Burn, Berlin, Burn!
IF YOU WANNA clear the dance floor at the end of your next rave, play any cut from Burn, Berlin, Burn! and observe as the ecstasy-juiced nincompoops scatter like cockroaches under a spotlight. ATR, a German hard-core techno trio, program super-aggressive hyperbeats that pummel the listener into a pool of quivering jelly. Techno never sounded more hyper-kinetic, and surprisingly, so leth. Anti-dance music is a more appropriate description. Dance music that might survive a nuclear holocaust. Nihilistic, anarchistic and bombastic can all be applied toward d.j. demon and ATR vocalist Alex Empire and his bleak, chaotic perspective on life. Examine closely the destructive and negative outlook on "Start the Riot," "Destroy 2000 Years of Culture," and "Delete Yourself." ATR's amphetamine-laced drum machines crackle with bursts of rapid-fire machine gun action that will annihilate everything in its path. Empire's digital deconstruction and lyrical extermination makes Trent Reznor sound utterly wimpy in comparison.
ANY GUITARIST WHO has ever stomped down on a fuzzbox owes a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Wray, who single-handedly invented both heavy metal and punk rock in one sweep with his brooding 1958 instrumental, "Rumble." Though many of his releases since that classic period have been dogs, this one's a winner--in spades. The producers of this set wisely paired Wray with a simple rhythm section comprised only of bass and drums, creating a trio heavy on the power. Enhanced with an air of raw, sloppy spontaneity, loads of nasty distortion and powerchords from start to finish, Shadowman sounds great cranked up loud. Most of the instrumentals are simply variations of past themes, but who cares? Even the vocal selections rip, and covers of "Run Through the Jungle" and a severe shredding of "Heartbreak Hotel" are included. Believers in Wray, those who have kept the faith through the long dry spell, are at last well rewarded. Link Wray is back with a vengeance, proving that at age 67 he's got more power, aggression and soul than a boatload of wannabe rockers. This one's an import, but definitely worth the effort of tracking down.
CONCRETE BLONDE Y LOS ILLEGALS
FOR DECADES LOS Angeles has been a center of American punk rock and its descendent genres. And for much longer the city has been a focal point for Latino culture in the U.S. But while the pairing of the two to form a hybrid genre of "alternative norteño" would seem natural and inevitable, to date only Los Lobos has been able to earn a place in the rock world by bridging the distance that separates Sunset Strip from East L.A. It is, after all, a sprawling metropolis. In the wake of California's recent Proposition 187--which threatens to further distance immigrant communities from mainstream culture by removing the services aiding integration--two Los Angeles bands from opposite sides of the river have joined together in solidarity to explore what happens when you very consciously attempt to mix Hollywood-style hard rock with the proud voices and musical styles of the barrio. And so we have a musical collaboration between two veteran Angeleno bands: Concrete Blonde and Los Illegals. It's a good move for both bands. For Los Illegals, the album provides national exposure the four-piece hasn't enjoyed since it released a major-label record in 1983. For the former--which has comprised singer Johnette Napolitano and guitarist Jim Mankey for over a decade, until they supposedly called it quits a few years back--the album is perhaps the first really good one the band has made. Whether on the update of the traditional "La Llorona," on the rocking cover of the Gypsy Kings' "Caminando," or on the punk speedster "Xich Vs. The Migra Zombies," rock elements constantly intermingle with Latin touches. Words shift freely between English and Spanish--sung both by Napolitano and Los Illegals--and cover subjects as timeless and tragic as Woody Guthrie's migrant lament "Deportee" or as timely and hilarious as the O.J.-inspired "Ode to Rosa Lopez," which features the lines: "You're the ultimate subversive, Rosa/ Dressing down in your moth-eaten jumpsuit to make Marsha Clark look like the petty yuppie she is." Take that, Pete Wilson.
There was an editorial error in Ron Bally's May 22 review of The Champs Music Club release, Tequila: The Best Of. The album includes 18 tracks, not 10 as was written, in keeping with Music Club's promise of more music for the money. Sorry about the mistake, Ron.
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