DESERT DISCS(OH, ALL RIGHT, FOUR DESERT DISCS AND ONE MESA TAPE)
I'm thinking Blue Cheer. I'm thinking Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo. I'm thinking Feargal Sharkey. I'm thinking Nervous Norvus. I'm thinking everybody who's ever sounded worried delivering a lyric. Whether Tempe's Generiks are musing about being a fetus ("If I was a fetus, I'd probably make love to you"), unrequited love ("I woke up last night and my underwear was wet and Jill was the pet of sexual dreams") or fishing ("Why do we have to fish in the same tuna pond? She's a big catfish!"), their source of anxiety would appear to be not getting enough sex. Make that any sex. "6960 E. Mary Jane Ln." even makes masturbation sound like a mad scientific experiment gone awry.
Musically, the boys teeter-totter that fine line between punk and metal. Nothing brilliant, mind you, but they do slip in the odd trombone or harmonica to keep things from slipping into, dare I say it, generica. On the plus side, the Generiks always sound like they're having heaps o' fun, sticking in jokey bridges, tempo changes, The Andy Griffith Show theme, elephant noises--in short, anything for a nervous laugh. And, like those other tube-steak chokers in Green Day, they dig the marijuana, too. Definitely not for the serious at heart.--Serene Dominic
This Tucson fivesome's self-titled debut exhibits a band with a slight case of bells-and-whistles syndrome. By dressing up their sound with gratuitous instrumental accouterments, the Drakes only distract from what they do best: folky, raw-bones rock songs that lure the listener with colorful guitar lines and then set the hook with poetic, often funny slice-of-life vignettes.
The layer of fat the band would do well to burn off is violinist Brett Klay, whose uninspired accents sound like outtakes from a symphony string section's drill practice. Rote skill is no substitute for fire in the blood, and Klay's playing on this album is flat as road kill.
In contrast, guitarist Gene Ruley whips up six-string delicacies like a sushi chef. You want bop-along country sparkle? Chop, chop. You got it. You want howling fuzz-tone? Whack. There it is. You want chilled, spacious acoustic backdrop? Slice, serve--enjoy. The Drakes smartly structure most of their songs to showcase Ruley's playing, and his happy-go-lucky opening riff on the album's first track, "I Did That," affords the song instant regional hit potential. On "Out of It," a celebration of the struggle to get a grip on whose lyrics are just abstract enough to spark a quality discussion, Ruley's lap steel work is pure silk. The gentle beauty of this track's extended instrumental epilogue encourages the listener to gently sink away, like falling asleep in the cool grass on a summer night.
Singer Tom Stauffer's lazy, devil-may-care style is a nice match with his more playful lyrics. You can't help but crack a smile at his clever, self-deprecating sense of humor on tracks like "Bunny," which has him lamenting, "When God made me, the bar was open/He botched my teeth and crossed my eyes/When God made me, he was loafing/And in his image, so am I."
A party at the crossroads of light rock and hard folk, The Drakes is a good album that would have been even better if poured straight, hold the chasers.--David Holthouse
Because Lemon Krayola has a novel he-and-she vocal blend, there's a temptation to label the group as a purveyor of novelty songs. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Songs like "Wanna Be" and "Matters Son" are, if nothing else, annoyingly catchy. He (Jay Kereny) has a drollish cowpoke voice capable of scraping those bottom-range notes that only Crash Test Dummies seem to have any use for. On the flip side, she (Mindy Harris) sings in a sweet, high timbre that's up in Veruca Salt/Josie and the Pussycats territory, although she's also capable of impressive, soulful bluesy trills ("Not Your Time," "Strike Me Down").
Lemon Krayola's appeal stands or falls on the Kereny/Harris combo. Standout cuts (and there are more than you would hope to find in a novel/novelty act) include the mock misogyny of "Fowl Girl" ("If you were a wishing well, I would put my bucket in your mouth only to find mud") and "Mother Nature," in which a spurned lover promises his ex he will replace her with the great outdoors. His constant pledge that "I will not go blind" makes this the second antimasturbation song to reach the Desert Discs office in one week. Could the dismissal of the last surgeon general be a harbinger of hard times for the self-flagellating set? Let's hope not. We could always use more songs like "Pictures of Lily" and "Pump It Up." Meanwhile, let's see both hands over the counter when you purchase Seeds. Or check out the group live where it works in close collaboration with the Lemon Krayola Dancers, who, oddly enough, are a registered trademark while Lemon Krayola the band is not. Such attention to detail should never go unrewarded.--Serene Dominic
This Lone Star State native's second release meanders through a briar patch of thorny relationships that shrivel before reaching full bloom. Russell doesn't pretend to shatter convention, but the naked honesty of this recording makes it more than worthwhile.
"Long Time, Short Time" and the album's title track are strewn with tattered, painful memories of good love gone bad, while the luscious "Own Set of Rules" conjures a perilous encounter with a cheatin' heart. Manning the helm on vocals and guitar, Russell fronts an ensemble of skilled musicians that includes former L.A. session man David Plagman on guitar and Spinning Jenny's Scott Hessell on drums.
"Show Me," which Russell composed with Joni of Sister Sledge, is the album's strongest track. This ballad cuts loose an elegant groove, uplifted by Russell's emotive vocals and a catchy chorus that lingers long after the song's gone. "Top of the Heap" and "Second Hand Smoke" display the songwriter's talent for creating a cast of intriguing characters and provide a welcome diversion from the ripped-up romances that dominate the album's subject matter.--Leigh Silverman
Not too long ago, it seemed like every budding rhythm section in Arizona aspired to sound like either Rush or Red Hot Chili Peppers. You'd put an ad in the paper hoping to snare a drummer who stays in the pocket like Charlie Watts and get a bunch of old geezers who just looked like him. Because of the shortage of players who excel in a bluesy rock setting, a lot of roots-rock-oriented groups have gotten sidelined. It's been at least a year since the Mesa collective known as Moonshine Blind has made it into any local club listings. Happily, singer Jill Blackenburg and guitarist Chris Doyle stuck it out through their so-called "semilong hiatus" and borrowed the rhythm section from Dawghouse for this latest three-song demo recorded at Phoenix's Sympathetic Studios.
Picture the kind of slow-tumbling numbers you'd find on an old Free album or the quasi-funky fast ones of a not-so-old Black Crowes recording, and you've got an idea of the changes in Moonshine Blind's style since the group's last demo--a decidedly more folkish effort. There's nothing ground breaking about the songs here, but then this musical genre doesn't call for wild invention in the first place. One finds comfort in the familiarity of a warm, gutsy voice like Blackenburg's belting out a song like "Rival," or Doyle's impeccable dobro and slide playing on "Another Man." If you're tired of seeing angst-infested Ugly Kid Joe wanna-bes in short pants whining about the state of the world, Moonshine Blind may prove a welcome antidote. After all, they don't live with mom and dad, and they can cooook!--Serene Dominic
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