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Dungeon Masters

[whitespace] Unsafe
Matt Koumaras

Unsafe at Any Speed: The new Unsafe album features limit-breaking rhythms.


The Huxtables go acoustic with well-lathered pop at Actors' Theatre

By Matt Koumaras

BACK FROM THEIR West Coast acoustic sidewalk tour, the Huxtables and their sad-sack lyrics powered by ready-steady-go chords shined in the intimate setting of the Actors' Theatre last Thursday. A.J.'s Alaska-sized acoustic bass thumped out noble lines, proving that size does matter on "(My Dad Is a) Porn Star." When Colt came waltzing in after hiding out for the last bouncing verse of "Around," it was more hilarious than watching Gallagher smash his head instead of a watermelon.

The band's well-lathered pop brings to mind Pansy Division, except the songs aren't about guys, they're about the Guide--the Dungeon Master's Guide. Matt and A.J.'s backing vocals pole-vaulted over octaves on "Dungeon Master." "Han Solo" has always been my least favorite Huxtable song, but James' spirited snare and cymbal work had me beginning to see the light saber. The addition of Josh on rhythm guitar gave the band a healthy backbone, but I still wished that Matt's nimbly picked guitar rodeos had been better amplified. A cover of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," which had James hand-feeding Colt the lyrics, was rock & roll without a question.

Ex-Skankin' Pickle Mike Park made a cameo on the acoustic guitar, executing well-sung songs about racism and Spike from DeGrassi Junior High. "Asian Prodigy" was an ironic tale detailing how his parents used to force him to play music as a kid but, as he got older and wanted to make a career out of music, pressured him to become a doctor.

Ten in the Swear Jar laid out a thick, majestic sound with an accordion, banjo and mandolin. In just its first acoustic performance, the band sounded like a cross between the Violent Femmes and the Smiths, with exquisitely crafted musical tapestries containing a wealth of emotion. The exchange between mandolin and accordion lines was nothing less than brilliant. Plus I enjoyed seeing the lead vocalist's eyes pop out from the sockets during Black Francis-like howls.

Playing "stadium rock, without the stadium," Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children McNuggets proved that punk's not dead--it just got conned into picking up an acoustic guitar. The band had its mouth firmly in the toilet bowl, unleashing more profanities per measure than Marie Osmond has babies. The anarchic "bring your entire posse" onstage to rap Hall and Oates' "Maneater" was awful and great.

CD Notable

Unsafe/Meccanisma. This 25-song feast consists primarily of instrumentals and live takes that are simple and often spectacular. The two versions of "Drunken Godzilla" feature crunchy, fleet-footed rhythms that clutch a seductive riff and choke it until it's dead. Schmin's drums rock back and forth like a gang of angry Weeble Wobbles on "Regular Heavy." Eugene's superb fadeout solo on "Black Darkness" builds a low-fi garage on the highest hill. "New Punk" sounds like the Dead Kennedys rehearsing in a shower. Tom and Special Beedie's vocals rock out with divine X-like phrasing on "World Love." This is the perfect release to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway late at night and make unsafe lane changes to. Contact Unsafe at P.O. Box 2902, Santa Cruz 95063 (eugene@sasq.net).

Upcoming

Friday (July 16), Slow Gherkin is at the Catalyst; Tuesday (July 20), the Club 138 benefit, with the Casualties, Unseen, Violent Society, Chemical Imbalance, Fifth of Pist and the Volunteers, takes place at the SC Vets Hall (tickets $6 advance at Streetlight).

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From the July 14-21, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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