CHAT AND BUSINESS

Ikara ColtPunk has taken many forms over the years, but right now it's exciting to see the smart stuff start working its way into the mainstream -- at least at the buzz band level. First, Interpol brings Joy Division dirge back to the limelight, and now London's Ikara Colt mines the taut precision of Wire and the post-rock noise of Sonic Youth to create a record that's brilliantly dark, serious and fierce. "Chat and Business" rumbles with a back-alley grit, with bass lines that reverberate on the lowest ends of the scale, guitar riffs that are razor-sharp and spiked with white noise, and frontman Paul Resende snarling through the distortion like Iggy Pop erupting from Thurston Moore's body.

"Chat and Business" is a sexy record, sending chills up your spine by clashing stark mood swings with primal howls and call-and-response chants. The guitar rhythms repeat like white lines on the freeway as walls of sound blur into loud background haze. This record is a package of bleak futurism bundled in art school experimentation, with stories about being watched by too many people ("Rudd") and cities made of glass punctuating the presentation. This slinky side of punk may be nothing new for those following the New York art rock explosion, but the fact that Ikara Colt hails from England means the aftershocks are finally hitting overseas, where brooding music is striking back with sharp-angled wit and quick-tempoed tempers.

-- Jennifer Maerz

(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8153.)

STORIES OFTEN TOLD

The SadiesSaddle up the surfboard, the Sadies are at it again. The Toronto-based surf-instrumental/space cowboy band led by brothers Dallas and Travis Good -- who both write, sing and play guitar -- make the most of twang, reverb and tremolo in the 11 songs on their fourth disc, "Stories Often Told." Their sound is at once familiar -- think of '60s spaghetti western themes -- as well as amusingly original country cocktail-lounge rock. (Well, you have to call it something.) Things start off at a brisk gallop with "Lay Down Your Arms," the sort of up-tempo, desert-parched movie theme that distinguished their previous albums and highlights their raucous live performances. "Tiger Tiger" twists the rockabilly riff from "Mystery Train" into something new, and there are elements of Gram Parsons and early Byrds in "Within a Stone" and "Such a Little Word." "Of Our Land" is a bit of surreal pop psychedelia, with melodic distortion, vibraphone and keyboards set against a slowly quickening beat, and the disc closer, "Monkey & Cork," is a swampy instrumental with a nifty scale-descending guitar figure. All fun enough, but when the Sadies take the spurs off, their Tevas-things take on that "acquired taste" quality. "A Steep Climb" is a regrettable duet with Margaret Good that feels a whole lot longer than its 3 minutes 6 seconds; "Mile Over Mecca" is a haunting -- okay, meandering -- instrumental that builds to nowhere. Here's hoping they got that out of their system.

-- Buzz McClain

(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8154.)