Record Reviews: July 1991

National Music Reviews

This Mortal CoilBlood

“Well, I really enjoy music that evokes sadness. That doesn’t mean at the end of a perfectly normal day I think it’s wise to go and end the day feeling totally depressed. That’s not remotely what I feel.”

Ivo Watts-Russell.

The long awaited third and final release by 4AD “house band” This Mortal Coil, is by far the most poignant and heartfelt of the three releases. Feeding on the “sadness” described by Ivo, Blood delves into new shades of gray and dances about in the shadows, through shafts of light varying in intensity and depth.

Like the previous two albums, Blood is a mixture of original songs and obscure cover tunes. “Blood” features songs by the unlikely artist Syd Barrett, Chris Bell (from Bigstar), Mary Margaret O’Hara and Randy California as well as former 4AD artist Pieter Nooten (of Clan Of Xymox). Songs are linked by instrumentals and samples, giving the feeling of a complete work as opposed to a collection of individual pieces. Featured artist include Kim Deal (Pixies), Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses), Dominic Appleton (Breathless), Tim Freeman (Frazier Chorus) and Caroline Crowley (Sheelyan Orphan). According to Ivo, “It’s supposed to be the point for people involved in this project that they’re given a vehicle for their expression that is different from what they would normally do,” and Blood is the perfect vehicle to showcase these talents in a unique and unusual way. Stripped of power and ego, laying their souls bare, these artist delve deep inside themselves  and come up with some of the most beautiful and touching work to surface in the past decade.

Of the stand-out pieces on Blood, the strongest is “I Come and Stand at Every Door.” Starting with a long voice, the song builds musically as it does lyrically. Strings are added, drums are loosed and a chorus of voices sing the final strains as a seven year old victim of Hiroshima pleads for peace in a world of apathy. The song typifies the work of This Mortal Coil and the overall feel of the records the 4AD project has recorded. Emotion becomes song, pouring from the stereo and grabbing hold of the listeners hearts and minds.

With pre-release orders in America numbering around 25,000 copies, This Mortal Coil’s Infamy will spread further, reaching a larger and more diverse audience in the States. The demise of TMC leaves us anxious for Ivo’s next project, but the farewell bidding is one that will long be with it’s listeners.

“Dreams are like water; colourless and dangerous…”

Jello BiafraI Blow Minds For A Living

I know, you’re all getting sick of me touting Jello’s virtues. Tough shit, since this is one you cannot miss!

If you only one spoken word album in your life, make it this one, Jello’s bear.

Not only are superb updates of “Die for Oil, Sucker” and the “Pledge of Allegiance” included, but truly chilling discussions of censorship and marijuana are included.

For example, on the former subject, Biafra (a.k.a. Eric Boucher) blasts those so-called “liberal” hypocrites who would censor Two-Live Crew without realizing their similarities to their so-called “foes.” On the latter, it’s been said before how much this country used to rely on hemp production, but no so succinctly.

Best of all are Biafra’s comparisons of George Bush to Adolf Hitler. I know that once I would have found such allegations to be paranoid rantings of a lunatic, but things I’ve learned have changed my tune. You owe it to yourself and your country to listen to Jello Biafra, at least before civil rights are all gone.

Skinner BoxThe Playhouse 

Skinner Box is the dream-filled fantasy world of Julianna Towns. Town’s play house alternates between pillars of light with breezes of cool wind and dark corners with shifting shadows, crawling with unknowable life. The music changes with childlike whims from the sing-sing, rope-skipping melodies to the strange demons that riddle one’s mind. Full of unusual noises and whisper, “The Playhouse” is another world where illusions and reality dance together in beautiful and grotesque forms.

“Always Dear Iris” is a demented waltz with the interplay of two music box rhythms in the background. It is two lovers dancing closely in the moonlight to an unseen orchestra; music that bursts from their hearts, full of uncertainty and obscurity that plagues romances.

“Lotus Land” has amazing keyboard parts; the endless flow of rolled notes and runs as Towns’ fingers glide over the piano. Written in the 1950s, it has the seamy feel of a smoke filled blues joint, evoking deep feelings, while tempting the listeners to tap their toes.

Towns’ musical talent seems limitless as she writes her music, plays keyboards, flute, strings, drums, and then adds her breathy, mellow vocals which emanate forth as sighs, lazily spilling from her mouth over the background she creates. 

The SkatenigsChemical Imbalance

Anyone who caught the guys opening for the Revolting Cocks knows how hard these Texans rage.

Supposedly named from a skateboard enthusiast magazine that can’t spell, it’s not surprising that one of the two songs sounds strikingly like a cross between Ministry and the Cocks.

“Chemical Imbalance” opens with a chilling spoken word, prose poem by one Lorri Jackson, a now-departed friend of the Nigs. That icy intro leads into a menacing industrial roar replete with Billy Skatenig’s dead-on Alain Jourgensen imitation. It’s a stunner.

The second number blends a funk groove into a the mix and Billy’s vocals are a little more varied this time. This one takes a little more time for appreciation, but this is where the Nigs future lies. Don’t miss this one! Also, these guys are opening Ministry’s world tour starting in October. Need I say more? 

FishboneThe Reality of My Surroundings

Remember England’s “Three Angry Young Men” – Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson and Graham Parker? Well now America has it’s “Three Angry Young Black Bands”—Living Colour, 24-7 Spyz and Fishbone.

The latter, the best of the three, has released it’s best album of its career, a sprawling masterpiece mixing ski, funk, hip-hop, hard rock and punk into a consistent hybrid.

Unlike Living Colour, whose songs start sound the same after a while, and 24-7 Spyz, who are frustratingly inconsistent, the Bones never make the same album twice. This one is their “political” album – their “Green,” if you will—blasting apathy (the metallic “Fight the Youth”), media figures (one particular “If I Were A…I’d” hilariously pans Ollie North) and the prospects of nuclear holocaust (“Sunless Saturday”).

That’s not to say the album is a downer, though. Unlike Peter Gabriel and Sting, these dudes do have a sense of humor, as the “If I Were A…I’d” series and “Nasty Man” can attest to.

Producing themselves for the first time, the Bones flex all the muscles in their musical repertoire. The Reality of My Surroundings is a mature, solid work that puts these guys into rock’s heavyweight category. Let’s hope these guys make a tour stop here. 

BrainstormLet Me Forget and Awake 7inch

After listening to this a few dozen times, I must say I’m really beginning to enjoy this one!

Let Me Forget—slow, but intense, some seriously heavy stuff. Damn good lyrics too: “I guess I trusted too much / and people let me down.” Great guitar and bass lines. Lie down in the dark and absorb this one.

“Awake”—Faster, though not as catchy as “Let Me Forget.” Nevertheless, most good. Many a changing rhythm, some dan good bass, groovy fills, Nice ending! So, uh, time to go pick this one up at Raunch. Do it!

Alice DonutRevenge Fantasies of The Impotent 

Oh How I jumped for joy upon discovering “War Pigs” to be a track on Donut’s newest! After witnessing them do this live, I think I was never to hear it again. Alas, I was wrong.

Along with “War Pigs” are nine other band new tunes. Wow. “Rise To The Skin,” actually not totally disgusting (lyric wise, of course). Pretty clean, good melody and not too much extra ka ka thrown in.

“Come Up With Your Hands Out,” a lovely little ditty put to groovy, jazz-like music, about your psycho grandma.

Generally slower than older Donut, yet no reason to dislike it. Tom’s still pumping out them crazy lyrics with that cool/almost annoying but not quite voice of his. I like it, I like it…but they’re more fun live.

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