To the Land of Milk & Honey
Feel Good All Over
Sally Timms, familiar to fans of the Mekons, continues to distinguish herself as an abundantly talented songwriter. On "Longing, Madness & Lust," she boils modern life down to just three unfortunate motivating factors. The song laments the low prospects for achieving a sense of direction in world ruled by such a sorry triumvirate with lines like, "Out of the shopping mall/steps the new Jesus Christ." Salvation, contrary to Gap executives and many Americans, is not achieved through shopping. The sense of disconnected longing continues on "Junk Barge" when Timms sings, "I am the captain/of that junk barge/off the coast of New York/and I don't know where I'm going to/My dog sits up on the bow/grasping for that air/and I sit in the derriere/steering and drinking beer." The somber mood, however, is tempered by the oompah-band music that accompanies the lyrics. In fact, the subtle melodies and mild-mannered hooks on this collection give it an inspiring, uplifting country-music quality that contrasts with the clever, often disheartening lyrics.
A Slice of Lemon
Kill Rock Stars and Lookout! Records
Two prominent indie labels, two sets of ears, two CDs, one kick-ass project. If you're into Kill Rock Stars and/or Lookout!, A Slice of Lemon will be your K-Tel album to will to future generations. This meaty, 39-track double set is composed of unreleased tracks by known and unknown bands. The delicious taste of label cross-pollination sets in around the seventh and eighth tracks, where Pansy Division's sculpted punk pop ends and the characteristic lo-fi blitz of Fitz of Depression begins. Classic punk rock is represented in all forms from the chaotic Chickenhead to the '77-era Pee Chees. Delightful Little Nothings, Emily's Sassy Lime and Cub provide punk pop jitters. Local artists Red #9 and Kitty Cat Spy Club appear as well.
--Todd S. Inoue
Waiting in the discouragingly long lines at the record store, one might have glimpsed Garbage's "Vow" single unabashedly lining the checkout counters and passed it off as another cheesy promotional attempt. Garbage, however, doesn't dump out bland, generic trendiness; the band's self-titled debut is the shining jewel at the bottom of a thrift-store bin. Garbage is not strapped to the orthodox guitar-bass-percussion combo. Instead, it expands the aural possibilities by pulling keyboards, samplers and a six-string bass from its vast bag of tricks. Shirley Mansan has a beguiling, come-hither voice offset by a background composed of rhythms that border on industrial and techno. "Only Happy When It Rains" is as heavy as a thick Portuguese stew, with the glum lyrics, "I'm riding high on deep depression ... pour your misery down on me." Strangely, though, the song has a uplifting effect. In fact, all 12 of the tracks on the album have a dark, minor-key flavor that can urge the most timid of wallflowers to the dance floor.
Super Junky Monkey
Holy mother of metallic-thrash-funk-meatloaf! Rage Against the Machine meets Steve Vai at a Tokyo rap show. Super Junky Monkey works to great degree on the light-speed thrash of "Decide," the slo-mo stutter rap of "Popobar" and the furious Megadeth-ish "Buckin' the Bolts." The group layers its choruses much like Quiet Riot used to, so a course in Berlitz isn't necessary to join in on the fray. Boredoms fans with a hip-hop itch will also take to Super Junky Monkey. The funk and metal is on point, lethal as ebola, scattered as a tear-gassed riot.
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