April 1990 - Issue 16 SLUG Mag masthead

Record and Tape Reviews: April 1990

National Music Reviews

Fractal Method
Old and New Stuff

Sheez, I feel like Robin Hood having to borrow, barter or buy all these tapes and platters. Finally, one comes my way free of charge! Regardless, it’s not available for public consumption but deserves to be explicated. The “new stuff” I’ll just equate to a paranormal phenomenon that eschews conventionalism (a lot of imagination and sagacity in use here). “Death Ray,” “Ruby Warrior,” “Passage” and “Look in Your Eyes” envelope concealed regions of comprehension and violate boundaries of hidden spaces. I marvel at Fractal’s skilled faculty and aptitude that translated the chosen concept so extraordinarily well. Clarke is gifted with ingenuity and craftsmanship and I can only exalt his endeavor. A pacesetter that can’t be bypassed, if you haven’t already picked up Fractal Method’s demo (which is at Indy Stores), it’s recommended with honors. The demo sees the most playing time on my tape deck. Also on heavy rotation is the illustrious Skinny Puppy. The common facet between S.P. and F.M. is their post-apocalyptic, industrial classification. The problem with Skinny Puppy is the monotonous beat pattern analogous to a stuck-in-the-rut treadmill of redundancy. Concentration strays upon frequent listening of Skinny Puppy but not with the feverish pitch of Fractal Method and its multiplicity of timbre.

Included with the “new stuff” are some covers. Fractal also manages to transform perishable songs like “Venus In Furs” and “Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)” into works of art. I’ve given it much thought and deliberation and the best description I’ll attach to Fractal Method is Metaphysical Music Cognizance. Look it up, it fits. I believe in giving credit where credit is due and Grover merits a sizable chunk of it. It’s exciting to find such stimulating and intrepid music in the making right here on our home front. A toast to Clarke and Fractal Co. for the great music!

Blind Mime Ensemble
Vox Populi

Seldom do I find myself so apprehensive about undertaking a critique. But how can I do justice to the inventive Blind Mime Ensemble? Vox Populi is doing all those melodious and tangible things that superficial pop and its derivative forms aren’t presently. Plus giving it that authentic radical twist!

Just who is the man behind this adventurous soulful voice? The proficient and multifaceted Bryan Baker. A weaver of tales, hopes, discontents, aspirations and augmented deliver at the apex of emotion. Call me maudlin (I know you will) but my soul takes flight whenever I hear Vox Populi.

Baker and his collaborative ensemble (Joe Maki, Wayne Baker, Brian Cantell, Cara Marie Baker, Gregg Allen and Cleo the demented Basset Hound) have the uncanny ability to mirror life and its many stories. And in turn, recording and capturing these tales in a cassette memoir. There’s a certain crime of passion in “I Didn’t Start The War” (god the truth butchers!) Other excellent pieces are the ironic “Black and White Rainbows,” “Dancing In a Minefield,” “The Joker Laughs at You” and “Pantomime for the Blind” which has but one fault — it’s too short (give me more!). However, the capricious “Footprints” (my fave song) has just the right incline, suspense, emotive pulse and ending! Besides songs, there are also some superb instrumental works like in “Ghost Hunting,” “Blush” and “Pendulum” (to name a few) that warrant acclaim and critical approval for their airy, livid refrains.

Mr. Baker, my music library and I think you’re a real lifesaver and genius in which to deify… undauntingly! Even The Beatles would be proud of your liberating pop. Don’t be any rank-and-file fool, get B.M.E.’s Vox Populi at Imagine Music, Budget or Grunts and Postures. You’ll feel ageless and indefatigable when you do. And by god, what a mighty feeling!!

The Living End
Road Shock

After four months of “road shock,” The Living End said at their live show that they were immune to liquor by that point. Despite the claim, they didn’t play like brain-soaked burn-outs. Just the opposite! They are terrific live! My initial reaction at the start of their set was “Ah-oh, not a swanky glam metal band?!” The house cleared after the B.C. kids but I began to give them a chance to listen. Really listen. Then I felt bad that the crowd was so scanty. Why? Because live performance is their forte. And they were thanking us for sticking around??? We should thank them for playing such a good, energetic and long set. A small bunch of dancers were sweating-n-shaking away. Lead singer Adam Bomb Segal had all the right Ian Astbury Cult-ish footwork, moves and personal charm. In fact, the entire band doesn’t carry that metalish bloated ego so prevalent to most. During the last song they did something that put a giant grin on my face—it was a sight I’ll never forget. They jumped off stage still playing their instruments and mingled with the dancers. Soon the dancers got up on stage and jammed out! Now that’s what I call breaking the audience-performer divide. Cool! All that and a free record single to anyone at the show. The Living End deserves a more welcome reception next time they come back (if they do).

         Unfortunately, I can’t endorse their record material as heartily.  The tape Road Shock is fun, it has alternative substance and esoteric messages (for example the phallic “Let Go My Bone” and inner-eye personification “I Am The City”). Nor am I damning them fully. The trouble is that measure-for-measure, the emitting stanzas are repetitive in the music. The recurring chords need more changes—or at least to compress the phrasing. Variation needed. My comprehensive view of The Living End is that this is a decent band that could stand in a new direction. Live? Oh yes. A must-see!

Bad Yodelers

I have been hearing for years about this Bad Yodelers tape that has been floating around, but I never actually heard it. Needless to say, I was quite pleased when Dan Keough, in his most humble way, handed me a tape and asked me to review it. I hope it doesn’t seem like we are kicking a dead cat by pulling this out for a review, but it is a great tape that everyone should own.

It has a few of the songs that are now on I Wonder (their full-length album on Running Records) except it features Karl Alverez on vocals instead of Terrance. The songs are great even then, it has whole different energy. Bad Yodelers, fortunately, have not changed their style of music all that much but it is much tighter and smoother now. Plus the new “Fine Tone” amps they are using have given them music a great crunch. Pick one up at Raunch, supplies are limited.
-Ness Lessman


Check out more reviews here:
Tape and Record Reviews: March 1990
Local Music Singles Roundup: May 2022