Record Reviews: December 1994


The Midnight Dreary

The Midnight Dreary are one of the local bands who receive little if any publicity. They exist in a region outside even the minor acceptance the local punk rock and thrash bands receive. The Midnight Dreary are one of the genuine underground bands in Salt Lake City. Their chosen genre is goth, a musical art form ridiculed and scoffed at by many while refusing to roll over and die. I feel minimally qualified to rate The Midnight Dreary against their national and international competitors. Jeff is on the drums, October plays guitar, Toni does the bass, and Dredd is the vocalist. Their tape was released on Halloween and it should be widely available by now.

My first criticism is the mixing job Paul Dury did. The vocals are buried too deeply behind the bass. The lyrics are difficult to pick up and a lyric sheet would help. Since this is undoubtedly a budget job completed with all the funds the band could scrape together I can understand the lack of one. Dredd is an impressive singer; I only wish the production had placed his vocals a little more to the front. The first song, “Decaydance,” has some very nice guitar from October while the bass moves the song. The next one, “Thorn and Tragedy,” features the toll of bells against the repeated one line chorus (“tragedy”) for a trademark mixing of religion with doom.

There are only five songs on the cassette so with your permission let’s do them all. “Veils of Grace” is an instrumental of dark proportions. The guitar washes over the listener, the bass is a little too repetitive for my taste and the drums … well, the drums could use a little more enthusiasm. Side two opens with more of Dredd’s vocals. Dredd, man, get the producer to put you up front next time. The piece is titled “With Misery” and it is one of those ponderous numbers which once again combines goth’s deep reliance on religion even as the worms crawl from maggot-infested bodies. “A Silent Wall” brings the element of soundbites from horror movies to the EP. The soundbite opens the only song on the tape where the vocals aren’t overpowered by the backing music. “In a room without a view a silent wall is watching you.” This song is the reason to purchase the tape. It is the song the DJs on Locals Only should pick up and it is the song that should bring The Midnight Dreary to the attention of the “modern music” kids.

The Midnight Dreary obviously have a few brains behind their musical talents. The five song debut doesn’t take a lot of time to sit through. Filler is absent, they put their best songs on tape. Buy this one and get the cash flow going. When they have the finances for a full-length and a decent production job they could be one of the Salt Lake bands to bust this town wide open. I’ll call this a demo calling card from a local band with tremendous potential. Add The Midnight Dreary to my list of favorite local bands. Unpopular as goth may be this band has done an excellent job with its first release.

The Black Crowes
American Recordings

The album cover of Amorica by The Black Crowes.
“The Black Crowes’ new album is bad, extraordinarily bad.”

The Black Crowes’ new album is bad, extraordinarily bad. The cover is quite beautiful, that black pubic hair does attract me almost as much as red—the blonde stuff is boring. As is the album.

The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers and Foghat made their names with this hybrid blues/southern/boogie/rock stuff. That was years ago and in spite of the continuing presence of them all in the bins, I’m a little tired of it. Chris Robinson is an inspiring singer, the guy can wail with the best. His band has the boogie thing down pat and they even stray off into country for one song. I apologize to them all: it sounds derivative, it sounds tired and it’s dull. Admittedly, it’s a one shot, I couldn’t sit through two listens to the disc. If anyone can give me a reason to listen again—write. –Wa



Lords Of Acid
American Recordings

The album cover of VooDoo-U by Lords of Acid.
“The Lords of Acid make no attempt to hide their agenda. They are only interested in sex and hallucinogens.”

What does it say on the back of last year’s SLUG T-shirt? Is it “I don’t rave fuck-face”? How about some techno in the pages of SLUG? For the fourth question in the series: have you played Mortal Kombat lately? “Voodoo-U,” the title and opening song duplicates the music from the game. Next on the agenda is the album’s graphics. You won’t find this album at Wal-Mart or K-Mart. There are naked women with devil’s tails pictured in a variety of compromising positions with members of the same sex.

The Lords of Acid make no attempt to hide their agenda. They are only interested in sex and hallucinogens. The songs on the album deal with the topics in varying degrees of explicitness and promotion. Each and every song is made to fill dance floors at the disco. I wonder if it’s allowed at the Edge in Provo? The music is not computer-generated; all instruments are played by humans.They are a secretive bunch and you can’t blame them now that the moral majority have taken power once again. I like the album. It’s good background music for chilling out with a violent, bloody video game after a hard day trapped in the ’70s. “Fight!” or is that “Fuck!” They are touring to support Voodoo-U. Do they dare visit Utah? –Chip Davis

Burnt Sienna Records

Ian Brennan
Toy Gun Murder Records

Girly Machine
BSRVC < 655

Three CDs that wound up on my doorstep—the fallout from the SLUG P.O. Box. Each comes from a tiny independent label, two are from Ohio and one is from San Francisco. All three renew my faith in the American underground. Major labels haven’t snatched up all the good bands. The first, Pet UFO, has me confused. Kevin, Byron, Tony and Souci make up the band. It would appear to be a three male, one female group. All the singing is done by a female. Most of the songs deal with love, loneliness and relationships from a female perspective. Souci is either a very dominant woman with the ability to alter her voice for choruses or Pet UFO are disguising their femininity with male names.

Pigasus is an album of three chord rock and roll that exists somewhere between the realm of thrash and garage. Songs like “Grover, Cleveland” are raw primitive thrash. Souci is in full hoarse voice for the angry lyrics describing her insecurity after losing at love once again. “Beef Product” is more of the same; the subject is boys. This girl can change from an angry growl to the voice of an angel in the same verse—vulnerable and enraged at the same time. Punk rock as an open wound that refuses to heal—L7, 7 Year Bitch and Stone Fox in their formative years.

Ian Brennan comes out of nowhere. I’ve never heard of him before this album. Paperboy was recorded in a studio, it has that by now tiring unplugged feel. Brennan is an electrified singer-songwriter or to use a term borrowed from more prestigious journals a “new folkie.” I’m sure someone, somewhere has already crowned him “Bob Dylan for a new generation.”

The instrumentation is spare, call it minimalistic. Brennan’s songs are about: a homeless man he calls neighbor, an autistic child who is his son, a guy bashing death, visiting the river where his brother drowned, an uncle who was electrocuted while trimming a tree, a daughter’s first steps witnessed by a stepfather, not a father and a juvenile murderer. Ian Brennan has his finger on the pulse of America like few I’ve ever run across. Listening to Ian Brennan sing his songs is an unnerving visit to reality.

Girly Machine are from Columbus, Ohio. Their music is reminiscent of Bauhaus and The Fall. It’s not quite goth, it’s not quite punk and it isn’t heavy enough for metal. The sound is closer to Britain than America. Andy Spencer is the man with the voice that gives the band their tone. Mark E. Smith, Ian Curtis and Peter Murphy clearly provided inspiration. I don’t know if it’s the mix or if I’m so jaded that drums are the only instrument I focus on anymore. On this album, the drums are crisp and melodic. Nothing especially new, experimental or exciting comes from the bass or guitars. When taken as a whole the music on the album ranks favorably with most major label releases of the last year. It is certainly better than Love Spit Love/Psych Furs reissue or Fretblanket. –Chip Davis

The Bottle Rockets
The Brooklyn Side
East Side Digital Records

Ass Poneys
Electric Rock Music
A&M Records

Start licking the lead on the fat kindergarten pencils as you compose another letter to SLUG. These aren’t punk, metal, alternative, industrial or whatever albums. They are underground country rock. I know your purple mohawks and bowl cuts are all on edge and you’ve hit the door in the Doc Martens looking for me. How dare SLUG write up country rock albums. Haven’t any of you heard of the Bottle Rockets? I didn’t think so. It’s underground fool. Exactly the point of this magazine.

The Ass Poneys are from the record company Herb Alpert formed. A band that will bring howls of displeasure from all the arm chair critics who believe that SLUG has lost its edge and there is no humor or interesting writing contained in the pages. The Ass Poneys have released their first album on a major label. The album will remain buried in the stacks even as the displays of Hell Freezes Over blind the eyes.

The Brooklyn Side is the second effort from Missouri natives The Bottle Rockets—you know, Nauvoo and the Carthage Jail. Just in case you think white trash underground country has nothing to do with the lives of SLUG readers, how about “Thousand Dollar Car”? If I’m not wrong a lot of you are driving around in just such a car. The Bottle Rockets hit it square with their description of a car that costs $1,000 to buy and another $1,000 to get running. “Idiot’s Revenge” is a song about one of those politically correct girls with a black leather jacket, hair in tatters and no makeup. Ever met one? Hell no, you either are one or you’re sleeping with one.

This is a punk rock album from some country boys. The attitudes, the sarcasm, the disenchantment with life in the ’90s—it’s all here. The only difference is the twang. “Take Me To The Bank” must be rockabilly, it sounds exactly like Chuck Berry. Everyone knows anything with ’50s roots is rockabilly. All the great rockabillies duck-walked across the stage. Kilbilly, the Bad Livers, the Bottle Rockets and countless others are doing this music. In Utah we are still trying to dig ourselves out from the shitpile of the ’80s reverting back to the ’70s. Who knows, maybe they’ll come to town and five or six of you can see them play. Good album boys. I’ve dug out my platform Fryes, my Big Bells and my flannel shirt and I’m smoking pot, drinking Boone’s Farm and eating mushrooms to the country rock of Bottle Rockets. It’s the latest trend.

In a desperate attempt to categorize, I’ll place the Ass Poneys in the cow-punk slot. Chuck Cleaver does Roger McQuinn/Neil Young impressions all over the album, even as his fellows crank out the rockin’ twang. John Erhardt plays slide, pedal steel and just plain guitar. Yes, it’s more of the ’70s everyone forgot about come back to haunt you. Information please! The ’70s weren’t all about disco, The Brady Bunch, Costello and the birth of arena rock. Country rock was big, very big in that much-maligned decade. The underground country rock resurgence has been going on for several years now. Isn’t it about time to catch up? Electric Rock Music is cow-punk or country rock or twangin’ rock or low-fi rock with country roots or whatever. Sebadoh, Pavement, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Palace Brothers, and Uncle Tupelo devotees are welcomed into the world of the Ass Poneys (Please see above).

Go have a listen to either album at stores letting you listen to anything for free, then head across the street to save big dollars on the purchase — if they have it in stock. therwise, check the used stores for a promo at less than half price. Both albums kicks Neil Young’s ass-poney. In other words they’re not a “Piece Of Crap.” –Wa

Nativity In Black
Shared Visions
Tulare Dust
Melody Fair
The World of the Zombies

What do all of the above album titles have in common? Can’t guess? They’re all tribute albums. They are reviewed in descending order of desirability. Tulare Dust is a tribute to Merle Haggard, the second of two and the only one to buy. Forget the hat singers, drug store cowboys and soft rockers trying to do Haggard. Tulare Dust is filled with the names and songs that honestly pay tribute. Iris DeMent I worship. The same goes for Joe Ely, Dwight Yoakum, Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams, Billy Joe Shaver, John Doe and Dave Alvin. They and more cover lesser known Haggard tunes for the best country tribute album of the year. A hell of a lot better than last year’s winner: Songs For Applying Preparation H — A Tribute To The Eagles.

Second is Melody Fair. How dare they pay tribute to the Bee Gees, possibly the worst group to ever record in the ’70s. But hold on—the Bee Gees had a career before the ’70s and that is the music this CD focuses on. All the underground fab combos you’ve never heard of do fine interpretations of that mellow, Aussie, Bee Gees sound of the ’60s. Young Fresh Fellows, Dramarama, The Fastbacks, Material Issue, The Sneetches, UK, and the Insect Surfers all turn in splendiferous performances of Bee Gees tunes no one except little boomer girls now grown to menopause age can remember. The best song on the disc is the Insect Surfers doing “Massachusetts” as a surf instrumental? Stellar!

Finishing third in a virtual tie with number two is The World of the Zombies. What the hell, you say, an entire album dedicated to those one-hit wonders? Why isn’t it an EP? Well, the Zombies were a British Invasion group and even though they only released two albums their legacy lives on in the twisted minds of Seattle residents. Can you blame them with all the hype we’ve heard from that city over the last few years? The Young Fresh Fellows, the Sneetches and the Fastbacks return from their mysterious encounter with the Bee Gees to do some Zombies tunes. The Posies, Flop, the Model Rockets, and the Steam Kings all pitch in to pay tribute to the long lost art of the Zombies. Sorry, really the only song most “oldies” folks will recognize is “She’s Not There.” Have a listen to American groups doing the British Invasion you’ve never heard. Buy it.

There are two Black Sabbath tribute albums out there. This is the major label one with all the famous bands contributing. Two bad Ozzy didn’t catch rabies from the bat. What are Therapy? doing collaborating with him? “Let’s massacre ‘Iron Man.’ What do you say wankers?” There are some great covers on here. White Zombie Biohazard, Corrosion of Conformity, and Type O Negative are worthy of more than one listen. Fuck Ugly Kid Joe and Bruce Dickinson. Go back to your spandex glam boys. Pick up a promo cheap. Look for the other tribute album if you are a serious Sabbath fan and must pay full price for covers.

God, must we? What genius came up with this Beatles tribute thing. The Rutles did it better many years ago, then there was the Rhino collector’s treasure that’s never been transferred to CD. Elton John doing “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”? Rod Stewart singing “Get Back”? Kathy Mattea covering “I Will”? Excuse me while I vomit. How about we just skip this one? I’m sure Ringo and Paul lent their full support, George just said, “Who cares,” and John, the only one with the sense to stop it, is dead. Now, let’s be done with the tribute and covers obsession and get on with composing a few original tunes. –Wa

Read more from the SLUG Archives:
Record Review: June 1993
Record Review: November 1992