Record Reviews: March 1993
Where do you start when talking about Shonen Knife? The lore surrounding them is already pretty thick: three Japanese girls form a guitar/bass/drums band in 1981, influenced by 3–chord punk, The Beatles/girl-group harmonies and sci-fi/TV theme songs. They write catchy songs about bison, public baths and various foods, play ineptly and sing in broken English and Japanese, all without a touch of pretense. The Ramones meets The Cowsills meets Josie and the Pussycats.
Several indie albums follow, a worldwide cult following appears and the rest is history: Nirvana picks them as the opening act on their European tour, Sonic Youth and Redd Kross pee themselves like over stimulated puppies in their Knifemania and over 20 indie-label bands contribute Shonen Knife cover songs for a tribute album.
Let’s Knife is Shonen Knife’s major-label debut, a 17-song compilation of new and old songs from their four indie-label releases. If you haven’t heard the band, Let’s Knife is a good place to start. Sure, the old songs have been redone, and some may find them shockingly overproduced. “Bear up Bison” in particular from the new “improved” sound. But others, such as “Riding On The Rocket” and especially the feedback-laden Black Sabbath-meets speedcore “Antonio Baka,” improve with the new bone-crushing sound. New songs like “Get the wow” and the instrumental “Milky Way” sound like great lost Beastie Boys and Duane Eddy B-side tracks.
The point is, Shonen Knife have been writing monster songs since their 1986 debut and have been criminally under appreciated. It’s as if three impossibly cute Japanese girl geniuses had a slumber party, snuck over to Uncle Sam’s house in the dead of night and, while the old geezer snored, cracked the safe containing America’s emergency reserve of unpublished pop music.
Everything Shonen Knife has ever released is worth owning. Get the new one, and, for God’s sake, search out the old ones. They prove (in the best possible way) that mediocre artists imitate, great ones steal. Shonen Knife has dove head first into the pool of great western pop music and come up spitting out shoulda-been (and maybe-will-be) hit songs.
Tomb of the Mutilated
Cannibal Corpse is death metal. There are two versions of this CD. The cover of the one Metal Blade sent me depicts a skeleton performing oral sex on a mutilated corpse. All song titles are included on the back cover. There is another version, sold in chain record stores, with a censored front cover and some of the song titles are deleted from the rear.
Why are there two versions? Because the last recording Cannibal Corpse released, Butchered At Birth, was deemed the sickest record ever. It was banned from most stores. The CD booklet prints all the lyrics in graphic detail. “Hammer Smashed Face,” for example, describes a murder with a sledge hammer. “With every swing of my mallet, I smash your fucking head in until brains sew in…” Necrophilia, cannibalism, mutilation of female genitalia and bloody orgasms are other song topics. The majority of songs deal with violent, perverted, sexual deviance.
There is a good reason all the lyrics are printed. I can’t understand one single word lead vocalist, Chris Barnes sings. Barnes has the most guttural vocal style I think I’ve ever heard. Yes, even worse than En Esch or Ogre. The vocals are a combination of a wild boar’s grunts and the demon from the Exorcist. The vocal style adds to the music as Barnes voice becomes another instrument.
Cannibal Corpse include all the speed metal cliches: heavy metal bass, speed runs on guitar and thrash drumming. If that’s all there was to it I wouldn’t write about it. The appeal of the CD is the total freedom of the music.
Death metal has progressed to the point where I have a problem even classifying it as metal. Tomb of the Mutilated sounds more like total avant-garde or free jazz than it does heavy metal. The songs begin as speed metal and within seconds degenerate into near total chaos—Barnes grunts out his vocals, the two guitars become a swarm of bees, the bass pulsates and the drummer, Paul Mazurkiewicz, goes completely insane on his tom toms.
This CD finds its way into my player repeatedly just so I can listen to the fastest, freest music I’ve heard in years. Cannibal Corpse is a band exploring creative, improvisational and experimental areas with their instruments; I find it fascinating despite the repulsiveness of their lyrics.
Since the words are incomprehensible, Cannibal Corpse included a couple of interesting soundbites to get the messages across. Just before “Addicted To Vaginal Skin” is a soundbite from a lunatic describing how he cut out a woman’s vagina and ate it. A soundbite of children at play precedes “Necropedophile.”
The lyric sheet is one of the sickest, most twisted things l’ve seen. Barnes writes fiction; horror novels describing acts just as sick are freely available. A book on the life and acts of a serial killer is sure to reach the best seller list. The lyrics aren’t the point, although they are ail that will receive any publicity. The music is raw. It’s free, it pushes the limits and I can hear my parents telling me that it isn’t even music, it’s just noise.
Search out the uncensored version of the CD, it is sure to be a collectors item. Cannibal Corpse will play Club Starzz on March 12 with Epidemic. The show will be far more exciting than the more mainstream acts scheduled to appear in Salt Lake City during March. Don’t miss this show!
One of the latest fashions seems to be Seattle and Sub Pop Records bashing. Sub Pop Records finds the talent while the major labels scramble to sign every grunge band in sight.
Pond is from Portland by way of Alaska. This debut release from Pond is hot—I’m sure the majors are already drooling over them. Pond is slowed down, grunged-out psychedelia with a bottom that never quits. In fact, the bass carries the melody and the beat at times.
The bassist, Chris Brady, expresses the lower areas of his instrument and relies more on chords than popping and picking his bass. If you have a subwoofer, the bass will rattle windows. Vocal duties are shared by Charlie Campbell (guitars) and Dave Triebwasser (drums).They have that perfect combination of punk and psychedelia in their voices.
At least four songs on this CD deserve hit status. “Young Splendor,” the A side of the band’s first single, has ringing guitars, feedback and Beau Brummels’ vocals. “Agatha” gets a hair-flinging groove going with hiccuped vocals. Brady lays down tremendous deep bass solos and Cambell’s guitar solo is truly impressive. “Tree,” the B side to Pond’s first single, has the bottom again and the song approaches anthemic status. It’s dark and psychedelic.
“Wheel,” the current single, opens with guitar distortion. Bass-driven with a heavy-on-the-distortion-pedal guitar solo, it is another hair-flinging anthem. “Filler” is the closing song and it is anything but. It is another grunged-out, bass-driven, psychedelia inspired song. It’s heavy as hell, punk as hell and a fitting ending.
I’ve heard that Pond will appear in Salt Lake City sometime in March. Go buy their CD now to be prepared. It is one of the best things I’ve heard in what is shaping up to be an exciting year in music. If there were any real radio programmers in this show, Pond would be on the radio so much everyone would be sick of them as all the other Seattle area bands on major labels. Sorry, the chain stores don’t have the CD, I checked. Support the independents in town.
Check out more from the SLUG Archives:
Record Reviews: December 1992
Record Reviews: November 1992
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