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Argy Bargy
The Likes of Us
Captain Oi! Records

Sounds like: What punk rock should sound like
Short take: Big guys in Fred Perry shirts kick ass

Not long ago, British Oi!/street-punk flag-bearers Argy Bargy invited fans to see them play with their pals Rancid at London's Brixton Academy. "We would really appreciate our normal crowd coming on down and showing their support and making some noise," wrote frontman Watford Jon. "Just don't scare the kids too much!!" Indeed, for all the good (and occasional bad) Rancid's done by keeping the music alive in the States, I'll take Argy Bargy when it comes to getting that old Clash city-rocker feeling. As with Strummer and Co., Argy Bargy's influences are varied, from Sham 69 to New Model Army. Neither overly clever nor especially pretty, Argy Bargy goes for the jugular with fist-and-adrenaline-pumping anthems like "Lights Over London," "There's Gonna Be a Riot" and (my current favorite) "Can't Take It Anymore." They'll have you feeling Oi!-right in no time. Bill Forman

Sonic Youth et al.
Andre Sider af Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth Recordings

Sounds like: A modern art museum, in music
Short take: Noise for devotees

The eighth release on Sonic Youth's imprint, free of constraints and almost certainly sales of any consequence, Andre Sider af Sonic Youth was recorded at Denmark's Roskilde Festival in July 2005. It is, according to the band, a "structured improvisation" featuring Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and renowned Japanese sound artist Merzbow. It develops slowly and wanes one artist at a time until the listener is left alone with Merzbow's sonic stylings. The result is a single, hour-long track, a study in ambling sound and starry guitar. Intellectually numbing, this is not for casual fans of their Geffen releases but that's the idea behind the band building its own studio and starting its own label. There's no denying the talents and open minds at work. Think of it as proof, once again, there are few bands as sonically adventurous as the Youth. Kiernan Maletsky

Juliana Hatfield
How to Walk Away
Ye Olde Records / Release date: Aug. 19

Sounds like: A Sheryl Crow album
Short take: Go ahead, follow her instructions

It remains something of a mystery, what made Juliana Hatfield think it was a good idea to record an album full of Sheryl Crow-sounding songs. But that's exactly what the indie rock bridesmaid has done with her folk-inspired, pop-rock-polished 10th solo album, How to Walk Away. Hmmm, could it be a calculated desire to follow fellow underground '90s singer-songwriter Liz Phair into the mainstream? Whatever the case, Hatfield deserves credit for demonstrating her skills with tender vocals ("Such a Beautiful Girl") and '70s pop hooks ("This Lonely Love"). Among the 10 tracks is the soft-rock tearjerker "My Baby ... ," which qualifies as just the type of honest (read: artifice-free) song Sheryl Crow is desperately seeking at this point in her career. The problem with How to Walk Away is that the songs are just too forgettable, thus allowing listeners to, indeed, walk away. John Benson

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