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September 09, 1988 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-09-09

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'Dog' has bark and bite

'Let's Act ive's
Let's Active
Every Dog Has His Day
It's a good thing Mitch Easter
fill in the blank) found his niche in
the record producing business, be-
cause he's probably never going to.
make it big with music like this.
There's just no market for sincere,
gimmick-free, intelligent guitar pop
But those of us dumb enough to
buy records like that anyway are in
for a treat. This is the album Easter's
been threatening to make for five
years now - a 12-course feast of raw
guitars and sweet melodies given
added punch by this ever-evolving
band's first permanent lineup in three
Every Dog Has His Day furthers
the band's move away from folk-rock
begun on the 1986 LP Big Plans For
Everybody. From the opening power
chord of the title track, this album
rocks out, hard, announcing to all the
world why Easter's late '60s-early
'70s classicism has won him the
praise of noteworthys the likes of .
Robert Plant. Give a listen to the
blistering "Ten Layers Down" and
repeat with me: "Eat that, White-
The album's greatest strength is
its lack of weaknesses. Compared to
earlier Let's Active albums, which r
all had just enough dead weight to
keep them from being really great,
everything on Every Dog works -
from the over-before-you-know-it
roots-rock of "Too Bad" to the Re-
volver-packing singalong pop of combines disarn
"Mr. Fool" and "Bad Machinery." with a touch
But along with its newfound complains, "I ho
power, the group still has its touch you look like, 'V
for mixing cute, clever melodies and away.'
lyrics for the bubblegum-and-jaw- Every Dog h
breakers sound that made "Every finds Easter, wh
Word Means No" an underground and produced
classic. On "I Feel Funny," Easter's singlehandedly,

The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 9, 1988-- Page 15
Lonely Trailer
Office Records
"It's nowhere all around." This isn't a title on Lonely Trailer's LP Test.
but this phrase from "Friend King" is merely one of the cool poetic snippets
littered throughout the album. This is not to say Test is full of classic
couplets; most of the songs are short little stories of ordinary life with a bit
of sad/bored Midwestern youth commentary on the unimportance of it all.'
But just when one thinks Lonely Trailer have abandoned their musings fora
more traditional tales of boys and girls, along come lines like "Let me own
the earth / I don't know anything," from "Shit."
The lyrics ride the rails of a standard, somewhat subdued rhythm section,.
tasty psuedo-chord guitar doodlings, occasional bonus harmonica and some,
sort of stringed instrument, possibly a violin.
So here we have yet another indie band with a college age outlook and the
usual American Rock stylings. What makes this Illinois trio stand sound and
spirit above the hordes of unknown competitors is that these boys can
actually sing. I'm not talking about Bono/Bowie vocals-as-musical-
instruments quality; the vocals are almost always double or triple harmonies
that sound honest and simple. Request it. Buy it.
-Brian Jarvinen

My Dad is Dead
Let's Skip the Details
There's something appealing
about singer/songwriters who play
their own instruments. It's not just
the righteous arrogance of the "Fuck
you, I'll do it myself" approach; it's
the fact that, no matter how skillful a
backup musician is, only the creator
can really know a song needs a chord
struck this way or a cymbal crash
right here.
Mark Edwards of My Dad is Dead
(the only person who is of My Dad
is Dead) is a classic example. Ed-
wards single-handedly supplies raw,
droning guitar, crashing drums, and
insistent, Peter Hook-like bass to
provide a near-perfect context for each
lyrical statement.
And the statements aren't pretty.
There's a lot of pain on this album
- from the agony of facing one's
flaws on "Not a Pretty Sight" to the
torture of betrayal on "Lay Down the
Law." Even when 1-o-v-e surfaces on
this album, on the gut-wrenching
"Five Minutes," it is more anesthetic
than aphrodisiac ("I'm reaching out
for nothing/Because nothing is out
there... And I need it right now").
The solution? Escape. Most of
Let's Skip the Details deals with
escaping pain, through TV ("Bad
Judgement Day"), violence ("On Ho-
ly Ground"), or - on "The Escape
Artist" - self-deception ("Everybody
needs a golden idol/Everybody needs
a shoulder now and then/...so what if
it's only make-believe?").
And although the stripped-down
arrangements, from a hinterland be-
tween the early B-52's and Joy Div-
ision, have enough swing to keep
things interesting, they also ring hol-
low enough to channel Edwards' des-
peration. The plaintive, nasal vocals
cry out over fluid, layered one-string
guitar riffs and throbbing rhythm
tracks, making for songs catchy
enough to dance to, but gripping
enough to make you say, "Nah, I'll

sit this one out." Convincing it is.
Consoling it's not. Life can be that
-Jim Poniewozik
Head of David
Blast First
(With apologies to the M&M/-
Mars corporation:)
You've done something bad today,
haven't you? Kicked the dog, lusted
in your heart, coveted your neigh-
bor's ox? Good. Then you deserve to
be punished. And with Dustbowl,
Head of David has created just the
tool with which you can wreak
righteous vengeance upon yourself.
An album you can hurt yourself
with, bad.
One look at the cover of Dust-
bowl - a black-and-white photo of a
desert wasteland - tells all you need
to know about this British doom-:
metal band's latest effort. Dusibowi
is a desolate no-man's-land, a Gea
henna of thundering drums that beat
on you like a 130-degree sun and,
excoriating guitars that whip across
your face and peel away your flesh
like blasts of sand.
In Head of David's biosphere,
only the most hideously mutated
abominations of nature can survive.
- 16 of them, in fact, with names
like "Pierced So Deep" and "Skin
Drill." Backed by the production of
ex-Big Black vocalist/guitarist Steve
Albini and a total disregard for
musical niceties, Head of David
creates a remarkable simulation -of'
the Jesus and Mary Chain battling
Killing Joke (circa 1983) under 50
feet of water.
However, Dustbowl"s unrelenting
buzz proves to be its major flaw-
it gets boring after a while without
any changes of pace. Like any good
torturer, Head of David should know
enough not to let its victims get

ming bewilderment
of sarcasm as he
ld out my hand/And
What's that? Take it
Has His Day also
o wrote, performed,
Big Plans almost
collaborating - not

only using an outside co-producer for
the first time, but writing three
songs with bandmate Angie Carlson,
whose husky vocals (a dead ringer for
former bassist Faye Hunter's) help
take the grating edge off Easter's
Chiltonesque twang.
In the past, Easter's expertise both
behind and in front of the boards has

brought out the best in artists like
R.E.M., Chris Stamey, and Game
Theory, but on Every Dog Has Its
D ay he equals or betters his
proteg6s, adding a new corollary to
an old adage: Those who can't do,
teach - but those who can do both
make albums this good.
-Jim Poniewozik

The Wild Flowers
.. sometime soon
Slash Records
I get real suspicious of bands with flowery
names; so often, one finds a group of guys so
self-conscious about macho, rockist cliches, they
go out of the way to express the feminine side.
But, as the snarling guitars and vocals immed-
iately declare in "Take Me For a Ride," such is
not the case with The Wild Flowers. The botany
of this quartet has more to do with roots than
petals - roots like the seminal western guitars

of The Byrds, the garage-grunge of The Rolling
Stones, and the backwoods grittiness of The
Band-especially in this group's lyric-images.
Granted, these Flowers have their more
mellow, melodic side, too- as heard in the fine
ballads "It Ain't True" and "Broken Chains" -
but it's always roughed-up a bit throughout
...sometime soon by an abrasive musical atti-
tude and textual cynicism ("I make sure my mor-
als add up in the morning," hollers vocalist Neal
Ian Cook). And with all the goings-on here about
"not going down apple creek" and "coming back
to visit my melon patch," one expects these guys

to call Arkansas or the Appalachians home -
rather than the English midlands.
Actually, this band follows a course once
charted by Liverpool's The Icicle Works - and
indeed, at its fullest snarl, Cook's voice recalls
the Icicles' Ian McNabb. Herein lies the only
major flaw in the floral arrangement; Cook's
ranting, raspy vocals lack his band-mates' vers-
atility. But after a few listens, the band's song-
writing draws out a certain grace from a gnarly
sound which at first seems a pesky outgrowth,
but may root deeply in your consciousness.
-Michael Fischer


- Jim Poniewozik

Good rief.


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