Recordings

Wesley Willis
Fabian Road Warrior
(American)

That thud you're hearing is the sound of thousands of hardworking songwriters smashing their heads against a wall. Why? Because Wesley Willis--a tone-deaf, schizophrenic singer whose songwriting consists of a solitary, built-in Casio keyboard played ad infinitum--is being courted by a cavalcade of major record labels. This amateur, who'd never be allotted a second tune at a karaoke bar, has two releases slated this year on Rick Rubin's American label, of which Fabian Road Warrior is the first. While the chubby Chicago ranter has paid some hard dues, none is of the musical variety--violent beatings in his crime-rampant housing project, physical neglect, broken homes, split personalities--you name it. He's a week of Sally Jessy Raphael programming waiting to happen.

To pass off Willis as a mad genius is a gross overstatement. Hearing the same musical backing 24 times with only minute variations (major to minor keys, slight tempo changes) wears you down like an older brother twisting your arm 'til you scream "uncle." Uncle, Wesley, uncle! The instrumental breaks are even more painful, consisting solely of Willis either banging his microphone or inserting discordant crashing sound effects.

Waxing rapturous over whatever band he's just seen at the Metro that week, while displaying none of the band's influence, Willis accords each act the same upbeat praise. ("The jam session was awesome. The crowd roared like a lion.") Yet his fleeting devotion to these artists makes the average MTV viewer seem religiously loyal in comparison. Witness how he overflows with kisses for Alanis Morissette on the song bearing her name ("You are a rocking maniac. You are a singing hyena. You are a rock star in Jesus' name. You can really rock Saddam Hussein's ass. You are so lovable to me in the long run"), then dismisses her two songs later on a song called "Porno for Pyros" ("The rock jam session whupped Alanis' ass"). File under: idiot savant garde.

--Serene Dominic

Cat Power
What Would the Community Think
(Matador)

The hip elite have taken to glum Chan Marshall, a.k.a. Cat Power, with the same "Emperor's New Clothes" enthusiasm they've bestowed on the above-mentioned Wesley Willis. Unfortunately, mental illness isn't the operative excuse for this drivel, unless you want to cite the idiot at Matador who signed this brood fest. Cat's heartbroken parables may be sincere, but they're a chore to listen to. "Jackson! Jesse!" the Cat lady caterwauls on "Nude As the News," sounding like a woman screaming for her kids to come inside and help her hook up the suicide machine. And that's the most accessible track! The rest of the album sounds like the same woman is despondent that the kids never showed up, the tub's filled with hot water and there's no box of razors in sight. You could probably fit everybody that will enjoy this album in a standard-size kitty-litter box. Sitting down. Legs stretched out.

--Serene Dominic

 
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