Record Review: October 1994


If I Were A Carpenter
Various Artists
A&M Records 

The long awaited Carpenters tribute album has arrived. A&M Records is running a contest in conjunction with its release because, “the album offers many classic Carpenters songs done by some of today’s hippest, coolest, college bands.” To enter, you need to write down the first and eighth songs on the disc and mail in the answers, or you can make a demo tape with a rendition of a Carpenters song and send that in. There will be a winner at each participating college. Prizes include $300, CDs, T-shirts and gift certificates. SLUG is a college of society’s underbelly. I believe SLUG readers are eligible to enter, but we don’t want to deal with your mail. Send the entries to PGD/C. Rep, 5000 Quorum, #200, Dallas TX 75240. Some lucky SLUG student should get some free stuff. Make sure to tell them you read it here and hurry! The deadline is 10/13/94.

If I Were A Carpenter, Issue 70, October 1994

The album consists of the Carpenters hits you all know and love done as drones and dirges. SHONEN KNIFE garages up “Top Of The World,” complete with digital pops and crackles as if it were actually a record. (You can also purchase the album as a box set of 45s if you so desire.) Then, Sonic Youth does “Superstar” as psychedelia and Sheryl Crow brings tears with her version of “Solitaire.” The American Music Club opens with “Goodbye To Love” and it is just as “pretty” as the original. Other lesser knowns (Bettie Serveert, Dishwalla, and Johnette Napolitano with Marc Moreland) turn in the best performances. Johnette and Marc cover “Hurting Each Other” as the number eight song on the disc. One surprise is the heavy, hard-rockin’ version of “Bless The Beasts And The Children” by 4 Non Blondes. It’s stadium rock to stampede the buffalo – Billy Mumy would fling his hair in joy and the hunters would call the Nuge for advice. 

Truth be known this is better than Kiss My Ass. Garth doesn’t appear to ruin it, although the quivering, quaking vocals of the Cranberries on “(They Long To Be) Close To You” comes damn close. Feeling a little depressed and filled with melancholy? Don’t call Charter Summit, If I Were A Carpenter is cheaper and there aren’t any embarrassing insurance forms to fill out. —John Sin 

Atlantic Records 

Clumsy is the debut Atlantic album for Northern California’s Samiam. Their previous three were on indies, so I guess they can be added to the list of sell-out bands. They are friends with another sell-out band, Green Day and they remain close to them as well as Jawbreaker. Samiam’s members have done time with the likes of Social Unrest, Isocracy, The Mr. T Experience, Redd Kross and Masters of Reality

I can’t tell the difference between an indie production and a major label one anymore. The major recording might have slightly more shimmer and shine because there’s more money to spend on production. Other than that, Clumsy sounds as it should. 

“As We’re Told” opens the album fashionably hard and dark. It is an anthem commenting “life is what you make of it.” The analysis of modern life continues throughout the album. After four albums and sundry singles, Samiam are a mature rock combo. Many rockers put out a great first record and proceed down the path to mediocrity and commercial acceptability for the next 25 years. Others manage to grow over the course of their careers. I would place Samiam in the growth category.

They haven’t recorded the same song over and over again only changing a few chords and words and calling it new. “Bad Day” has vocalist, Jason Beebout, screaming out at his lack of control over yet another bad day and in the next song, “Tag Along,” he manages to sound almost pretty. This five-piece takes full advantage of the two guitarists, James Brogan and Sergie Loobko for that wall-of-sound, buzz-saw attack. The full interplay between the two requires a pair of headphones. The first two or three times through this album I focused on the lyrics and Beebout. After that and reading the words, which are helpfully included, I tended to tune him out and concentrate on the musical backing. 

Don’t go buy it because you’ve fallen in love with the Oi music of the last decade, and no it isn’t full-on hardcore thrash. It’s too punk for the Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden crew, it’s too metal for the Green Day, Offspring skater bunch and the glam rockers trapped in their New York Dolls/Joey C. Jones/Royal Hunt/Motley Crue phase will dismiss it. If you don’t quite fit in Samiam might be for you. Metal, grunge, punk and sell-out, abrasive vocals, huge guitars and a throbbing rhythm section. Samiam sold-out completely and I like it. —Lenny 

Bad Religion
Stranger Than Fiction

This came with a press kit describing a riot after fire marshals closed down a Bad Religion performance. True punk bands always have riots at their shows. If there isn’t one it can’t be punk right? 

After reading the press release I spotted a Billboard Magazine article which depicted Bad Religion as a band attempting to follow in the footsteps of The Offspring. Now that MTV and the radio have caught on to punk rock, will they give some time to the old school? Is there any reason for the old punker to pick up a major label CD or a youngster with the mohawk pulled into a ponytail instead of standing tall, proud and spiked to investigate the music the owners of his favorite label just released? 

Samiam, Issue 70, October 1994

In spite of the insecurities about remaining true to their punk rock ideals while accepting money from mega-corps or is that only the marketing plan developed around the polished wood of the corporate board room. Bad Religion sounds like Bad Religion to me. 

For further credibility, they’ve enlisted the talents of Wayne Kramer, the former MC5 guitarist for one song. Pretend you are Curious George and the Man With The Hat got his first tattoo in 1978. It isn’t all about how fast you can play and how hoarse your voice is. The great ones know how to throw a hook in there. 

Bad Religion continue to do what they’ve always done. These guys have been at it for a while, they should know how to play their instruments by now. Just because they can play doesn’t mean they run around posturing and showing off. There are a few impressive guitar solos, most notably in the title song, but they are kept short. Along with the speedy little numbers are some slower, heavier pieces. “Infection” borders on heavy commercial rock, yet even with big production moguls backing them, these original punks can’t quite get the harmonies clean enough for AOR formats. The subject matter seems to be a love/hate relationship. One listen to the songs and you’ll have some insight into one Seattle influence. I’d venture to call it “grunge,” except ‘94 is nearing its completion, not ‘91. 

Opening side two is a critique of the drug of the nation, “Television.” “Individual” addresses the herd mentality. “Hooray For Me…” has this chorus: “Can you imagine, just for a second, doing anything that you want to. Well that’s just what I want to do so hooray for me…and fuck you.” Yes! I believe that’s pretty damn punk. I think they stole “Slumber” from The Offspring and it features a 15 second guitar solo. “21st Century Digital Boy” is a song for the children of hippies… best known as the “lost generation.” It’s no wonder, because daddy’s an intellectual and mommy’s on Valium. That’s enough. Go buy the album. My copy is an advance cassette and in spite of the trashy nature of these artifacts it didn’t end up gathering dust. I’ve listened to it many times over the last month. It’s good. Are they playing it on radio? I’ll be fucked if I know, the radio sucks as bad as MTV these days. — John Sin 

Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart
Take Me To God
Island Records

Hallucination Engine
Axiom Records

Blues In The East
Axiom Records 

These three albums are all from Island or the affiliated Axiom label. None of them fits a rock classification, nor are they world music, trance, house or acid jazz. Each, in its own way, has elements of all.

Jah Wobble gained infamy as the bassist for Public Image Limited. He was present for the Metal Box sessions – the best thing P.I.L. ever did. He has seemingly played with everyone and contributed to countless records. This is the third album from his Invaders Of The Heart. 

Island only sent an advance cassette so I don’t have complete details on the players. I do know that Wobble’s bandmates Justin Adams, guitar, and Mark Ferda, keyboards are here with Chaka Demus and Pliers, Baaba Maa, Anneli Drecker of Bel Canto and Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries

This album has, quite literally, the entire world of music present – hypnotic North African, dance hall, club reggae, South American pop and the Middle East are brought together with more familiar Anglo elements. The album is mesmerizing, soothing, danceable, and trance inducing. O’Riordan and Drecker are the stars. Drecker wails ethereally over the polyrhythmic percussion of “When The Storm Comes,” which blends into the spoken word “I Love Everybody,” while her voice gradually fades out. “The Sun Does Rise” is reggae and African, while O’Riordan’s vocals add a Scottish tang—is that a bagpipe in the middle of the African percussion? 

The early P.I.L. albums were some inspiring works; they’ve lost nothing with time. Wobble has managed to progress with the music Metal Box began; Lydon lost it a long time ago.

Bill Laswell has created an entire industry around his genius. Axiom is his label and everything I’ve listened to on the label is good. He has gathered almost everyone imaginable together for the latest Material incarnation, except of course the original members. Laswell continues the material name without his long lost cohorts, Michael Beinhorn and Fred Maher. Willam S. Burroughs, Wayne Shorter, Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins, Shankar, and Sly Dunbar are here along with an entire all-star cast of world musicians.

“Hallucination Engine” opens with a Laswell/shorter composition entitled “Black Light.” Shorter’s saxophone leads are “pop” jazz; the song is saved by space bass from Collins. Luckily I didn’t yank the thing after that song because it gets better. “Mantra” doesn’t have chanting, the trance is induced musically with bass, tablas, Shankar’s violin and a whole brotherhood of percussive elements. “Ruins (Submutation Dub)” adds the voice of Liu Sola to a song with hints of reggae and a strong oriental influence plainly evident. On “Eternal Drift” Shorter gets the sax right, he’s still melodic, but he expands from the boring “pop.” Burroughs gives his “Words Of Advice” to slightly funky keyboards and bass continuing his Laswell association which began in ‘84 with Laurie Anderson’s “Mister Heartbreak.” 

That covers five of the eight songs. The trance inducing music continues. Hardcore Material followers may miss the funk; they can find it on Parliament or Funkadelic reissues. The funkiest thing Material does is “Cucumber Slumber (Fluxus Mix).” Skopelitis and Worrell work their magic with a Joe Sawinul composition and the tablas add flair. This is a “New Age” album which inspires deep thoughts. It isn’t some fool noodling around on the keyboards making music for middle-aged suburbanites to vegetate to.

Liu Sola presented herself vocalizing on one song of the Material album. “Blues In The Sky” is a concept album bearing her last name as the group’s title. For the album, Sola used two classical Chinese stories, “The Broken Zither” and “Married To Exile.” She composed music in the first case and combined the traditional Sichuan folk opera melody with the blues in the second. In the liner notes she describes how she added blues, jazz, gospel, Japanese Noh Theatre, and the speech rhythms of African-American storytelling to these Chinese musical styles.

I could go on and on about this album, giving full details on Sola’s vocals, the players on the album and the stories embedded in it. There isn’t space. Of the three albums, “Blues In The East” requires the most effort. It is not an easy piece of music to listen to. Sola’s experimentation is not always successful, but make the effort and the reward is an uncommon listening experience. 

I refuse to place one album above the other two. Each can stand on its own merits. For something much different from the usual rock, trance, blues, dance, country, or reggae pick up one or all. Cole O’Radd

Pist ‘N’ Broke 
S/T cass.
sonic aggression records 

Late August I received a package of cassettes and CDs from Sonic Aggression records and not a single one disappointed me. This label releases asskickin’ Oi! cassettes and vinyl as well as distributing for smaller labels that nobody would otherwise know about. Pist ‘N’ Broke is Sonic’s 5th release. They are skinheads (as are a majority of Sonic’s bands) and proud of it, as evidenced by the opening track “Skinhead 4 life.” For those of you who can feel your sphincter clenching at the mention of skinheads, these lads are not racist or is there any mention of sexism or anything else to get your panties in a twist about. Other standouts include “Ireland,” which opens as an acoustic number and turns into a raging ode to the country that the singer, a dead ringer for Stiff Little Fingers’ Jake Burns, obviously feels passionate about. But the standout track is the Ska/oi! anthem/theme song “Pist ‘N’ Broke.” This song, complete with horns and chinka’ chinka’ rhythm guitar, makes you think that they should an entire album of ska. If you’d like to get your hands on this and other American Oi! bands such as the Bruisers, the Systers and the Anti-Heroes (highly recommended), you should definitely lend a stamp for a catalog to Sonic. 

Wreckless Records 

It’s so exciting for me to purchase an album from a New York band and not have to hear the “new breed” of arena rock (Quicksand, Into Another, etc.) that is passing for underground music today. What the hell happened to Revelation Records? Did they just abandon hardcore? Hell, those new fuckin’ bands ought to be playing Rafters opening for Motley Crue. After all, Motley Crue has that new extra heavy sound. If you’re as sick of all the moody, introspective guitar rock as I am, then it’s time for you to pick up Yuppicides’ newest release “Shinebox.” Pissed fuckin’ New York hardcore complete with most parts, fury, and a blood-soaked singer, these boys will get you as emotionally worked up as they are. I can’t remember hearing such sincere, intense anger and hatred from a band since S.F.A. While the aggressive music stands on its own with a powerhouse sound similar to Killing Time without the metallic production, the lyrics are the high point of this album. Generally, the subject matter revolves around the singers’ self-hatred, while other topics tackle the insecurities of a teenage girl victimized by men’s constant painful scrutiny of her body. Also, the concept of “Six Bullet Plan” where everyone in America is allotted six bullets to do with as they please for population control and stress reduction purposes. —Dylan

Check out more from our October 1994 issue here.