(Touch and Go)

On which the Portland duo urges us to STOP WHINING and realize that LIFE IS PAIN.

Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss are up to their old tricks, while polishing up some new ones, on their fifth album-length release. The famously formerly married pair blends impassioned musicianship, medium-fi production values, and lyrics that waver between hilarious and grim. Coomes, lead vocalist, guitarist and Roxichord keyboard master, again provides almost all of the words, and he's not the world's sunniest person. Standout early track "Genetic Science" toys with defiant contradictions--"You got plans and goals/ All I see is full of holes"--sung in a knowing, wry voice, like that of the older cousin who told you the Truth about your parents.

This is not to say that drummer Weiss, a worthy media darling from her work with the hyped Sleater-Kinney, does nothing to distinguish herself on Sword of God. Weiss is one of the finest rock drummers working today. Her bratty, bouncy licks are indispensable, and when restrained, she displays the full harmonic range of a kit and cymbals. Unfortunately, the one Sword song she wrote, "The Curse of Having It All," though pleasantly shimmery with synthesizer and harmonies, is fairly leaden, bogged down by Weiss' strained vocal performance. It ends up sounding like bad Helium.

Fortunately, this is one of the few rough spots in an otherwise dead-on album. Weiss redeems herself vocally on "Nothing, Nowhere," another fun song about oblivion, and "Seal the Deal." The instrumental "Rock & Roll Will Never Die" ought to please those looking for solid hooks and energy to sweeten--or disguise--this brimming cup of lyrical bitterness. (JJ)

OK, maybe not the most creative title for a punk rock record, but the Portland duo screams, growls and roars with the best.

Invariably, the mundane tasks of life call out for their own soundtrack: The Pixies for washing dishes, the Ramones for blaring out of your Walkman at the laundromat.... And now, may I suggest Portland's dyke-namic duo The Haggard for maximum rotation while you're sudsing down the ol' rustbucket in the front yard.

Finding the perfect car-washing music is no small task. It has to be loud. It has to be fast. It has to annoy the neighbors. The Haggard's latest, No Future, does all three. "Better Traffic Than You" provides the perfect aggro-hedonist charge as you scrub the pigeon crap off your windshield. The minimalist lineup featuring Emily (no last name, thanks) on guitar, bass and tambourine and sts (no caps, thanks) on drums--and both behind the mic stirs up an ungawdly howl of noise. "We're pro-sex, and pro-women, and pro-bikers, and we have lyric sheets 'cause you can't really understand what we're saying," they proclaimed to a San Fran interviewer. Who couldn't be down with that?

No Future is very simple: 13 tracks of three-minute hardcore punk rock, a wailing guitar almost drowning out throaty, garbled growls intertwined with more subdued vocals. And just when your neighbor feels it's safe to come out and water her roses, two hidden tracks pick up after a 10-minute lull. The haunting, beat-driven instrumentals are just the right pace for that final wax and buff on the 'Maro. (KN)

One long sentence and four short ones about a crap album.

Ex-members of scalding (yet melodic!) emocore firebrands Lifetime sell their collective soul and create a puerile, trend-sucking, gutless, nutless, disposable, insulting, insipid, ooh-la-la-we're-so-kitschy bit of retro French swank and cheeky '70s pop-vomit that makes me want to not only instantly burn my Lifetime albums, but also slowly torture the band members to death* by cramming each bloated note of this record down their gullets, one by bloody one. Payback time, bitches. (*Note to law enforcement: This is an example of "poetic license." Actual murder not planned--really. Keep hounding those medical-marijuana doctors.) (JG)