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October 20, 1998 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-10-20

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 20, 1998 - 9

0ith fine
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
has arguably been the most energetic
and sexiest sounding band in rock 'n'
roll since its formation in 1991. On
last year's "Now I Got Worry," howev-
er, the songs were rarely worthy of the
j ng energy level with which the
1.d played them. On "Acme,"
though, singer/guitarist Spencer,
along with fellow guitarist Judah
Bauer and drummer Russell Simins,
has concocted an exciting new batch
of songs that are worth getting crazy
Smins' athletic drums and the call-
and-answer man of the Explosion's
fghorn guitars remain on this year's
model, and
Spencer still
* alternately sings
and shouts like a
on Spencer crazed revivalist.
Explosion But "Acme" has
Acme more pronounced
tador/Capitol gospel, R&B and
teviewed hip-hop influ-
rheDild ences that mesh
Briahe gailyby well with
Silas eas Spencer's cus-
tomary blues and
early rock 'n' roll stylings. A perfect
eXample of such a combination is the
album's highlight, "Do You Wanna
Get Heavy?" The track opens with an
unexpected mellow acoustic guitar
picked over a beatbox rhythm. The
bridge is then all Blues Explosion
boldness and sass, but then the song
returns to the guitar hook, with a soul-
gospel quartet riffing on the title
eath a series of plaintive screams
from Spencer. On this song and a
handful of others, the band effortless-
ly melds disparate styles in a way that



is comparable to and equally effective
as Beck's achievement on "Odelay."
Elsewhere, on the first single "Talk
About the Blues" the primary instru-
ments drop out of the mix for mea-
sures at a time, for interludes of
scratching by Dr. Octagon producer,
the Automator. Such tracks are inter-
spersed with some outstanding
straight-ahead Stonesy rock songs,
such as the driving "High Gear" and
the organ-glossed "Magical Colors."
"Acme" boasts a veritable dream
team of producers, featuring such
luminaries as the aforementioned
Automator, Steve Albini and Calvin
Johnson. The album's only real fault
lies in that the merely very good songs
seem less valuable when situated next
to the truly great ones. But even
Spencer's less interesting songs con-
tain an energy and sense of joy about
making music that is absent in much
contemporary rock 'n' roll. On
"Acme," the songs make good on the
promise of the performance, and the
result is an accomplished album that
is still loud, cocky and full of surpris-

Ithe '7t0s, a rock critic once made
the comment that has n rep a
year after year about a band from the
generation: "The Velvet Underground
may have only had 1,000 fans, but
every one of them went out and started
their own band." While this statement
may seem a little far-fetched, it is true
that, while vastly unappreciated in its
late '60s heyday,
the Velvets
jagged minimal-
AN* istic approach to
Galaxy 500 rock 'n' roll was
The Portable Galaxy as singularly
influential upon
Rykodisc subsequent rock
Reviewedby acts as the cata-
Daily Arts Writer logs of its peers:
Steve Gertz The Beatles and
The Rolling
Although the
* group never
managed to
Stereolab crack the Top 40,
Aluminum Tunes the legacy of
Elektra The Velvets is
Entertainment i n d i r e c t l y
Reviewed by responsible for
Daily Arts Writer everything from
SteveGertz Iggie Pop's and
David Bowie's
careers to punk rock and new wave.
In the past 10 years, two of the most
notable bands that have drawn heavily
from The Velvets magical well are
Galaxy 500 and Stereolab.
Comprised of three members -
Dean Warham, Damon Krukowski and
Naomi Yang - Galaxy 500's brief

career spanned across only three
albums, the first of which ("Today")
was released in 1988, the second ("On
Fire") in 1989 and the most recent
("This Is Our Music") was released in
1991. All three of these albums feature
sparse and delicate one to three chord
songs that, while marked by subtlety
and understatement, sparkle with the
same lucid and mysterious beauty that
characterizes The Velvets' quietest third
self-titled album.
"The Portable Galaxy 500,' then,
succinctly compounds the greatest
moments from all three of Galaxy's
records. Following up on Rykodisc's
1997 re-release of those albums - the
originals were issued on the now-
defunct Rough Trade - "The Portable
... " neatly fits in the three to four best
songs from each release, as well as a
couple of choice extras.
Indisputable minimalist classics like
"Tugboat" - whose lyrics concern
Velvets' guitarist Sterling Morrison's
career decision to become a tugboat
captain and escape the superficialities

of the music world - and "Fourth of
July" are coupled with some surprises,
such as the gorgeous "Listen, the Snow
is Falling" - absolutely the best Yoko
Ono cover anywhere, period - and
"Flowers." But the crown jewel of "The
Potable ... " is an obscure version of
Galaxy's best song "Blue Thunder;'
which features a dynamite wailing sax-
ophone solo.
While most Galaxy enthusiasts
already have all of these songs, "The
Portable ... " will serve asa great intro-
duction to the band for anyone interest-
ed. It is also an absolute essential for
fans of the bands Luna or Damon and
Naomi, which feature members of
Galaxy 500.
Also continuing in the Velvet
Underground tradition is Stereolab, one
of this decade's more unique bands. A
large collective that adds three key-
boardists, on respective Moog, Farfisa
and Mellotron synthesizers, to the usual
guitar, bass and drums formula,
Stereolab adds The Velvets' one-chord
drone to the pulsating prog-rock

stylingsof German rockers Can, Faust
and Neu.
Top that off with robotic
French/English vocals, courtesy of res-
ident chanteuse Laetitia Sadier, lyrics
about the re-institutionalization of
socialism, and album titles such as
"Refried Ectoplasm" and "Space Age
Bachelor Pad Music," and one might be
able to begin to approximate the whole
of Stereolab's being.
"Aluminum Tunes" comprises most
of the non-LP songs that Stereolab has
issued in the past four years. As most of
its tracks are quite difficult to locate
individually, "Aluminum Tunes" con-
tinues the tradition of the band's previ-
ous collections "Switched On" and
"Refried Ectoplasm," and is a collec-
tor' dream.
Spanning across two CDs and 25
songs, "Aluminum Tunes" perfectly
illustrates Stereolab's recent transition
from the charged drones of 1995's
"Mars Audiac Quintet" to the efferves-
cent lounge-pop of last year's "Dots and
Loops" by showing all the points in
between. "New Orthphony," "Iron
Man" and "Surfboard" are among the
best songs that the band has produced.
Also included are remarkable remixes
of.1996's "Percolator" by the guys from
Tortoise and "Songs For the
Amorphous Body Centre," a five-song
soundtrack that the band constructed
for a sculpture exhibit.
While "Aluminum Tunes" does con-
tain some not-so-exciting moments -
this is to be expected from most "odds
and ends" collections--- it is a definite
purchase for any fan of the band.

4Kast seems darka dismal

Bangs lets
'tat' out
of bag
Searching the punk rock map for
the next darlings to wreak havoc
coast to coast? Go (north)west,
yang fan.
Us natives of Olympia, Wash.,
Bangs adds a branch so its home-
town's family tree of bands that pre-
fer - the loud and in-your-face.
Following last spring's debut album
"Tiger Beat," guitarist Sarah Utter,
bassist Maggie Vail and drummer
Jesse Fox have released the "Maggie
the Cat" single
- a reminder
that Bangs has
plenty in store
Bangs for those not
faint of heart.
Maggie the Cat At its best, the
Te rn-one Records band provides a
Reviewed fast, fun stomp-
for the Dally by ing ground for
Jimmy Daper pop-punk par-
ties. With snotty
anthems and Utter's smirking holler,
Bangs successfully tune in and churn
influences like Blondie and
ini Kill. On this single, however,
fans might add earplugs to their
Christmas lists if they expect more of
the full-length's catchy hooks. Here

Some musicians are destined
for mediocrity. RCA recording a
artists 4Kast came onto the **
scene with the single "Miss My
Lovin." It was generally over- 4Kast
looked by radio audiences, as
their debut album "Any Any Weather
Weather" will probably be, and RCA Records
for good reason. The group real- Reviewed by
ly doesn't offer anything new or Saily Arts Writer
exciting to make listeners take Quan Williams
an interest in them.
This doesn't mean itsis a bad group. Songs such
as the upbeat "If I Could" and the smooth "Rainy
Days" prove that the group has vocal talent, and
songs such as "You Owe Me" and "You Know"
proves how good the group can sound over the
right production. 4Kast's main problem is that it

has nothing that really draws the listener's atten-
tion. Most of the music it sings is bland, like the
worn-out sample used on "Miss My Lovin," and
"How Can I," which doesn't really fit the group's
vocals. Songs such as "This Feeling" show there
isn't much new or different about its song writing.
Also, as vocally talented as this group is, most of
its songs don't hold your attention for very long,
such as on the way-too-long "Because I love You"
and boring "The Rose." Guest vocals from Mic
Geronimo, Tracey Lee and BET's Big Lez don't
help much either.
Actually, the best song on the album is an unlisted
bonus track. The song is a hilarious a capella demand
for owed money. Maybe if they had taken this
approach toward the whole album, "Any Weather"
may have been more interesting.
There is potential in 4Kast, but their debut doesn't

have anything that makes them stand out from the
horde of other R&B artists fighting for your money.
It's not the worst thing out, but you've heard it done
before, and you've heard it done better.

the trio trades in its pop charms for a
few rock riffs alatAC/DC. The three
songs don't have the glossy sheen or
sing-along choruses of "Tiger Beat"
- just full-forced, revved-engine
rock 'n' roll. Bound to disappoint at
least some fans, the new take-no-
prisoners metal edge doesn't live up
to the punked-up potential of the
Which is not to say Bangs don't do
metal well - it just takes some get-
ting used to. The trio revives early
'8Os rock so enthusiastically that the
single could wipe away all the
embarrassment of having a crush on
Lita Ford as a kid. The band comes
closest to its past glories on "Get
Electric," where Utter offers no
apologies for "Rocking out/To my
favorite song." After several listens,
it's easier to accept Bangs' new direc-
tion, though it'll take longer to stop
lamenting the death of the old sound.
If you've secretly been rooting for
the return of heavy metal, then put on
"Maggie the Cat" and start air guitar-
ing in front of the mirror.

Deicide's sixth release belongs underground

Before Marilyn Manson scared the
hootenanny out of all the Christians, the
main musical antagonists of Jehovah's
followers were Death Metal musicians.
Bands such as Incantation, Morbid
Angel and Deicide were all constantly
a n n o y i n g
Christians with its
No Stars anti-Jesus mes-
Deicide sage, paranormal
When Satan lyrics, gruesome
Lives imagery, furious
Roadrunner paced music and
Records vocals that
Reviewed by teetered some-
Daily Arts Writer where between
Adlin Rosh throwing up and
The gory and supernatural scene
quickly congested itself, lost most of
the public's attention and was pro-
claimed dead unanimously by music

Deicide however, demonstrates that
the supernatural does not go away that
easily. The group returns with its sixth
release, a live album titled, "When Satan
Lives" which should not have manifest-
ed in our earthly sphere.
Despite the ominous prospect of this
live album to convey musically the ter-
rors of watching a disturbing horror
film, "When Satan Lives" comes off
instead like listening to a Wesley Willis
album. This 17-track live recording just
seems like the same song repeated with
different lyrics barked out on each go.
Tracks such as "When Satan Rules His
World,""Lunatic of God's Creation,"and
"Dead By Dawn" could have all been
easily the same tune had the CD sleeve
not been there as a guide.
The technical and furiously fast play-
ing of drummer Steve Asheim and gui-
tarist brothers Eric and Brian Hoffman
may be impressive to note, but speed is

not everything. Sheer speed simply does
not automatically equal substance.
StephenYan can debone a chicken in less
than 30 seconds, but that in itself does
not mean the dish prepared with that
chicken is going to be good.
Glen Benton, singer and bass player,
who is most famous for burning an
upside down cross on his forehead, is
probably the only thing worthwhile
about this album. Aside from the fore-
head scar mentioned, he possesses an
deliciously wicked guttural bellow that
could easily scare most large predatory
Deicide's live offering, "When Satan
Lives," is a good example of why the
Death Metal music scene has had so
much negative criticism thrown its way.
Devoid of dynamics and variety in its
songs as well as too dependent on speed
and technical prowess to overcome a
lack of substance, the group manages to

present a worthless live offering. Death
Metal fans looking for good live record-
ings are better off getting Morbid
Angel's "Entangled in Chaos" and
Obituary's "Dead." Christ followers
have nothing to fear with Deicide's
unexciting "When Satan Lives" live

Breaking Records Star System
- Classic - If you missed a week
- Excellent of Breaking Records,
** - Good check out the Daily's
,* -Fair archives Online at
* - Poor http://www.michi-
No stars - Don't Bother gandaily.com

U 'U ~ E W - .~U - U ~.WUE U

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