Hermano - Into the Exam Room An unusual CD side project built around John Garcia of Kyuss is the hard-rock record to beat in 2008. Call it sludgy, greasy, or stoner suburban, but thank Zeus for the decidedly electric stomp yard of Hermano's Into the Exam Room, a perfect fantasy soundtrack for Thor and Loki to throw down to in a Ralph Bakshi animated ballet. Formed in 1999 with members of Supafuzz and Disengage, the band's Regain Records release is a hair-raising psychedelic dream, a real headbanger awash in the earthy musk of Eddie Hazel, Slash, Black Sabbath, Warrior Soul, Alice in Chains, Zodiac Mindwarp, and the Butthole Surfers.

moe - Sticks & Stones Next week Fatboy Records releases Sticks & Stones from moe, but devoted fans have been pre-ordering the disc online for an interesting bonus adventure. Co-produced with jam-band star-maker John Siket, the album features the song "Raise a Glass" - set to fade out the night in the encore set of the band's current tour through May. Pre-orders through the band's Web site feature a special "backstage" laminate that gains the buyer access to be part of the live show, joining the band as the chorus for the song.

Disco Not DiscoIf your modern-day boogie leans deep into the heart-pumping grooves of Justice, LCD Soundsystem, Electric Six, The Rapture, The Teddybears, or Hot Hot Heat, take a little time-traveling trip next week and discover the roots on Strut Records' fantastic new-wave compilation Disco Not Disco. Opening with Vivien Goldman's classic "Launderette," the dub rumble is a perfect moment in time, built on a bass line by George Oban of Aswad with guest alchemists Robert Wyatt, On-U-Sound's Adrian Sherwood, and Steve Beresford of the Flying Lizards. Crazy about that roller-coaster bass shimmy? Long before riot-grrrl made its mark, the girlfriends of the up-and-coming Mekons pulled together to form the seminal Delta 5, represented here with the wickedly anti-posh "Mind Your Own Business," utilizing two bass guitars and plenty of mad moxie. And it just keeps getting better, flowing into a 12-inch edit of Shriekback's "My Spine Is the Bassline" from 1982, a sweaty club favorite featuring XTC's Barry Andrews and Gang of Four bassist Dave Allen. America is represented in a handful of nice picks: "Sharevari" from A Number of Names, "Contort Yourself" from New York City's no-wave saxophone prince James Chance & The Blacks, and Bill Laswell's Material collective and its "dance version" of "Lose Control," featuring Chic drummer Tony Thompson. The 14-track CD features extensive liner notes by historian Bill Brewster, author of the terrific book Last Night a DJ Saved My Life.

Radiohead - In Rainbows The grand experiment that rocked the music industry in October comes full circle this week, as Radiohead issues the physical version of its acclaimed In Rainbows across the planet on a variety of record labels. Issued here December 31 on the ATO Records imprint as a standard CD, the project is also available in an import-only "special edition disc box" featuring a two-LP vinyl set, a bonus CD, elaborate artwork, and photos in a hardback book and slipcase. For those who coughed up whatever they thought was fair for the album as a download, DJ/producer Ampline is offering up a tasty treat next week in Rainayz Remixes - a download of In Rainbows remixes available free if you prove with your e-mail receipt that you participated in the groundbreaking "pay what you like" online release.

Yesterday With so many recent pop albums offering up only one or two decent, memorable songs and top-selling artists taking years upon years between mediocre releases, it's no surprise that music continues to slide into nothing more than computer files shared between MP3 players, personal computers, and 10-cent blank CDs. Not to sound like a crusty ol' curmudgeon, but sheeeee-it, I can feel my cerebellum shake when I think that over the course of 28 months, from August of 1965 to November of 1967, the Beatles released Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Magical Mystery Tour. Imagine my joy, when my teenage son's pals' Christmas wish lists are yearning for "real" copies of The White Album or gift certificates to buy "classic" used vinyl LPs at the ever-dwindling local record store. Wanna save American youth? Pick up any working turntables you might come across at yard sales, and place them at the feet of the next generation.

Jacqui Naylor's Smashed for the Holidays'Tis the season for hipster kids to rock out all that nutty tree-trimming with a brand-new beat in a chunky stocking full of new holiday CDs.

Punk 365Punk rockers old and new can get their literary fix in four terrific new books that revel in the spirit, the lifestyle, and the humor of banging the drum their own way. It's not a sex confessional, but the spurts and snorts of My First Time are just as charged with sweaty adolescent discovery. Originally conceived as a small-run fanzine and now expanded into a full book from the AK Press, editor Chris Duncan invited more than 40 rock writers, artists, band members, and fans to share their first-punk-show stories. Not merely recollections of the concerts themselves, each tale is more the story of where the author was in life at that time, the cultural and social zeitgeist, and the often-hilarious anecdotes of getting to that show. Highlights include passages by Jack Rabid, Blag Dahlia, Jade Tree Records' co-founder Darren Walters, Joe Queer of The Queers, and scene historian George Hurchalla.

Led Zeppelin Crashed Here While it might be a little dreary to think of a cross-country road trip, a fun guide to rock-and-roll landmarks across North America has me itching to load up, head out, and touch the sacred grounds of infamous debauchery, birthplace homes, and final resting places of rock's greatest legends. Published by the Santa Monica Press, Led Zeppelin Crashed Here is peppered with modern-day photographs and a detective's keen eye for tracking down rock history in its original scandalous settings, and the pages turn like attacking a bag of chips. Travel writer Chris Epting collects more than 300 pages of these famous (and hidden) sites, sure to put a smile on the face of any music nut who finds his new book in a stocking. From directions to the concrete Woodstock marker in the earth outside Bethel, New York, to a deeper understanding of what Joni Mitchell was singing about in "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot," Epting's research makes me want to visit the location of famous album-cover sites for a personal snapshot, like in front of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti brownstone or shaking hands at the Warner Bros. studio lot where Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here cover was created.

Causes 1 With its proceeds split between Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam America, next week's release of Waxploitation Records' Darfur benefit CD is worth searching for. Causes 1 is the first of a proposed series of CDs, available on iTunes for 90 days and available as a limited-edition physical CD directly from the label's site.

Dug Pinnick Almost as weird as when kids' TV star Steve from Blue's Clues turned up collaborating with the Flaming Lips back in 2003, sweet and smarmy Hal Sparks, former host of E's Talk Soup, winds up with an A-list lineup of guitarists on a blistering metal release. This coming Tuesday, Doug Pinnick of King's X takes his cosmic blaze to new landscapes of sludgy soul as "Dug" Pinnick. An air guitarist's fantasy album of sizzling leads, the Magna Carta Records' release, Strum Sum Up, is Viagra for aging headbangers. The album features Wally Farkis of Galactic Cowboys, Alain Johannes of Eleven, and the ever-devastating Steve Stevens of Billy Idol fame. Sparks holds his own with the big boys, fronting his own top-notch band, Zero 1. Other players in on the fun include Natasha Shneider of Queens of the Stone Age, Ray Luzier of Army of Anyone, Kellii Scott of Failure, and David Henning of Big Wreck.

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