Recordings

The Kelley Deal 6000
Go to the Sugar Altar
(Nice Records)

There are roughly two kinds of identical twins in the world: Those content to live life as a unit (and perhaps star in Doublemint commercials), and those who separate to carve out their own spaces in the world--an often-painful process. The Deal sisters of Dayton, Ohio, seem to fall into the latter category. While Kim was helping invent modern rock in the Pixies and later the Breeders, Kelley was struggling to learn the guitar, filling a gratuitous back-seat role in her sister's band, and getting hooked on heroin. But the prodigal sister has returned, blossoming into a creative force to rival her more accomplished sibling.

Go to the Sugar Altar, the debut album from the Kelley Deal 6000, was born out of a collaboration between Kelley and musician Jesse Colin Roff while both were in a Minneapolis rehab facility. Lyrically and musically, much of the album is informed by Kelley's heroin trials. Songs like the self-effacing "How About Hero" and "Canyon" ("The half-life of my life is no life at all/To wit: Success has fit me like a shroud") are true fuckup anthems, and Kelley's brand of eccentric pop bounces between Velvets nod music and Brian Wilson at his most unbalanced. Still, Kelley gets across an easy humor and a playfulness that make Go to the Sugar Altar an even more likable--if less solid--work than her previous recording performance on the 1993 Breeders breakthrough Last Splash.

When and if the Deal sisters work together again (rumors are circulating both ways), their newfound equal footing as songwriters and band leaders should activate formidable Wondertwin power. And if that never happens, we should be content to double our pleasure hearing them both soar along their separate trajectories.

--Roni Sarig
The Kelley Deal 6000 is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, July 16, at Hollywood Alley in Mesa, with Cake Like. Showtime is 8 p.m. (all ages).

Les Thugs
Strike
(Sub Pop)

The country that offered the world the French Revolution, the Commune, May '68 and even last year's boffo transportation strike has given us pretty much Jacques shit in terms of musical uprisings. Les Thugs is l'exception. Hailing from the picture-perfect Loire Valley, the band hashes out noise that's lovingly flawed, questioning and devoid of platitudes. Its fourth album, Strike, beats with a raspy, punk heart.

The haphazard English-as-a-second-language lyrics are devoted mostly to various forms of standstill: "Waiting" finds the band doing just that, and "So Heavy" is so heavy the song's subject is lost, "like stuck to ground." The title cut's directive to strike is surprisingly slacker-friendly, somehow lazy and utopian at the same time. The word "strike" is whispered so seductively, and so often (42 times), that it borders on hypnotic. "The world is 'ugly,'" the narrator moans, with all the angry optimism of a cobblestone in flight. "I'm gonna dream it nice."

--Sarah Vowell

Nancy Boy
Nancy Boy
(Sire)

Usually when a CD is this repugnant, I can't trade it in fast enough. But I'm compelled to hang onto this Nancy Boy disc like some kinda satanic monkey's paw. I know it will bring me nothing but shame in the end, but maybe by keeping it I can save the soul of some poor, nearsighted fool who'll see five guys with skinny ties and neon lips on the cover and think he's buying into an Ultravox reunion.

Who'da thought that the demon seed of Donovan (Donovan Leitch) plus the offspring of Monkee Mike Nesmith (Jason Nesmith) combined with the outboard efforts of legendary British Invasion producer Shel Talmy (The Who, The Kinks) would yield the second coming of Gary Numan, this time with even fewer balls? Egads, even the Muppet Babies work up more testosterone than the Nancies do on this poopy platter.

Each number starts out beefy enough, with just bass and drum. Then just when you think you could be lurching into an Oasis number, Leitch and Nesmith's pretentious songwriting and arranging kick in and everything comes crashing down. Musically, these mannequins seem intent on filling the audio space with as much squiggly, antiquated synth sound as daddies' royalty checks can provide. Nancy Boy fares even worse in the lyrics department, summoning up all the collective angst of lottery winners. Witness lead singer Leitch's "sensitive" retelling of a breakup: "I'm numb with Novocain; I cannot think."

Equating insurmountable heartbreak with a throbbing molar? Simon Le Bon couldn't have said it better! "I'm one of you but so much more," he coos on "Foxtrot," as if it's his birthright to be worshiped as a rock god. Just what we need--a Michael Des Barres for the Nineties. You want clever word play? How about "Don't go without leaving?" It's not exactly "Wake me up before you go go," but like Wham, these guys know their priorities. Their hair stylist gets a prominent sleeve credit.

Thus far, every Sixties rock star by-product (Julian Lennon, Wilson Phillips, Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa, etc.) has followed the same swift two-step program. Step one: an intense amount of media and public interest based largely on genealogy. Step two: a sharp decline in sales and coverage when it's apparent that the second coming of famous dad ain't gonna happen. Nancy Boy will be lucky to elicit that first flush of curiosity, unless Leitch's fifth-generation Anthony Newley impersonation triggers some sick media fascination.

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