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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Naked Barbies
Tarnished: The Naked Barbies play Cafe Trompe l'oeil Thursday (Sept. 11).

Making the Party:
Crashers and Harper sign up for Kamp

BERKELEY'S SKA-POP-PUNK Dance Hall Crashers have timed it perfectly. The band will have plenty of new material for its gig at Kamp KOME on Saturday (Sept. 13) at Shoreline because the group's latest release, Honey, I'm Homely (510 Records), landed on music-store shelves earlier this week. The Dance Hall Crashers were added to the bill a few weeks ago while the band was still traipsing about Europe with the WARP Tour. As is obvious from Honey, I'm Homely's first single, "Lost Again," the band's third LP is a continuation of the peppy beats, brisk melodies and bitingly ironic lyrics of its 1995 release, Lockjaw. The band's signature honey-textured vocals, courtesy Karina Deniké and Elyse Rogers, are as smooth and harmonic as ever. Deniké says that Honey, I'm Homely takes a microscope to the dysfunctional family of the '50s. "Everything looks great on the surface, but it's really not," Deniké says. "And bands have a tendency to be like a dysfunctional family."

"Stand By" from Honey, I'm Homely illustrates the gap between perception and reality: "Pretend your life is squeaky clean / Pure as the virgin you think your daughter is," Deniké and Rogers croon to an ambling jazz-rock accompaniment. Horns, which were scrapped years ago, return on the new album, but don't get too attached to them. Deniké says that the horn players (friends from ska band Hepcat) are only making a guest appearance. "We put horns on the album because we thought the songs could use them and they'd be a nice addition," Deniké explains. "We're not coming back with horns; we don't feel they're vital to our group. We've already got two vocalists and two guitarists, so we've got a lot of harmony and melody going on already."

Soul Sounds

After pushing back European tour dates to promote The Will to Live (Virgin Records), guitarist Ben Harper freed up enough time to make it to Kamp KOME too. Harper's music is an amalgamation of many genres: blues, gospel and folk especially. "Describing music is like talking about an emotion that is better felt," Harper says. Regardless of category, Harper's music is nourishment for the soul, mind and spirit.

I remember seeing Harper open for San Francisco hip-hop act Spearhead in 1995. Harper's musical rendition of Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" was passionate, powerful and uplifting. And though Harper sings about oppression, domestic abuse and homelessness, his messages are always empowering, but never politically intended. "My music is not a political statement," Harper says. "I sing because it's innate, like eating or breathing. But I am also lucky to get my voice heard [though music]."

East Bay Barbies

Cafe Trompe l'oeil's She Vox, a women's performance showcase, plays South Bay host to Oakland's Naked Barbies on Thursday (Sept. 11). The country folk band has been collecting rave reviews for years, especially with its sophomore effort, Tarnished (NBD Records). Vocalist/rhythm guitarist Patty Spiglanin,who wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on Tarnished, is backed by a group of technically precise musicians. The show, which also features Rebecca Riots and Allette Brooks, starts at 8pm at 814 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose.

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From the Sept. 11-17, 1997 issue of Metro.

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