NICOTINE RECORDS SAMPLER - Various Artists (Nicotine)
Damn, I hate it when I'm wrong! In a recent e-mail to The Barman, I casually dismissed this sampler from Italy's Nictone Records as "dull." Now I'm here with my hat in my hand and my foot in my mouth to tell you that once again my mouth was in motion before my brain was in gear. This one's a grower.

Although the English translation on their web site is sort of dicey, as close as I can figure Nicotine was started back in 2000 by three guys in Tortona, Italy who were tired of sitting around doing drugs, listening to Cramps, Sex Pistols, Sonics, Ramones, and Damned albums, and saying the rosary. Besides releases (both on vinyl and CD) from some of the bands included on this collection, their catalogue also features titles from the likes of Gaza Strippers, Human Tanga, Bad Boy Boogie, and The Woggles.

Maybe I just wasn't paying attention the first time I spun this disc, but the Prozac buzz of Thee Psychotones' "I Don't Wanna Be Your Fool" is generally the type of bratty, belligerent, three-chord stomp I believe I was put on this earth to listen to. Singer J.L. Looser sounds like a slightly more reserved Handsome Dick Manitoba and Dr. Evil casts off a few stinging guitar solos which would make Johnny Thunders (or was it Walter Lure?) proud. Don't know why this one didn't stick the first time around.

Trigger, the odd men out here from Gothenburg, Sweden, are like an alien invasion of wah-wah pedals, harmonicas, flanged guitars, and swashbuckling verbal aggression with "Change" and "Tonight," both from their debut album "Distort & Explode," also on Nicotine. These guys kick up the proverbial cloud of dust and before you know it, they're gone, leaving behind the distinct smell of ozone.

Close your eyes while listening to Spamabilly and you'll swear it's the Revererend Horton Heat. Open your eyes and you'll swear you're looking at the three bastard sons of ex-Sensational Alex Harvey Band guitarist Zal Cleminson. I'm not sure greasepaint goes with rockabilly any better than say marshmallows and worchestershire sauce, but Spamabilly sure make it look easy on "Borghetti Bop" and "Stop Trying To Be Cool," both moving with a frantic sense of purpose and full of killer chops courtesy of guitarist Randy Silver.

Danny's Wednesday (love the band - hate the name!) call up the ghosts of early Patti Smith Group, the Motels, and Lene Lovich and combine a choppy, slashing guitar sound with memorable verse-chorus-verse songwriting, something bands with women singers just can't seem to get right thus far in the new millennium.

Closing things out on a decidedly odd note are Muthzi Mambo, who play a curious mix of spy music, reggae, and flamenco (yikes!), all sung in their native Italian by Lewis B. in rather menacing fashion. This guy's pipes are so caustic they ought to come with a biohazard warning, but the band's sound isn't as hard to take as it sounds on paper.

It will be interesting to see if Nicotine Records is built for the long haul. If this sampler is any indication, they're headed in the right direction. - Clark Paull