Band:Bill Retoff (USA)
Label:Pop The Balloon Records
Highlights:The Rain In Your Eyes
Loose Change
Goddess Thru An Empty Glass
Transparent Man
Magic Smile

A couple of years ago, Bill Retoff became seriously ill and came as close to death as is possible without actually dying. You could say that part of his rehabilitation involved recording this album, Reanimation, which not only contains a certain poignant and heartfelt quality but also highlights his enthusiasm for life. Of course, it helps that Bill has an uncanny ability to pen pop masterpieces, like the Beatlish psychedelia of Goddess Thru An Empty Glass, the Kinkish Transparent Man or the sad folk-rock of Rain In Your Eyes. His songs have the same charm and innocence that still makes a lot of 60's music so enjoyable to listen to. My only complaint is that the dated 80's production values stop Reanimation from having as big an impact as it could. Nevertheless, if you're prepared to sit down and have a really good listen, Reanimation is a rewarding listen.

Title:Where Were You When The Lights Went Out
Band:Retoff, McKenzie, Butler & Pierce (USA)
Label:Pop The Balloon Records
Highlights:Your Kind Of Love
Cool My Jets
Positive Thing
She's Driving Me Mod

Where Were You... When The Lights Went Out! is a compilation of all this band's previous releases, which until now were virtually unknown and only available on cassette. Although they look like a bad country band (check out the mullet on lead singer Dan McKenzie), Retoff, McKenzie, Butler and Pierce play beautiful, grass roots pop that owes a lot to The Byrds, Beatles, Big Star, DB?s and Long Ryders. Bad haircuts aside, Dan McKenzie has a wonderful voice that gives these songs a special charm, as does the simple recording. It took me a couple of listens to fully appreciate this album but once I did I fell in love with it. It's a shame that the dull artwork is likely to turn many people away from so many upbeat, touching and timeless songs. Nevertheless, all kudos should go to Pop The Balloon Records for taking the opportunity to bring the songs of Retoff, McKenzie, Butler and Pierce to a wider audience.

Title:Welcome Aboard The 3C10
Band:Rocket Science
Label:Modular Records
Highlights:Burn In Hell
Six Foot Four
Jet Lag: Down The Pills
Moscow To Kamchatka
Welcome Aboard The 3C10

Melbourne four piece Rocket Science have been touted as the most unlikely next big thing. However, that's not to say that they aren't any good. On the contrary, Rocket Science are one the best new Australian bands around. It's just that this type of music doesn't often get this much exposure. Rocket Science are a strong combination of 60's garage and spaceage music with the added panache of the John Spencer Blues Explosion. Although the main focus of the band is on the crazy organ and freaked out therimen of lead singer Roman Tucker, Rocket Science are very tight outfit with the brilliant drumming of Kit Warhurst and the understated guitar of Paul Mabury integral to the band's unique sound. A mixture of actual songs and instrumentals, Welcome Aboard The 3C10 is a strong album from start to finish, justifying the hype that has accompanied the band and this album's release.

Title:Contact High
Band:Rocket Science
Label:Modular Records
Highlights:Heavy Traffic
Going Away
One Robot
Open Air Channel
Tomorrow's Soundtrack For Today's Swinging Generation

After the unexpected success of their debut, Welcome Aboard The 3C10, Rocket Science have returned with their highly anticipated second album, Contact High, which sees the band not only exploring more psychedelic & spaced out themes but also refining their songwriting. The resulting album may be a hard listen at times but in the end a rewarding one as one realises that the arrangements are well thought out and there is more emphasis given to the overall mood and atmosphere. Rocket Science haven't completely left their garage punk roots behind (in fact some songs like crazy are more abrasive than anything on their debut) but Contact High proves they're definitely not afraid to blast off and explore new areas.

Label:Snap! Records
Highlights:Flowers For Kylie
Use Me
Do You Remember

Rollercoaster were what you might have called a Perth power pop supergroup that featured the talents of Duane Smith (The Chevelles), Dave Shaw (The Stems), Grant Ferstat (Flavour Of The Month, A Month Of Sundays) and Craig Maclean (Superscope). Their one and only self titled album was recorded sometime near the end of 1997 and only released in Spain, where this type of music seems to have a cult following.

The songwriting and singing alternates between guitarist Smith and bassist Maclean, who have quite distinctive and contrasting voices. I have to say that Duane's songs are consistently better although Craig contributes several great songs (Insane and Do You Remember) in his own write. It's a shame that he lets himself down by also including several quite average songs, especially Tartan Dress, which is terrible 80's oz rock. Subsequently, while there are some great moments on this album, there is too much filler to rate it any higher and the band probably would have been better off releasing a mini album instead. Nevertheless, anyone interested in Australian power pop bands, like The Chevelles and Jack & The Beanstalk, will still get a lot of enjoyment out of this album.

Title:A Wishing Well
Band:The Rooks (USA)
Label:Not Lame Records
Highlights:In The Neighborhood
I'm Not A Joker
Some And Others

It took The Rooks seemingly forever to record A Wishing Well, with the band not only having to endure endless delays during its creation but also personal tragedy. As often is the case with great artists, their best work is often made under great duress and The Rooks are no different. The Wishing Well is not only their finest work to date but also one of the finest pop albums of recent years. Not only does Michael Mazzarella write great songs but is admirably backed up by the sorely under-rated guitarist Kristen Pinell. On top of this, many of the songs are augmented by a combination of strings and horns, which add further depth and charm to an already great album. Like a lot of great albums it doesn't immediately grab you but instead is the type that slowly reveals its charms with each listen. It wouldn't be unfair to compare A Wishing Well to a cross between Sgt. Peppers (without the whimsy) and Big Star's #1 Record but at the same time, it still has it's own charm and place. A mature, wistful and contemplative record, A Wishing Well is what you might call a psychedelic in the true sense of the word.