HERE'S a handful of hometown sounds, all recorded within a Metro ride of downtown D.C. And after getting acquainted on vinyl, you can catch the performers live nearly every weekend.
BEATNIK FLIES -- "From Parts Unknown" (Dacoit Vinyl 1002). There's been a lot of talk about neo-psychedelia, but these Flies mean it, man, from the dippy, doodly psychedelic cover to the aggressive fuzztone and echo effects. In the dense, ambitious (but still appealingly garage-rock) production, the Flies weld their really retro sound to '80s energy. It sounds like they've been listening to REM ("Everybody's Dancin'") with echoes of the Mothers of Invention ("Um Bali Wali Sleep"). Good, distorted fun. Recorded at Soundscape Studios in Falls Church.
CHIP FRANKLIN -- "A Dangerous Man" (RPM FF-4545). The title of Franklin's record takes a poke at Billy Joel's "An Innocent Man," and smooth-voiced Franklin takes a few steps in Joel's direction, setting social themes (and love songs, of course) to ear-catching pop. Franklin's writing is not yet as fluent as Joel's, but the tunes are chipper, the sound is superb, and the playing and singing, with help from Jon Carroll and friends, give this album a lift. Best cuts: "Tragically Hip," with its Cars- like honking synths, and "The Master Communicator," an unusual, quietly pleading love ballad. Recorded at Bias Studios in Springfield.
PACIFIC ORCHESTRA -- "Infinity Ship" (GZPZ 12001). Someone slapped a big label saying PRODUCED BY SLY AND ROBBIE on this likable four-cut EP. The hype wasn't necessary -- these two songs and their gimmicky reworkings would have had appeal on their own even without the help of dubmeisters Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare of Black Uhuru, who have sculpted sound for Grace Jones an others. Pacific Orchestra adds its punchy rock/reggae sound to the appropriately spacey lyrics of "Infinity Ship" and its corresponding "Infinity Rap," both of which sport an irresistible dance beat and stellar playing. The flip, "Why Do That Do That?" is another dance tune, about abusive loving couples, with a tricked-up extension called "Why They Dub That?" Recorded at New York's Park South Studios; remixed at D.C.'s Lion and Fox Studios.
ROCKOHOLICS -- "Dying for Love" (ATV Records). With a sound that's an uncertain cross betwen X and the Allman Brothers, this is a band still finding its direction. But there's potential in its simple, underproduced rock and slightly loopy lyrics. Promising examples include "1984," a Velvet Underground clone with stripped-down guitar and languid, droning vocals; and "Dancing in America," in which the band breaks in the middle for a brief, noisy cocktail party. Docked a few points for noticeably untuned guitars here and there, and for the undisciplined, whiny singing of Lisa Bogert. Recorded at Alexandria's Starting Point Studios.