Mail or Muse?

Proving that the Voice still carries, we offer a roundup of the latest local discs filling our box

Clearly, the big bog is Dorf's lyrics, as we suddenly found ourselves rooting for him on "Jockey Full of Bourbon," with its "house is on a-fire and the children are alone" imagery -- until we remember it's a Tom Waits song. Goddamn!

Rating: d) It shows promise.

Davey Baby
4 Track Fever
(Sick Records)
You gotta love Davey Baby's portastudio portfolio of noodlings, even though every neuron in your brain tells you the reasons you shouldn't. Let us count the ways.

One, his guitar playing sounds like Robin Trower's wah wah pedal on a bender. Two, whoever's playing drums couldn't hammer a nail into the wall in time. Three, nearly 80 percent of all the lyrics are flanged and distorted to resemble a cabbie dispatcher from Mars. Four, the instrumental jams go nowhere, and when Davey sings, pitch becomes an abstract concept.

So where is the love?

First off, any guy who does all the CD artwork in pencil in this age of computer graphics is bucking for a Johnny Appleseed Award. And when Davey forgets about trying to sing and recites his tone poems over these haphazard jams, he achieves a Beck-ish authority. On "Beauty . . . Ricky Martin Ain't Gay!" we learn that Davey's ultimate babe would be a cross between Marilu Henner, Marie Osmond and Jennifer Lopez. Later he reveals that Ricky Martin isn't gay because it said so on the pages of Rolling Stone. "Me and Ricky Martin, we're exactly alike," croons Davey. "He wants to get married and have a huge family, just like me. The only difference is that he's Catholic and I'm a Mormon, he's Puerto Rican and I'm half Vietnamese and half white. But besides that we're exactly the same. We're both cool." Maybe, but Ricky Martin isn't cool enough to record songs like "Huck Finn's Down," "Francis Macomber Is Still Down" and "Peace Out, Holly Sanders."

Rating: a) We've never heard of this guy.How the hell did this get in here?

Esther
A Musical by J. Michael Lindberg
(January 14 & Company)
How the hell did this get in here?

Esther ain't no group like Blondie -- no sirree, it's an original musical by J. Michael Lindberg that tells "the story of a courageous young Jewish girl who saves her people from destruction during the reign of the mighty Persian empire!" This ain't no Tommy, either -- more like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, replete with the same overwrought theatrical singing you've come to expect from guys in robes and sandals. And it sure ain't a love story like The King and I. When King Xerxes gets snubbed by his uppity queen, he has her shipped out of the palace and picks a new one from the virgin pool.

Far be it for me to offer A&R advice to the January 14 label, but if they're looking for the breakout single, I say place your bets with Xerxes' rival, Haman. His "I Am Magnificent" has all that vainglorious boasting the kids dig in today's gangsta rap ("Worship me with your applause/Worship your new king and god"), plus the misogyny ("Ah! The harem girls/A thousand nights to forget"), and it's got the maniacal laughter that made "Wipe Out" such an across-the-board hit.

Rating: d) It shows promise.

Undertoe
Real Men Don't Sing
Rough Mixes

(1293 Music)
Don't be scared off -- Undertoe looks like ZZ Top might if the group decided to sport reasonably trimmed beards and start acting like responsible dads. So be it. Instrumental surf music is the stuff four out of five responsible dads listen to in their sport utility vehicles anyway. There's no "motherfuckin'" lyrics, for one thing, making it ideal listening for the whole family.

Undertoe sent us three CDs: a studio disc with note-perfect covers of "Penetration" and "Walk Don't Run," a 1999 full-length offering called Real Men Don't Singand rough mixes of their spring 2000 sessions. Our favorite track is a tossup between "Irastafarm" -- which sounds like the Ventures playing reggae if it were the Amboy Dukes' "Journey to the Center of the Mind" -- and a version "Hava Nagila" played like it was "Miserlou."

Rating: b) It sounds like the Gin Blossoms -- with neatly trimmed beards.

Somebody's Closet
The Awakening
(Self-released)
The bulk of this EP from Somebody's Closet is full of the same recycled alterna-clichés and just-getting-our-feet-wet wankings common to most bands in their infancy. Frankly, at this point, the group's bio/press kit is far more fascinating than its music (for instance, we find out that bassist Joseph Grace is originally a Kenosha, Wisconsin native who enjoys weightlifting, motorcycles andcooking -- "Let's welcome bachelor No. 2"). That is until the disc's final track, "Beautiful People"-- a song which name-checks Urquell [sic]. Despite the misspelling, we can only assume that the band is referring to Family Matters' wacky neighbor Steve Urkel, played with commanding authority for nine seasons by Jaleel White.

Unfortunately, the only reason the group uses the loveable character's moniker is because they can't find another word to rhyme with circle ("Pale skin, dark circles/Head spinning, feel like Urquell"). Inadvertently though, the group may have stumbled onto something. How about pushing the muse even further -- a full-length concept album built around ABC's T.G.I.F. lineup -- you know, Full House, Step by Step, Boy Meets World.

Hey, give us an angst-ridden rock anthem about the Olsen twins and watch the critical praise flow.

Rating: d) It shows promise.

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