Record Reviews: September 1993
Grafted To An Elbow
With a name like Bliss, I expected another of those 4AD/Cocteau Twins dreamland bands. Bliss is from Canada, not England The album was recorded and engineered by Steve Albini, and he was the perfect choice.
Albini does some of his best work when he is producing a band he can understand. He should have an understanding of this band since they sound like they are from Chicago, not Montreal. Big Black was Albini’s band such asThe Jesus Lizard and Tar took their influence from Big Black and from the sound of Bliss, they do too. The surprise: They aren’t recording for Touch and Go Records.
The heavy, sometimes funk inspired bass, is present. The guitar is at times distorted other times minimalist and most of the time relies on feedback to get the point across. Combined with the white noise is vocalist Dave Bryant, who is another one of those paint-peelers when he’s inspired to really howl. What would a noise band be without a power drummer? Colin Burnett provides the rolls, fills and thumping.
I can’t make much sense of the lyrics as there is a certain lack of coherence to the printed words. “Mastubaster” a dead monkey and a tongue sliding down the wrong spine. “Vision” begins with sex on a table and ends with regret for not kissing a father before his head was shot out and “Catalina Au Revoir” has the sun not shining out of an ass and later, chainsaw penises are cutting down all the trees.
Whatever the thoughts that went into the lyrics, this is one of those albums I always hope for—pure loud rhythmic noise. Parts of this album sounds like some of Nirvana‘s noisiest stuff. Maybe Albini worked on this before the new Nirvana, and he tried to make Nirvana more Blissful.
The Last Dance
Maybe Cleopatra and the Last Dance are aware that even during Salt Lake City’s long hot summers, with the sun burning skin to various shades of brown and darker brown, white-faced individuals can dress in black and easily identifiable and can keep that pearly complexion when the temperature approaches 90 degrees is way beyond me.
One of the latest from the Cleopatra label is Rosetta Stone with their new album Adrenaline. Draw the shades, crank the air conditioner up to maximum, turn out the lights and find the black or blood-red dess — this is dark, chilling music.
What better opening for a goth album than a song titled “Shadow.” Mix a snippet of this hard rhythm at the next rave. “Adrenaline” reached the indie top ten in England, but “The Witch” is a better song. The scratchy violin opening and breaks kick. Call it a cliche, but this album has samples of The Lord’s Prayer combined with a priest reciting an exorcism.
Porl King is the singer/guitarist, and he has the voice. Peter Murphy hasn’t touched this in years. Karl North plays bass and “Madame Razor” (the nickname of their drum and synth machine) provides that scratchy violin along with drumming and piano. If you need a “goth” fix this summer, find the Cleopatra albums Usherhouse, The Whip and Adrenaline. As far as I can tell The Last Dance and their cassette Angel was released by the band.
The vocalist, Jeff Diehm, doesn’t have the deep resonance of Porl King. He does an audible job with what he has. He is aching in despair, depressed and lonely he longs for some joy in “Again To Heaven” and “Crown Of Thorns.” The first has the tempo, while the second is a slow painful ballad.
“Country” is an anti-war song. Finally, with “Angel,” love is found. “Falling” describes actually falling in love with the angel. Jesus died for man?
The Last Dance sees man’s downfall in “Crashing Down.” Overall, it isn’t a bad job for a self-release. It’s dark and ethereal and filled with angst. However, its light on dance tracks and the slower stuff tends to drag. The tape is well worth the five bucks for goth hounds.
Love and Pain
In goth circles, this band is legendary. They released two albums and broke up. Love and Pain is their “lost” third album. lt was recorded in 1985 and never released — until now. Along with the “lost” material are two tracks from the Super Heroines earliest days and three live tracks.
The line-up when this album was recorded consisted of Eva O on vocals and guitar, Jill Emery on vocals and bass and Cathy Flanga on the drums. Eva O is now a member of Shadow Project with Christian Death vocalist Rozz Williams. Jill Emery, who briefly was a member of Hole is also currently a member of Shadow Project.
The album could be taken as a blatant attempt to capitalize on the current popularity of the all-girl “riot girl” bands; it is an all girl band and one member played with Courtney herself, but let the music stand on its own.
True to their collectability as a goth band, elements of goth are present in the music, but the album refuses to fit firmly into the gothic category. For one thing, the playing and production are far too raw to satisfy the night dancers. More fitting would be a room full of sweaty shirtless jocks slamming into each other with the sound of crunching bones.
The six songs recorded for the original Love and Pain album are marginally more accessible than the thoroughly crude early and live material. The press release and liner note references to L7, Babes In Toyland, Huggy Bear and 7 Year Bitch are well deserved. The militant feminist viewpoint is not as fully developed. “Children Of The Light” and “Remembering Love” have the goth themes of light, darkness and pain, but “Remembering Love” would please a hard core headbanger with Cathy’s thundering drums and Eva O’s heavy metal riffing. —WA