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PSYCHO CHARGER­—MARK OF THE PSYCHO(Rot ‘n’ Roll Army Records)

As Kiss, Alice Cooper, the Damned, the Cramps and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins could tell you, Shock Rock isn’t exactly a novel gimmick. While the lasting impression of some of those artists might be the gore, the spooky accoutrements and the comedically bone-chilling special effects, their greatest achievements was often finding a way to still thoroughly rock.

Such is the challenge for Psycho Charger, a trio whose album sleeve, website (called a “gravesite”) and, most likely, merchandise is festooned in blood, Satanic imagery and whatever else they might have found on the cutting room floor of a ‘70s slasher flick. The music, too, sounds recycled, a reminder of a bygone era when Rob Zombie was more than just a third rate movie hack with a penchant for busty bottle blondes. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

If you have a van with a knockoff Frank Frazetta scene painted on the side, “Psycho Death Machine” might well serve as some sort of throaty, guitar-strafing theme song. And “Blood!!! Shock!!! Kill!!! Rock!!!” sounds pretty much like you’d expect a song with that title to sound, with gruesome cannibalistic lyrics to boot.

The collection is rife with guest stars, including DJ Bonebrake from Los Angeles punk legends X, who plays drums on “Life of Sin.”

Mark of the Psycho boasts 14 songs with a seemingly singular purpose: Use guitars, growly vocals and gory lyrics to turn horror flicks into a rock & roll album. For what it’s worth, they’ve succeeded. —Crispin Kott

www.psychocharger.com

MARC BLACKPICTURES OF THE HIGHWAY(Suma Records)

The music of Hudson Valley really is a smorgasbord, a veritable panoply of sounds combining all the styles of the known musical universe. But to people who aren’t from the Hudson Valley, the music of the Hudson Valley probably sounds a lot like Marc Black’s Pictures of the Highway.

Folksy and friendly, with random percussive effects and wind chimes, Black’s music is as approachable as the “Little Brown Bunny” of the album’s 10th track. “Ooh I Love My Coffee,” a jaunty ode to caffeinated beverages, isn’t exactly breaking new ground, but it’s also a lot of fun, so what difference does it make?

Pictures of the Highway was partially recorded in Rhinebeck, which certainly makes sense. It was also recorded in studios in North Hollywood and Oakland, California, which is at the very least a testament to the strength of this sort of sound. It’s impossible to differentiate between locales, which I guess is as good an example of the old maxim, “You can take a Hudson Valley boy out of the country…”

Black’s voice is reminiscent of John Sebastian’s, his music of the genial post-Woodstock singer-songwriter mold. It’s also quite good, as “For a Little While,” with its emotional buildup, guitars and organs demonstrate well.

The album’s most popular lead track thanks to a heavily-viewed YouTube video is “I Love You Rachel Maddow,” a shuffling, goofy crush jam in tribute to the MSNBC host. —Crispin Kott

www.marcblack.com

REBECCA COUPE FRANKSCHECK THE BOX (RCF Records)

Contemporary jazz sometimes gets a bad rap, especially when compared to the old school legends. For anyone who feels there’s nothing new under the sun in modern jazz, Rebecca Coupe Franks’ Check the Box offers an engaging rebuttal.

Check the Box is something of a milestone for Franks, coming on the 20th anniversary of her career as trumpeter, composer and bandleader. Over 14 original numbers, Franks and her band move smoothly through a wide range of tempos and moods, as though working through the emotions one might find in a day in the life of an Surban denizen.

“Be the People,” with beat vocals by Summer Corrie, bridges the gap between Edie Brickell & New Bohemians and the urban sounds of Digable Planets. “Starting All Over” is the kind of swirling storytelling found in smoky halls and southern jazz bars, and “Distraction” is an uplifting blues dirge.

Franks and Corrie provide vocals on half of the album’s material, while the other half is instrumental. But the motion between the two is as effortless as the blending of corners of the jazz world throughout. Check the Box is a satisfying gumbo performed by skilled musicians who haven’t lost their passion for music in the process. If Franks continues following her career for another 20 years, may it be filled with moments like these captured here. —Crispin Kott

www.rebeccacoupefranks.com



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