Porno for Pyros
Good God's Urge
Porno for Pyros' eponymous 1993 debut reeled under an overdone side-show/carnival atmosphere. Leader Perry Farrell's whiny rasp wailing over neo-funk rhythms and all-around heavy-handed production resulted in a dense, dark, and uneven album.
The band's sophomore offering, Good God's Urge, plays it more sedate. Stripped to a three piece, PFP now produces a sonic swirl of well-crafted, mystical art rock. Gone is the overabundance of wah-wah effects; guitarist Peter DiStefano has shifted focus, allowing his ax to drift and surge with mesmerizing fills. Likewise, Steve Perkins has shifted the weight of the skins; he still creates intricate rhythmic interplay, but with a greater air of subtlety. And Farrell's once bansheelike caterwaul has been harnessed into a liquid, raspy, serpentine glow.
Farrell and company have chosen to delve more deeply into the outermost limits of '90s psychedelic ambiance. The most notable change in the PFP sonic spectrum is the use of keyboards and samples, which impart a spatial smack-rock feel to the whole affair. Tracks blend together in rich, moody succession, warmly and irresistibly coaxing listeners into the polysonic PFP universe.
"Porpoise Head" is a loving swarm of liquid warmth thanks to the lush guitar treatments and lackadaisical bass machinations from Love and Rockets principles David J. and Daniel Ash. Punk don Mike Watt is another major guest of note, gracing "100 Ways" with a gentle, shuffling groove. Coupled with acoustic guitar strummings by DiStefano, Watt's bass work turns the song into a tasty bit of flamenco-style psychedelia. The vibe is heightened on "Thick of It All" as Farrell lullingly whispers the mantra "You're in the thick of it all," while a glimmering acoustic guitar intermingles with otherworldly bird chirps and various noises.
Yet for all the abstract psychedelic trappings and sonic mysticism, the group manages to brandish a metallic edge from time to time. "Tahitian Moon" constantly shifts between lazy tropicality and a brass, urban grind. And the swirling rage of "Dogs Rule the Night" plays like an angry answer to the Jane's Addiction classic "Pigs in Zen." Speaking of Jane's, "Freeway" is notable not only for guest artist Flea's burbling bass, some searing guitar bursts and snappy drumming, but the participation of former Jane's guitarist Dave Navarro, who brightens the track with his ethereal metallic sheen. Good God's Urge is enhanced trance rock, gleaming with intoxicating streams of lyrical crypticality--a grand slice of hallucinatory bliss.
Gotta Get Over Greta
(Razor and Tie)
For anyone who just hit the Alanis Morissette saturation point (four inescapable hit singles--what took you so long?), the Nields provide a much-needed antidote. They're funny, folky and sound like a cross between the Roches and Sinead O'Connor (producer Kevin Moloney's credits also include Sinead's first album). Best of all, the Nields' intensely personal lyrics on love and adultery move hearts without coming off as self-absorbed as Little Miss "You Oughta Know."
Although phrases like "song cycle" and "concept album" can strike terror in those old enough to remember Styx, the lyrical cohesion of Gotta Get Over Greta is more like a diary than the product of thematic calculation, detailing a young woman's turbulent affair with an older, married man. Unlike oversexed pop singers who make if-it-feels-good-do-it justifications, Katryna Nields resists rationalizing the role of home wrecker. Two tracks into Greta, on "Best Black Dress," the album's main character expresses guilt that her adulterous lover has a daughter her age. Later in "Fountain of Youth," she accuses the adulterer of drinking up her best years. "What kind of father figure refuses to grow up," she wonders, in a dream where she chats with his wife and kids.
Women who complain that there are only a few good men out there, take notice--there are even fewer good albums on the subject. But the Nields have turned in a wonderful, thought-provoking album that, although pyromaniacs might disagree, would've made a far better movie than Waiting to Exhale. There are enough lyrical sparks flying here to anticipate Katryna torching her sugar daddy's Infiniti in the sequel.
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Everything But the Girl
Ben Watt and Tracy Thorn of Everything But the Girl have done their share of style-hopping over the course of a 13-year career, moving from jazz pop to Brit pop to orchestral pop to contemporary R&B. Now on their seventh album, Walking Wounded, the duo takes another leap and lands on the dance floor with a batch of songs based around techno-derived beats. This shift may seem extreme for a group that looked like it was gradually going the VH1 route, but EBTG scored a hit in 1994 with a techno remix of the single "Missing," and collaborated last year on Massive Attack's breakthrough trip-hop album Protection. EBTG has evidently been caught up in the postrock wave, and the duo surfs it with style and grace.
Since EBTG's debut as guests on a 1983 Style Council lounge-revival record, its music has always focused on Thorn's lush, soulful voice, which is versatile enough to shine through all the group's stylistic incarnations. Walking Wounded, though, introduces a second focal point--the intricate beats of a jungle offshoot called "drum 'n' bass" (in dance music, every slight variant gets its own genre name). On cuts like "Before Today" and "Single," Thorn's smooth vocals glide over the detailed rhythms, making for an elegant layering effect. Even with the influence of progressive dance specialists like Howie B. and Spring Heel Jack (who both contribute beats on Wounded), EBTG retains a maturity that should keep old fans from feeling alienated. In fact, much of Walking Wounded sounds like music we may bop along to in the hipper elevators of the future.