Record & Tape Reviews: December 1991


His Name Is Alive

Home Is In Your Head


Livonia, Michigan’s His Name Is Alive delivers their second album on 4AD, and shows that they weren’t just a one shot deal. The second record takes all the innovation of the first and expands upon it, making a new album that is even more intricate and alive than the first. His Name Is Alive was formed from remnants of punk-a-billy’s Elvis Hitler, with some of the guitar roughness kept intact, but blended over female vocal harmonies and quiet guitar chimings. The record has a certain schizophrenic quality, in that there are noisy, fast guitar riffs thrown in the middle of the softer patches. Overall, there is a fluidity that carries the record from the beginning to end. And the surprise riffs keep you guessing as to what direction the band will go in next.

Home Is In Your Head is made up of twenty-three “songs,” some of which amount to thirty second spots of harmony or noise. These shorter pieces add variety to the record as well as serving as shifts in mood. Some of the most interesting songs are those such as “The Well,” that are just vocal, guitar and bass. The simplicity of the music is a nice complement to the more intricate pieces such as “Dreams Are More Of The Body” and “Are We Still Married?”

So put your finger in your eye and get a copy of Home Is In Your Head. You’ll find that you’re not as far from home as you might have thought.

Heidi Berry



After two successful solo albums on Creation Records, Heidi Berry releases her latest record on 4AD. Admittedly, it’s taken me a while to like this album, but now I find myself listening to it everyday.

Berry’s music seems fairly conventional at first. What really grabs your ears is Berry’s delicate voice, which rises like a whisper over the acoustic guitar and piano that form the basis of the songs. Whether it’s the sweetness of voice or the soft melodies that rise from the stereo, this record pulls you in and lulls you into a state of childlike ecstasy. Berry does elegant harmonies with her own lead vocals that add depth and charm to the record.

Hidden behind the joy is also an element of angst. Berry sings out lines like “Some of us life too fast / Some of us die too young / And some are destroyed / By all they might have done.” She also asks the profundity: “How much misery can one soul take / Trying to fly away could have been your first mistake.” The harshness of ponderings like these is softened by their delivery and become musings on the human condition rather than explosions of anger.

Love is one of those records that becomes more meaningful on each listening. The jon of the listener is to remain patient, soaking in the feelings Berry portrays and letting them full the ears until they find refuge in one’s head and heart.

While two of Epitaph’s artists (buoyed by the label’s alternative punk kingpins, Bad ReligionDown By Law) visited the church named after a hairstyling phenomenon, we (yes, me and the Epitaph exec who paid me to write this junk, who I shall refer to as “Deep Throat”) decided that late is better than never for a few notes pulled straight from bio sheets.



Cruising to be LA punk’s answer to King Missile, this gem has enough unkempt attitude and “life from the Armpit Hotel” diatribes to send the listener to the shower, scouring the skin with scalding water and steel wool, believing it possible that athlete’s foot and crabs could be transmitted from these mutt’s hands and loins to your CD (especially if Epitaph is experiencing any double-duty financial difficulties). Songs like “New Boobs” and “Together On The Sand” take punk’s lyrical insurgency and twist it to bedpan humor. Ribbed is rockabilly at 78 speed taking a beefy guitar riff and hanging on for dear life as it beats your resistance to speed against a likable Toy Dolls-ian, mob-rules splendor. Unimposing at less than 30 minutes, but hardly the kind of thing you’d want sleeping in your bed or borrowing your toothbrush.

Down By Law

Doom By Law

All-descendant, Dave Smalley, carries Down By Law’s debut to dim-witted corners already exposed by other articles vocal tweedlers—from Dinosaur Jr. to Firehose. Yet, bassist Ed Urlik and drummer Dave Nazworthy (both ex Chemical People) take Smalley’s incongruous peace n punk warble and pack it tight into a gelatinous slab of musical head cheese, serving it up with a surprisingly adroit array of balance and ingenuity. “Dreams Away” and “The Once” defiantly drop Smalley’s hope for tomorrow into a vat of spare fat parts where it belongs. Thankfully, Down By Law no longer clings to punk party lines of anarchy and antagonis—feeding the clash with fluidity that comes with maturity and trodden causes. 



The youngsters of Epitaph, these California surfers claim to sport quite a following—it’s easy to hear why—faster, harder and more musically carnal than their labelmates…Pennywise are the perfect companion to power saws. However, take a look at the lyrics and the love affair looks like Tyne Daly. Succumbing to metalastic, paranoiac impressionism—Pennywise could be Antrax—with a little more leather and a 15 ft dildo. Named for Stephen King’s sinister, centuries old clown in IT. Pennywise have a lot of explaining to do that simply gets generalized in straight edge realty…really, no excuses for the mundane. This album is at best, uninspired punk party music, that, nonetheless, can leave you as defenseless as a Depends-wearer on a golf course with no protection.

Pearl Jam


Well, I think I’ve found my “Best Album of the Year” winner. “Why?” you ask. Well, because Ten, the debut release from Seattle’s powerful Pearl Jam, has everything you have ever wanted in an album. Ranging from bluesy strumming, to tight metal, along with beautiful, harmonious lyrics, this album opens the mind and lets your soul dance in celebration. Excellent production has gone into this effort as well as mixing rockin’ sounds with large overtones of cello and acoustic guitar. A piano can even be heard here and there.

Wimpy is certainly not a word in my vocabulary when describing the energy radiated from this collection of songs that are written straight from the heart. The end result is an LP that keeps the momentum of contemplation going and makes you feel good at the same time. Do you want love songs? You want childhood memories? You want anger? Are you looking for answers to life’s little quirks? Pearl Jam is what you need to hear.

Tom Purdue

Darkest America

Having seen this young man get up on stage and dance with a mannequin, I jut had to pick up a copy of his debut cassette, Darkest America. Expecting to be mildly amused and entertained, the cover photo of Mr. Clean-cut drumming on steel-belted radial did nothing to dissuade my expectations. Once in my tape deck, however, Darkest America amazed me with its dark lyrics, dancy backbeats, and interesting samples. If this is a debut effort, bring on the sequels!

Especially intriguing on this 8-song cassette are its lyrics. Although naive by some standards (“Feeling like some acting mime / She takes up more than half your time / Don’t care cause she’s worth more / What are those girls for?”), Purdue’s vocals convey an innocence which make the lyrics convincing and portray a range of emotions from suicidal despair (“Heaven’s Open Wide”) to mourning innocence lost (“Felt Good”).

The production quality and musicianship of Darkest America are also noteworthy. Although not mentioned on the package, the sound quality makes it apparent the Darkest America was not produced in somebody’s basement using amature equipment. Essentially a one-person effort, Purdue’s proficiency with vocals, synthesizer and percussion practically force listeners to their feet, even if to disco dance.

The best number on the cassette also features Sean Young on guitar. “Felt Good: sounds like nothing I have ever heard before, and is both totally predictable and touchingly familiar at the same time. Upbeat, bizarre tempo, strange vocals and downright weird lyrics (“Scarlet sky turned a sickly yellow / The ghost of my being was dead”) makes me want to hear this song, and, indeed, the entire tape over and over again.

Darkest America is possibly the best debut effort from a local band in a long time. It’s a nifty little package with professional production and great music. I suggest that you head for your favorite indy outlet and get one of your own real soon!

For more from the SLUG Archives:

Notes From The Industrial Underground: December 1991

Books & Literature: November 1991