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[whitespace] The Frog That Could

Christina Alexander leads Little Tin Frog to best-of-bill honors at WORKS

By David Espinoza

SHAKESPEARE ONCE WROTE, "What's in a name?" Well, when it comes to rock & roll, a lot. Take the name Little Tin Frog. What kind of music might one expect from such a band? Certainly not industrial goth metal or grease-ball rockabilly. No, a name like Little Tin Frog brings to mind a cutesy modern rock band with avant-garde tendencies, which is exactly what it is. Playing the third-to-last slot at a big Second Food Bank Harvest benefit over the weekend at the WORKS/San Jose Gallery (an event that also doubled as Ten in the Swear Jar's CD-release party), the Little Froggy proved to be one of the more compelling bands of the night. Of course, given how bad the majority of punk and aggro (as in aggressive) bands leading up the San Jose quartet were, it wasn't an honor difficult to achieve.

Fronted by Christina Alexander, Little Tin Frog initially stood out as the only band of the night to have a female lead singer. What really set them apart though, was the talented work of bassist Judah Nagler, who played a beautiful custom-made electric standup, and guitarist Owen Otto (though he should have turned his amp up). Beginning with a tune called "Tongue Tied," Nagler used a bow to give a dark, almost sinister, tone to Alexander's bright vocals. The response from the audience was positive: as the foursome continued to spin webs of medium-paced alt-pop songs, more folks began to filter in from outside. Taken as a whole, Little Tin Frog at best comes off as a cross between the Geraldine Fibbers in its more extreme moments and Concrete Blond in its quieter ones.

Unfortunately, for all its potential, the foursome also encountered a few obstacles during the course of its performance. For one thing, while the band didn't follow the loud, fast and sloppy pace set by the first few acts, a little bit of danger might have done it good. Watching Little Tin Frog stay at the same safe tempo song after song was like sitting in a sports car on an open highway, going 30 mph--you know things could get much more exciting. The biggest problem seemed to be the contradictory nature of the unconventional layers of sounds that the band produced and the very conventional way in which Alexander sang them. Just when Nagler would unleash mounds of garbled bass noise, Alexander would come back with a pretty but predictable chorus. True, toward the end of the band's set, she did attempt to go off, using a megaphone and shaker, saying, "Because we're an experimental band, I get to play these." Then again, most experimental bands never explain what they're doing.

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From the December 23-29, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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