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January 23, 2001 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-01-23

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9 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 23, 2000

The Donnas Turn 21, The
Donnas; Lookout Records
Gabe Fajur
ly Arts Writer
Boys, watch out. The Donnas have
turned 21.
The female foursome's latest
release, The Donnas Turn 21 makes no
bones about it; these girls are out for
more than rock and roll; they want to
party. And they're legal.
The band's third release, hits all the
right spots and hits them harder than
umbers on 1999's Get Skintight or
1998's American Teenage Rock n'
Roll Machine. The new record clips
along for the first two tracks at a medi-
um' pace; and finally kicks into a
Ibosey-goosey good time on track
number three, "40 Boys in 40 Nights."
From then on, the catchy riffing and
witty lyrical content make for one hel-
luva record. The girls, Donna A.
'vocals), Donna C. (drums), Donna E
ass) and Donna R. (guitar), despite
borrowing heavily from the Ramones,
are obviously on top of their respective
games musically. But since they've
been playing together in punk bands
since the eighth grade, why shouldn't
they be? Donna R.'s guitar work on
"Hot Pants" is even good enough to be
deemed downright impressive.
21, aside from the arena-rock and
*7's punk influences, has its fair share
f girl power anthems included, too. To
e Donnas, boys are little more than
,annoyances, toys, or junk food to be
eaten and forgotten. "Little Boy,"

Coinfort, Failure; Slash Recrds
By Chris Lane
For the Daily
Do you like songs about sadism? What
about world destruction and/or mon-
keys? Well, how about just songs with a
slightly darker vibe than normal (but no
Goth, none)? If you answered yes to any
of these questions, the re-release of the
long-out-of-print Comfort by Failure
should definitely get in your rotation. If
you've never heard of Failure, don't
worry, neither has the rest of the main-
stream world. Hmm, did they live up to
their name?
Before the group split in 1998, Failure
was essentially a word-of-mouth band,
which can be a supreme compliment,

"You've Got a Crush on Me" and
"Midnight Snack" prove that if there
were ever a female equivalent of
Motley Crue, these girls are it.
With lyrics like "I'm tired of hitting
on you/It's about time to be getting on
you/All messed up and I don't care/So
c'mon take off your underwear," "Do
you Wanna Hit It" erases all doubt of
that fact.
If the record has one fault, it's that
The Donnas seem to try a bit too hard
to maintain their hard-rock image. As
a result, songs like "Gimme A Ride"
and "Don't Get Me Busted" suffer a
bit from typical chord progressions.
But capping off the album is a cover of
Judas Priest's "Living After Midnite."
The girls' rendition is better than the
original and worth the price of admis-
So grab your id (fake or otherwise),
squeeze into your favorite pair of
leather pants, jump in the car, and on
the way to your favorite watering hole,
pop a copy of The Donnas Turn 21 into
the stereo.
Grade: B+

depending on the ego. But despite tour-
ing with the likes of Tool and Local H,
Failure never quite made center stage,
which brings up another matter, why
would Slash Records, a child of Warner
Bros., re-issue the least successful album
of a defunct band?
The answer ... other than the almighty
greenback, is that Comfort is a sort of
blend of all the things that made Nirvana
and Tool popular, ambiance mixed with
rock, sensitivity united with rage.
Failure's heavy guitar work and sinister
lyrics give them an original sound, dark-
er than Nirvana, yet lighter than Tool,
which leaves you in a pleasant state of
Yet Conifort is not textbook Failure. In
comparison with their other two albums,
Magnfied, and the semi-successful
Fantastic Planet, Comfort has a grungier,
more garage quality. The likely culprit for
this sound is none other than indie-rock
producer/god/ jackass, Steve Albini.
Albini's fingerprints are all over this
album from the dropped D tuning, to the
metallic bass, to the heart-pounding
drums. Some bands love this sound.
Others don't. What is clear is that Albini
always makes the album distinct from a
band's other work, and in the case of
Comfort, Failure was unhappy with the
final product. One of the definite over-
sights of Albini's trademark approach on

Comfort is that it dwarfs the real range of
singer Ken Andrews' voice, which comes
off as muffled and raspy. Happily, this
mistake does not get repeated on future
Failure albums.
Still, the re-release of Comfort is a rare
treat. The album has lurked beneath the
surface of the mainstream for far too
long. Hey, with songs like "Submission,"
"Pro-Catastrophe," and my personal
favorite, "Macaque," I challenge you to
not empathize. And, oddly enough, that's
the real gold of Comfort, that 10 songs
about pain, anger and even violence
somehow offer up solace, that lovely
catharsis waits for us at the end of a dark
alley. Failure takes us on a roundabout
trip to beauty in much the same way "A
Perfect Circle" does. Which is why
Comfort succeeds where others fail.
Bands like Incubus, Staind and other cur-
rent spawn of alienated rock lack the real
songwriting talent that Failure exhibited
on this first album. Perhaps what's most
respectable about Comfort is how tight
songwriting contains the Albini-induced
chaos. There is a healthy understanding
between anger and expression, between
volume and melody. Neither one invades
the other's space, nor do they get all
smudged together in a chorus you can
scream. Now that's comfort.
Grade: B+

Ultimate Collection; Maria McKee,
Hip-O Records

By Heidi Wickstrom
For the Daily

Afore, Vitamin C; Elektra Records
By Chdstian Hoard
Daily Arts Writer
#hree years ago, the teen pop phe-
nomenon seemed like the musical
equivalent of New Coke - horribly sac-
charine and destined to become a foot-
note in pop culture history. Not only has
teen pop survived longer than most
would have expected, it's also proved
itself rather expansive as a genre,
spawning dozens of careers and leaving
even hipsters aware of the subtle stylis-
tic differences between N'Sync and the
hckstreet Boys.
hich probably means that there's
plenty of room on the best-seller racks
for More, the second solo record from
Vitamin C, a 29-year-old ex-alt rocker
(Eve's Plum, anyone?) and actress who
scored hits last year with "Smile" and
"Graduation (Friends Forever)," the lat-
ter a godawful novelty tune complete
with a not-so-subtle sample of
Pachelbel's Canon and lyrics swiped
an overlong yearbook message.
Since she's older than most of her
contemporaries by a decade or so, VC
has no need to couch her libido in innu-
endo and metaphor ("You touch me and
,tuch back / A girl and a boy in a nat-
,El Toppo, The Llama Farmers;
Beggars Banquet
Chdistan Hoard
jily Arts Writer
Touted as up-and-coming
"Bratpoppers" overseas, the Llama
Farmers are just another goofy name in
States, and they ought to stay that way,
too. Why? Because El Toppo is nothing
more than a limp recycling of grunge
and Britpop, styles that dominated 90's
guitar music but were really only worth
hearing when done by a few truly
spired groups.
Indeed, these young genre farmers
have tapped into Nirvana's peak-and-
valley dynamics, the Smashing
Pumpkins' tortuous romanticism, even
Alice in Chains' minor key murkiness

ural act," she sings to an anonymous
boytoy on "Sex Has Come Between
Us"). But that doesn't mean she's above
teen pop's cliches, and that goes for
sonic content, too, as bouncy Euro-
dance beats and VC's girly-girl vocals
dominate tracks like "The Itch" and a
cover of "I Know What Boys Like"
that's just as catchy, stupid and fun as
the original.
Having exhausted her taste for pseu-
do-balladry with."Graduation," More is
all about up-tempo escapism, with
hooks galore. And save that she's neither
terribly cute nor terribly sappy, VC
doesn't act her age - she'll have fun,
fun, fun till she has to find a new demo-
graphic to appeal to.
Grade: C+


Does anyone know who Maria
McKee is? Strangely enough, neither
hardcore country music fan or foe
alike have an answer to this inquiry.
And sadly, McKee's Ultimate
Collection is a record of pseudo-rock
tunes and watered-down, knee-slap-
pin' ditties proves to be useless. in
determining what the hell she is all
This disc contains solo work from
McKee, as well as some of the "hits"
from her stmt as the frontwoman of
some country band called Lone
Justice. (and no, they're not the same
guys responsible for the summer
wedding tearjerker "Amazed;" these
guys are worse, if that is possible).
Arguably the most entertaining
aspect of the entire record is the
jacket, which not only offers the req-
uisitely pensive pictures of McKee
undoubtedly pondering her own exis-
tence as an artist, but also features a
few "candid" shots of her with a
brooding Lone Justice. They look
more like 80's super-group Journey
fronted by Blondie's Debbie Harry
than a so-called country band. Rad.
After the jacket, it's all downhill
from there. McKee desperately
wants to present herself as a down-
home southern crooner, who just so
happens to be able to rock out too.
On the first two songs of the
record, "Ways to be Wicked" and
"Sweet, Sweet Baby (I'm Falling),"
she combines some kind of rockabil-
ly electric guitar solo with glam-girl
Dixie Chick-esque vocals, only to
fall seriously short of the glory of
universal appeal. One minute she's
reflecting on being in a "rock and
roll band" and the next there's men-
tion of a pickup truck accompanied
by the familiar twang of a steel gui-
tar. And, no. the end is not even
The rest of the disc continues to
jump from rock to country and back
to rock. Or maybe country. Who
knows? What is apparent, though, is
McKee's aforementioned longing to
be inducted into the Shania Twain-
Faith Hill Crossover Club.
When she divulges how it "feels to
be a woman." commands her, man to
"show her heaven" and confesses
that her lover makes her "Breathe,"
it's frankly a bit embarrassing.. At
least when Shania and Faith did it, it
seemed (somewhat) fun and sassy;
however, poor Maria is missing the
"s" and "y"in sassy. In other words,
there is no chance of a "Behind the
Music: Maria McKee."
Thank God.
After hearing "Maria McKee," it
still remains a mystery as to who she
is. Her voice is decent, but she is
wasting it on tired, rehashed
Shania/Faith rip-offs and humiliating
country-rock-pop hybrids that are in
no way charming.
As long as McKee continues
cranking out records like this, she
will remain in obscurity to the gener-
al public, as well as those few who
actually care.
Grade: D

(on "Movie"). They also do a pretty
good version of middle-of-the road
British melodicism, which they mete
out between aesthetically-neutral guitar
squalls and lyrics that as to be taken as
poignant solely on the basis of Bernie
Simpson's coolly indifferent vocal
But neither the words nor the tunes
are poignant; they're just sort of catchy
and mostly inscrutable. Take "Snow
White," the disc's first single. It's a fine
piece of escapist pop, with three dis-
tinct guy-girl vocal hooks separated by
(you guessed it) revved-up guitar
squonk. If at first it digs its earnest
melodic claws into your skull, a second
listen should reveal it to be naively
dreamy in the tradition of "Champagne
Supernova" and at least half of the
Verve's recorded output. Dig it and
you'll feel guilty in the morning.
In fairness, the Farmers are still in
their early twenties, and if they can
build upon their natural gift for placid
melodies, they might have something.
But that doesn't excuse El Toppo,
which is yet another example of alt-
rock easy listening - a bunch of sound
and fury just angsty enough to fool
young white guys without really signi-
fying anything.
Grade: C

The Houseman Cometh!, Theryl
"Houseman" de Clouet; Bullseye
Funk and Soul
By Chris Kula
Daily Arts Writer
When he's fronting Galactic, the reign-
ing super-heavy funk champions of New
Orleans, Theryl "Houseman" de Clou-t is
the definition of the classic soulman:
Strutting onstage in a snake-skin suit,
wooing the ladies in the crowd, pouring
out smoky vocals.
Unfortunately, on his solo debut.de
Clouet is sorely lacking the raw funk
power that'srinabundance at an average
Galactic show. The Houseman Cometh!
trades the greasy, organic grooves indige-
nous to New Orleans for sterile process-

ing of Any Studio, USA and, as a sad
result, the Houseman's locked out in the
Love-you-girl ballads like "Forever
Starts Tonight" and "Share and Care" are
dominated by the kind of cheesy synthe-
sizers and classical guitars more common
to a smooth jazz radio show than an after-
hours Crescent City blues club. Even
decent grooves like the album-opening
"You Came" and the insightful "Ain't No
Yachts in the Ghetto" are infected by the
plague of 80s-style pop-soul production
(see: Aaron Neville, Peabo Bryson and
more Aaron Neville).
However, it's not that de Clouet's vocals
are at fault. On the contrary, the'
Houseman's been a veteran of the New
Orleans club scene for more than 30
years, and The Houseman Cometh! cer-

tainly shows that he knows his way around
a mic, belting out the kind of impassioned
soul that wafts through the air like a sultry
breeze off of the Mississippi Delta.
The album's too-clean instrumental
tracks and de Clouet's gritty voice simply
don't mix. In fact, it's such an queer com-
bination that when the Houseman is
backed by four members of Galactic on
the hard grooves "I Get Lifted" and
"Ready, Willing and Able," the stereo
speakers come alive with the energy of the
true funk. The pair of tunes make for a
much-needed contrast, but it's too little,
too late.
My advice? Buy tickets for Galactic,
February 4 at the State Theater in Detroit,
and see the real Houseman.


to m F t

Grade: C+

. l



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