Wall to Walternative

Alternative Common Denominator: A kinder, gentler Breeders; or Babes in Toyland meets the elocution instructor.

Pluses: Bill Graham Management is behind them.
Minuses: Hollywood Records hasn't broken a band since Queen. Also, claiming relation to a great artist didn't do shit for Shakespeare's Sister.

Love/Hate Ratio: There's never been a more romantic couplet than this one from "U f@#": "Lay down, stay down/Give it to me/Ya fuckin' with me."

Classification: "Valley Grrrlternative."

Feet of Clay
Feet of Clay
(Megalithic)
Who They Are: A Milwaukee trio of session musicians.

What They Sing About: Losing faith, finding out that it's lonely at the top, waiting for good things to happen, combing your hair, how a crack dealer on the street isn't really a friend--except for the bit about losing faith, this could be a presecular Amy Grant release.

Classic-Rock Touchstone: Picture XTC's Colin Moulding so full of self-loathing that he actually takes part in a Mr. Mister reunion.

Alternative Common Denominator: If you asked the guys in FOC, they'd probably say, "That jangly guitar stuff so popular with you kids this season. Whaaaa? You'd rather hear that grunge shit? How 'bout if we cover ourselves with 40 pounds of mud on our album cover--that's pretty grungy, eh? Hey, wait! Come back here, kid! Hey, kiiiiid!!"

Pluses: These guys fake English accents about as convincingly as Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. And they live in Milwaukee, so when this album bombs, they've got their pick of breweries to cry in.

Minuses: It probably is Mr. Mister under all that mud.
Love/Hate Ratio: Every song is about helping a friend deal with his or her pain. Except the one about the crack dealer. Crack dealer--bad!!

Classification: "Parentalternative."

Silkworm
Firewater
(Matador)
Who They Are: A trio from Missoula, Montana, that relocated to Seattle.

What They Sing About: Singer Tim Midgett voices concern over a friend's excessive drinking, but only because it's on his tab. Lots of songs about recovering from a bender, but, unlike the Refreshments, no one here seems to be having any fun.

Classic-Rock Touchstone: This concept double album is Neil Young's Tonight's the Night for booze hounds.

Alternative Common Denominator: Abrasive, dry and ungussied like the first Gang of Four recording.

Pluses: These guys are seasoned indie pros--Firewater is their fourth album on as many labels, their music teems with sharp lyrics that critics will fawn over, there's a stark Steve Albini production to ensure no airplay, and they're on Matador. This recording could sell six copies and they'll still be cool.

Minuses: If the thought of A&R men shrugging "I don't hear the single" doesn't bother you, you'll be fine.

Love/Hate Ratio: The only handholding that takes place on this album is the kind that's necessary to drag a plastered friend home. At one point, singer Tim Midgett vows "I got to get a hard-on" with the same conviction most people reserve for promising to clean out the garage.

Classification: "Alcoholternative."

Fuzzy
Electric Juices
(TAG/Atlantic)
Who They Are: An infectious girl-boy, boy-girl quartet from Beantown.

What They Sing About: That it's too late to think and it's natural to be depressed at Christmastime. Most important, track two ("Drag") tells us that "image is everything." The group then proceeds to forget about getting one.

Classic-Rock Touchstone: In the grand tradition of Suzi Quatro covering "I Wanna Be Your Man" with no apologies, the Fuzzy girls take on the Beach Boys' "Girl Don't Tell Me" without switching gender. The homage is ruined by press-bio claims that the 31-year-old Brian Wilson classic is "rendered with a little more crunch than the Beach Boys could muster." Hey, little miss Fuzzy, you try to make eight albums a year and see how much crunch you can muster!

Alternative Common Denominator: This band lost its prestigious "side project" status when Fuzzy drummer Dave Ryan lost his day job with the defunct Lemonheads. Which means Fuzzy has to be taken on its own merits--think of what Juliana Hatfield would sound like if she traded in her cutting edge for a Matthew Sweet songbook.

Pluses: This CD is happy, peppy and sure to appeal to fans of Friends camping out at record stores waiting for the official release of "Smelly Cat."

Minuses: The guys and girls in Fuzzy couple up on the CD insert, which could spell trouble of a Fleetwood Mac magnitude. We're talkin' four different menage a trois possibilities here!

Love/Hate Ratio: It takes 11 songs before one of the guys gets to sing. Talk about being Fuzzy whipped!

Classification: "Bangleternative."

The Bogmen
Life Begins at 40 Million
(Arista)
Who They Are: A six-man band from New York State.

What They Sing About: How the world is just one big microwave oven, eating a cake that you know is poison and liking it, a psychoanalyst who prescribes climbing into a tub with him as a cure-all for childhood traumas, reminding someone that "the world is your ulcer."

Classic-Rock Touchstone: Producer Jerry Harrison clearly heard snippets of the hysterical David Byrne in P.J. O'Connor's preachy voice, but the music here seems less like the Talking Heads and more akin to the Tubes after smoking a couple of mean spliffs.

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