Record Reviews: April 1991
The Real Ramona
Even if there weren’t two males in the Throwing Muses they would never be the typical “girl group”, more concerned about their make up hair than their actual music. Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly, the songwriters in the band (although one song on the new album is credited to THROWING MUSES), are real women fronting a rock’n’roll band. And the female point of view comes out in their writing as well.
From the opening licks of “Counting Backwards” to the final dreamy notes of the sleepy-eyed “Two Step,” this album is filled with clever guitar licks that range from raunchy to reveling.
To really appreciate what the Muses do, listen to the second track, “Him Dancing.” Recorded live, the only microphone that was set up was for Kristin’s vocals. The instruments are clear and the sound is crisp on the recording; a good reflection of the Muses live.
Shifting to and fro from harder tunes to softer, The Real Ramona has a balance of great songs that are both unconventionally catchy and clever. Some of the harder songs are “Golden Thing,” “Ellen West,” “Hook in her Head,” “Say Goodbye” and the single “Counting Backwards.” “Say Goodbye is an extension of a short piece from Hunkpapa, “… A short song that became a long song.” Verses have been added, but the biggest change is the heavy nature of the song. It’s changed from an acoustical interlude to an all out musical assault. “Say Goodbye/kick her legs/kick her down.”
But the most highly charged song is “Hook in her Head.” Just by the title the song grabs your attention. As it progresses and turns into an all out guitar-jam, you feel as the hook has changed heads and is now a hood in your own head. There’s something equally charming and disturbing to hear Kristin sing, “He’s a fuckin’ drag/but if you don’t then you watch him go” or “My mouth is full of demons/I swear to god,” from the song “Ellen West.”
On the softer side are “Him Dancing,” “Red Shoes,” “Dylan,” “Not Too Soon,” “Honeychain,” and “Two Step.” “Honeychain” is very appealing with its sticky sweet harmonies and buzzing guitars. It has a soft, sing-song feel to it, like children skipping rope to a rhyme.
The complexity and abstract nature of Throwing Muses is what gives them an edge and distinguishes them from any other band around. They have found a way to twist musical genres until they turn or break and become their own highly individualized style.
(But let’s face it, they’re not ugly!)
Out next month on 4AD— cross those fingers— Time by Wolfgang Press, Chlorine Dream by Espirea X, a recent signing featuring Jim Beattie of Primal Scream, and in late April, Blood, the long awaited double album from This Mortal Coil.
This new Darling Buds is the hardest, most ambitious sound to date by the band. They released Erotic Plays for with their new single “It Makes No Difference”, plus 3 new songs recorded especially from this release. This is the best Darling Buds yet.
The D.B.s have been called a “pop” band. If this is true, pop is taking a change for the better. They have a new rhythm section which is distinctly more powerful than on ear- 1ierreleases.They manage to bedirty but sexy and sleek at the same time. Sleek I say.
The guitar work on this is exceptionally hard and grungy for the Buds. It truly can drive you at times, it often will give you flashes of The Jesus And Mary Chain. This harder sound is due to the fact that Harley (guitar) finally got his wish and was able to use his amplifier this time around.
I give a couple of thumbs up for this combination of stylish pop and psychedelic feedback. If only they would have released the other three songs on their album, Wunderkinds. But if you want to hear them, they will soon be available on an import-only cassette release through Columbia Records.
What? Another Morrissey album? So soon?
Yes, some will jump for joy, others will turn their heads and wretch. Morissey’s latest effort Kill Uncle was released earlier this month. It takes everyone by surprise until you remember that last fall’s release, Bona Drag, was merely a compilation of singles and B-sides. Kill Uncle is the first actual studio album since 1988’s Viva Hate (what the hell is with these two word titles? Viva Hate? Bona Drag? Kill Uncle? Try Again!!).
Morrissey must have felt a tad guilty for suckering everyone into buying the singles (7 total) only to compile them later on one disc. Hence the new album released only 4 months later.
Morrissey is famous for lineup changes, and this album is no different. Mark C. Nevin, the new guitarist and collaborator (at least for this album), is a Vini Reilly friend and protegee (Vini is frontman for Durutti Column and was the guitarist on Viva Hate). Reaching into tl now defunct Madness lineup, Morissey pulls out Bedders (Mark Bedford) as the album’s bass player. Too bad he gets no limelight—-most every song has only a two or three-note bass line. Finally, Andrew Paresi stays on as drummer.
As for the album, we find Morrissey metamorphosed from modern music guru to cocktail lounge crooner. Gone are the catchy guit, pop hooks. They are replaced by heavy keyboards and orchestration. The tempo has changed as well—-the majority of the songs on the album are lethargic and plodding.
“Our Frank”, the first single starts off the album. The song is lackluster except for the salsa-style piano playing that embellishes it.
“Sing Your Life” is a catchy, boppy tune (albeit formulaic) where Morissey calls for people everywhere to approach the mike and sing from the heart. Other solid songs include “Found Found Found”, a typical Morrissey anthem of despair which could have easily have found its way onto Strangeways Here We Come (the farewell Smiths album), and “End of the Family Line”, where Morrissey boasts of his celibacy and how it will wreck the family tree (with incredible style, he adds).
But these are the good, upbeat songs—-the songs with energy. The fact remains that most of the album consists of slow, smoke-filled room ballads. These songs do showcase Morrissey’s ever-improving voice but musically they are shallow and uninteresting.
This album is no Viva Hate. Its new direction will perhaps appeal to Smiths/Morrissey disciples but will make few new fans. If musical trends found on Kill Uncle continue, we may soon find our Manchurian narcissist opening with Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormet for the Sinatra tour (if he’s lucky).
The Complete Recordings
Robert Johnson’s influence as a guitarist in progressive rock circles is absolutely astounding. This compilation of the blues artist’s entire recorded work consist of 41 tracks which document his short career. These have obviously served as the basis of many bands’ careers.
Considering that the recordings date from 1936 to 1937, they are of fine quality. The very idea that they have endured since a time when technology was underdeveloped is a miracle within itself. The time period from which this dates was one where such recordings were “race records – another casual attempt at trying to capitalize on the blues,” according to the biography which accompanies the double set package. In addition, many of America’s finest blues artists came from this period, induding Sonny Boy Williamson II, Howlin’ Wolf, and Elmore James. However, none have enjoyed the notoriety that Johnson has, much which comes from his murder in July of 1938.
The Complete Recordings is essential for anyone interested in the birthright of modern American music. The accomplishments made by this incredible guitarist/vocalist/songwriter set the standard for his many emulators to come. This preservation of this legend will serve as evidence of the inspiration for many musicians, past and present.
SISTERS OF MERCY
Coming from the “You how you’re in trouble when…” department, the latest release from the
Sisters of Mercy is a pretty dispirited effort. Well over two years since the last release from Andrew Eldrich (and whomever you desire to fill the blanks with), this week’sline-up boasts former Sigue Sigue Sputnik / Generation X-er Tony James no less.
Musically, it’s post-gothic disco which will have KJQ deejays and its avid listeners rabid with delight.
Overlooking the accessible and readily commercial aspects of this disgusting release, I would probably say that I’d deal with a serious case of the skids before I wiped my ass with this record. Besides, couldn’t distinguish which was shit. I could tell you which would sound better.
My advice is to skip over the Milk Beast Fodder and search out some of the earlier 7 and 12-inch releases, which stand as this band’s finest accomplishments.
Die For Oil, Sucker – 7”
JELLO BIAFRA and NOMEANSNO
The Sky Is Falling (And I Want My Money)
Finally, in the same year we get both a Jello Biafra spoken word and musical recording!
The first is the definitive word on the whole Persian Gulf mess—inducing a displayable poster for those with enough courage to display their anti-war sentiments. Biafra has never been more caustic and funny—witness his “an $800,000 Batplane and it doesn’t even work,” which I’ve quoted to death for friends.
On the second side is Biafra’s chilling “Pledge of Allegiance,” first heard in Ministry‘s “In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up,” the live home video. Awesome.
Biafra’s other release, a team-up with Canadian punk’s Nomeansno, was spawned from recording sessions for the Terminal City Ricochet soundtrack.
Though at first the album is a bit underwhelming, it does have a certain rakish charm— especially the sardonic “Jesus was a Terrorist.”
By the second side, the band seems to have found Biafra’s perfect complement, including eerie guitars that would make former DK‘s axeman East Bay Ray envious (especially on “Chew”). Chilling.
Note: Don’t miss Nomeansno when they play The Pompadour on April 5. All the cool young punks will be there—will you?
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