace.com/rubellaland

This avant-metal band insists that the title of its latest album is "all tongue-in-cheek." But you wouldn't know it from listening to the songs. The Melvins-like "Mirror Mirror" is a fractured fairy tale distinguished by madcap screams and a stop-and-go rhythm. And snarling vocals and noisy guitars make obsessive songs about West Side Market vendors ("Meat Girl") and underground dwellers ("Mole People") even more demented. The songwriting on Stalker Rock isn't particularly strong (it sounds like Rubella wrote the album under deadline), but the music is as compelling and engaging as any of Mike Patton's warped projects.

Niesel

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