R.L. BURNSIDEToo Bad Jim
JOURNALIST ROBERT PALMER discovered Burnside while shooting his '92 documentary Deep Blues and now the rest of us are getting our introduction to the 68-year-old Mississippi guitarist.
This isn't Delta blues--although its influences are everywhere--it's really old country hills blues. The vocals and instrumental phrasings are short, sharp and deadly as a hard step on a rusty nail.
Burnside and his band rock in a one-two march on "Old Black Mattie," send your heart up in flames on "Fireman Ring The Bell" and deliver a lethal, lean blow with "Death Bell Blues."
TANNERIll Gotten Gains
SLAMMIN' THE CONGO stage on Friday, July 2, San Diego's latest sensation has a slightly hysteria-touched edge which brings to mind Johnny Rotten (the vocalist, natch--at one point he even hollers "call me a mo-ron") teaming up with Superchunk. This guy wails like someone's sticking needles into his scrotum, and the frenetic chug 'n' tug of the powerchordy guitars is pretty appealing too. The band sticks to what it knows: straight ahead punk, with quick tempo shifts that don't attempt too much fanciness, and minus any trendy dissonant tangents. Within that limited context, Tanner delivers the goods.
MobyEverything Is Wrong
RICHARD MELVILLE HALL, a.k.a. Moby--a descendent of Moby Dick author Herman Melville--revels in paradox and contradiction. At least that's what the promo blurb contends, and for once I agree. This classical-jazz-metal-punk-techno creator attacks musical genres like a dog, ripping them to shreds and spitting them out in chunks. Techno music can easily be a void of intellectual and humanistic purpose, but Moby turns the tables by injecting personal convictions and environmental politics into the stew. The results aren't anything exactly new, but Moby does pick up the pieces that have fallen off the face of modern music and reconstruct something with much more of a human feel.
Vinnie ColaiutaVinnie Colaiuta
WITH GUESTS LIKE Sting, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, there's more than a few styles of contemporary out-there musics mixed in this debut by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. The title of the first cut kind of gives away another influence, "I'm Tweeked/Attack of the 20Lb Pizza." The late Frank Zappa is listed in the dedication along with the late Jaco Pastorius, two musicians famous for venturing in their own highly unique ways into unknown territories of music and sound. With the sixteen musicians on this eight-cut exploration, Colaiuta has placed himself on that short list of uncategorizables. Helpful if you want to stretch your ideas of what makes a good song.
CERTAIN DISTANT SUNSHappy On The Inside
RE-MIXED VERSIONS OF the band's two independently released EPs comprise this 10 track major label debut. The five-year old band (that's how long they've been around, not their ages) combine noisy mega-distorted guitars within more conventional pop song structures --along with some funny little disco moments--with varied results. The acid-house attempts seems pretty silly on tracks such as "Talk," but the layered multi-genre approach does hit the mark somewhat on other tracks such as "Whatever" and "Bitter." Certain Distant Suns might be the perfect reflection of the "rock scene," circa 1995: very average, predictable and only every once in a while interesting.
ALTERNAROCK WITH A with a sneaky emotional depthcharge: Maria Christopher's Kim Gordon earthy sultriness-meets-Patti Smith's artful outrage. Amid a vertiginous whirl of guitars she's a scabby-kneed rock 'n' roll Catwoman.
And while her band makes a few obvious moves, like the Pavement/Sebadoh lo-fi rumbler "Low Activity" and some Lollapagressive thrashers that puts Christopher in the unlikely position of auditioning for the lead role in Jesus Lizard Superstar, most of the material hangs in there through sheer, uh, ballsiness. Check the drum rolls, lead guitar lines and sweet "la-la-la" vocals in "Trip Trip": pure midperiod Who. And "Glow In The Dark" sounds like a dissonant noir soundtrack theme.
REFERRING TO AFRICAN peoples' dispersion to the Western hemisphere, the title cut is reminiscent of the kind of vital energy you find in a McCoy Tyner piece--a definitive melody with a strong, often contrapuntal, highly rhythmic and evocative bass line. The effect is hypnotic and haunting but never lagging in intensity. Six of the eleven cuts are by guitarist Muldrow and represent a satisfying diversity in the realjazz family of styles. Mulgrew Miller (p) lends some impressive solos, and with Peter Washington (b) and Yoron Israel (d),he completes a tight trio that understands and enhances Muldrow's lead.
JOHN SINCLAIR & HIS BLUES SCHOLARSFull Moon Night
Total Energy Records
JOHN SINCLAIR HAS forged a 30 year career as a poet, music journalist, radio programmer, record producer, blues historian, political activist --and a one-time manager of the proto-metal-punk MC5.
This debut album of his own has been a long time coming, and Sinclair uses a live setting and the improvisational talents of ex-Sun Ra trumpeter Michael Ray--along with an excellent full horn section--to sculpt a 40 minute tribute to John Coltrane. Sinclair's spoken work interludes are evocative, and serve as a perfect staccato compliment to the sinewy backing. The synthesis of jazz, blues and verse is a difficult formula for success, but Sinclair has survived turbulent times to deliver a winning mixture.
GAVING BRYARSThe Sinking of the Titanic
NEOCLASSICAL/AMBIENT/AVANT GARDE composer Bryars, who's worked with Brian Eno, first conceived of this suite in 1969. What, Bryars wondered, would it have sounded like if the doomed ship's band had continued to play even while under water?
It's a stately, fascinating work composed for strings, horns, percussion, and guitar, treated at times with unusual digital effects (an eerie, recurring gonglike tone, for example, lends an "underwater" feel). At one point a boys' choir rises in the mix--the voices of angels arriving to escort those drowned?
Also worth seeking: a promo single called "Raising The Titanic," which finds techno whiz Aphex Twin doing some remixing wizardry upon Bryars.
FlowerheadThe People's Fuzz
THE WONDERFUL TITLE (referring to the indispensable Big Muff brand of fuzz box) and back cover photos of other guitar distortion boxes is enough for a thumbs up from me, but Flowerhead also delivers a worthy collection of trippy numb-epics on their second long-player. Most of the tracks hang past the four minute mark, but develop a sense of hypnosis rather than boredom. Lazy music fans like lazy comparisons, so imagine Smashing Pumpkins, Love Battery and Mudhoney locked up together with only one guitar between them. They'd pass it around and come up with some pretty cool stuff--like most of The People's Fuzz.
IAN MOOREModernday Folklore
THIS ALBUM WAS written on the road and maybe that's where this Austin guitar hero should have left it.
The world has an apparently insatiable appetite for guitar gods, but too often here, Moore sounds like he was listening to old axe-deity Robin Trower's eight-tracks in those long hours riding the tour bus.
Not quite blues, not quite out of the Seventies, not quite interesting, Modernday Folklore is quite the disappointment for someone who enjoyed much of his previous recordings.
Jeff BuckleyLast Goodbye EP
IN BRITAIN THE angle is to issue a CD single in two parts: you buy the same song twice to snag the non-LP bonus tracks. "Last Goodbye," from Grace, is a neo-orchestral swooner that finds Buckley in an almost operatic vocal mode. The live-in-Japan tracks (semi-acoustic) allow Buckley plenty of room to show off his folkrock roots.
However...the limited ten-inch version includes "Tongue," a stunning instrumental which pushes the Buckley band into deep inner space territory more frequently populated by your Amon Duuls, your Cans and your Pink Floyds. Eerie fretboard scrapes, tantric whispers of percussion and subtle keyboard pulses make the tune a long hypnotic journey.
Moonpools and CaterpillarsLucky Dumpling
LUCKY DUMPLING STICKS out as a glimmering flash of light and adrenalized fun--smack in the middle of our drab, selfish, little slacker world.
Vocalist Kimi Ward Encarnacion soars throughout, backed exuberantly by an all-Philippino trio that hits the best balance between inspiration and musicianship. Pure quality pop is rarely delivered on the level of the opening track "Hear," but surprise, that obvious single is followed by song after song of solid tunefulness. This type of unpretentious achievement won't last long--success can't help but eventually melt the band and its aura of absolute charm. But for this brief instant--just a blink in the media maelstrom--Moonpools And Caterpillars is an unqualified success.
I WAS HOOKED just by looking at the back cover. There in little letters is the word "Jackson." Any song beginning with "We got married in a fever/ hotter than a pepper sprout" is more than cool enough.
Frantic, hillbilly insanity reigns here; "Too Tired To Live (Too Lazy To Die)," "18 Wheels," "Great Atomic Power" and many others.
It's hard not to love especially deeply the Elvis-goes-samba-and-meets-Dolly-and-Porter groove of "You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly."
It's a witty, wild album well worth owning if your country collection is sounding a little staid these days.
LUNACHICKSJerk Of All Trades
PUNK CHICKS HAVE had to step over a lot of dyed 'n' tattooed, drooling, lunkheaded slabs of male id. This has resulted in Noize Punk (Babes In Toyland), Political Punk (Bikini Kill) and Dyke Punk (Team Dresch)--all reactionary and loud, and unfun.
Enter the dyed 'n' tattooed, drooling, lunkheaded Lunachicks. While they can wax topical("Bitterness Barbie," "Fallopian Rhapsody") with the best of 'em, their forte is rousing, powerchord-driven hard rock of the Runaways/Heartbreakers variety, delivered with enough bad hair day angst and nose-pickin' toilet humor to sink a boatload of recovered memory therapists. In short, they don't give a shit, which is why the Lunachicks ring deliriously true.
Yo La TengoElectr-O-Pura
NOWADAYS IT'S NOT uncommon to mention Neil Young, Television, Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo in the same breath.
To reach the YLT essence, I submit, think of the trio's sonic vistas as simultaneous explorations of the sacred and the profane. While Ira Kaplan or Georgia Hubley might muse distractedly about life's little disappointments and strum a gently melodic folkrock ditty (the twangy "Pablo And Andrea" is downright blissful), they can also emit a noisy, discordant squall capable of inducing states of nail-chewing transcendence in listeners (as in the nine-minute, neo-freeform orgy "Blue Line Swinger"). You gotta figure it's real for them too; music this intimate and expansive can't be faked.
FRANK LLOYD VINYLFrank Lloyd Vinyl
THIS LOCAL BAND regularly plays to relatively large crowds of college students--apparently because the scholars dig this derivitive drivel.
It's derived from the derivitive Poison with the vapid, gaseous winds of Kansas blowing through it all too often.
On the sorta up side: the music is played with professional, commercial slickness and the overblown power ballad arrangements that often pass for passion these days. It's just right for those FM rock stations that never quite get beyond "Something To Believe In," "Walk This Way" and "Dust In The Wind."
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