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[whitespace] Just Say No to '80s Soft Rock

Cuban Cigar Crisis resurrects Phil Collins

By David Expinoza

NOSTALGIA FOR the 1980s is getting ugly, dude. Sure, radio stations have been bumpin' New Wave flashback lunches since, well, the end of the '80s. And then there are the "buy back your childhood memories" marketing strategies of head-shop chains like Hot Topic, with the Strawberry Shortcake and Transformers T-shirts. Lately, though, it seems the search to unearth odds and ends of '80s pop culture is sinking to new lows.

Sensitive-guy Palo Alto rockers the Cuban Cigar Crisis opened their Tuesday (July 17) set at the Saturn Café with a cover of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight." Don't get me wrong, the quartet offered a decent interpretation of the soft-rocker's 1981 hit, but there are just certain places rock music does not need to go back to. If this trend continues, Huey Lewis and the News songs could start appearing on the set lists of aspiring bands. Musicians be forewarned: any band that feels inclined to start covering Collins, Lewis or Robert Palmer should follow the advice of another '80s phrase and "Just say no."

Despite the silly name, the Cuban Cigar Crisis is a serious and well-polished band. Its sound, created with acoustic guitars, bass, and drums, resembles that of Weezer in format, with some brilliant time changes reminiscent of defunct local crew the What Nots (minus the highly dynamic guitar work).

It must have been the birthday of one of the members of Sonic Youth, because noise brats the Automatones came out of the woodwork to play after CCC. Disciples of artsy indie rock, the quintet can drill into your head a lethal concoction of chaotic guitar hooks and New Wave-ish keyboard tricks that would make both Devo and Blonde Redhead proud. The out-of-tune layered riffs never get too convoluted, thanks to the general pulsating rhythms providing by the bass, keys and drums. Too bad they don't play more often.

More Good Riddance

Long before the cycles of trendiness made being politically radical hip, then unhip and then hip again, Good Riddance was busy sending a clear and consistent message of dissidence. From 1996's A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion to 1998's Ballads From the Revolution, GR has remained pissed off and political through and though. This month's release of Symptoms of a Leveling Spirit drives the former point home. Vocalist/dedicated vegan Russ Rankin still switches with ease between driving, melodic singing and the snarling hard-core madman. Even while Rankin expresses disillusion with apathy--"This world grows heavier everyday, nobody cares, never mind"--there are always moments of hope: "You can't stop our populist expansion!" Rock on, man.

Olympia to Santa Cruz trivia for the day: Former Subtle Oak Complexity drummer and KZSC DJ Mike May played on the Microphones' 7-inch "I Can't Believe You Actually Died," released this year on K Records. The Microphones hit the Saturn Café Sunday on Tuesday (July 31)--can't say where Mr. May will be.

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From the July 25-August 1, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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