Through the Darkness
(C2/Columbia Records)

Produced by famed glam hag Tony Visconti (T. Rex, Bowie, etc.), Through the Darkness differs little from DGen's last Ric Ocasek-knobbed No Lunch.

There's a torrent of jumbo, sperm-filled Clash chords, soaring Mick Jones harmonies and ersatz-Clash topical politicizing atop an invented street hustle. Picture Give 'Em Enough Rope with fewer hooks and less purpose. On this, Visconti's presence seems more a result of DGen romanticizing their record collections than anything else. He's just a guy to flip on the tape machine and smile politely while confronted with overeager queries like, "Hey, Tony, tell us again how Marc Bolan wanted his cognac in the morning."

But that ain't to say this is without a decent rock 'n' roll moment or two, that is, rock 'n' roll in the archaic, put-the-juice-in-the-girls'-panties-while-making-damn-sure-to-ruin-even-a-sound-parent/teen-rapport. The album's best three minutes, "Rise and Fall," conjure poppy Clashisms while tagging the Giuliani-is-a-jerk theme. The second chorus even sees a sprightly Clash nod ("I'm not Joe Strummer honey").

"Sick on the Radio" gives empathy and a minor-chord brush to sellout DJs: "I didn't want to play it, say it, fake it"; a Neil Young chestnut ("Don't Be Denied") gets a worthy and surprisingly brooding spin; and an uncredited hidden track ("Violent Love") continues the band's Young envy (same chords as "Out on the Weekend") with acoustic and slide guitars, double octave bass and over-the-top lamenting: "Spent the summer down in violent love/Silent, violent love."

But singer Jesse Malin's voice, at times, is like a distorted toneless ribbon barely treading the guitar smack, a problem that reduces his presence to thin, insignificant levels. And the sound, though spirited, owes too much to punk-rock maleness, that humorless, muscle-flex posturing which guarantees a band no staying power and front rows of fist-pumping testosterone.

Mostly, DGen's preoccupation with being bad-ass punk rockers negates any sense of sexuality, the kind which made T. Rex, Bowie and the early Stones great rock 'n' roll. But hey, being worse than the best is no sin, and this is still a million times better than the latest Offspring.

--Brian Smith

Jacqueline du Pre, Barrington Pheloung,
Caroline Dale
Hilary and Jackie:
Music From the Motion Picture
(Sony Classical)

A couple of long-shot Oscar nominations for Anand Tucker's film about the tempestuous relationship between British cello virtuoso Jacqueline du Pre and her sister, flutist Hilary, may give this album's profile a boost. It may also gall some filmgoers, intrigued at the portrait of troubled genius, to learn that most of the music we hear while seeing actress Emily Watson scraping away at the strings is actually played by Caroline Dale, the Marni Nixon of the cello--she previously dubbed a solo on the soundtrack of Truly, Madly, Deeply.

On this album, along with Dale's (very fine) playing, we get a solid dose of the authentic du Pre. The album opens with the Adagio Moderato from Elgar's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor, the only part of the soundtrack in which the actual Jackie's playing was used. This is followed by selections from the serviceable film score by Australian composer Barrington Pheloung--which intertwines themes from the Elgar piece and other melodies of significance to the sisters--as well as a nod to Hilary's instrument, Bach's familiar but delightful Overture from Suite No. 2 in B minor, with David Heath on flute.

All of this is followed by the complete Elgar Cello Concerto with Jackie and the Philadelphia Orchestra, in all its sad, dramatic glory--when you hear the first heavy, plangent, dramatic notes from her bow in this classic 1970 recording, you'll understand why she is credited with rescuing this unfashionable concerto from neglect, and you'll get an inkling of the passionate intensity that warranted making a movie about her.

--M. V. Moorhead

The Damnations TX
Half Mad Moon
(Sire Records)

Thirsty? Well, pull up a barstool, sit yer ass down and get you some. That seems to be the implicit invite contained within this debut major-label release from Austin's latest country-rock rage. All of the requisite country ingredients are present here: broken hearts, booze, trains, ad infinitum. Though these are well-worn topics, the familiar isn't tired, it's a comfort.

The singer/songwriting team of Amy Boone and Deborah Kelly explores the new West with unapologetic honesty. Boone's and Kelly's voices rise and fall together through dusty landscapes, sad stories and dance-driven romps. Their voices not affected, but naturally touched, by living the lives portrayed in the songs.

The Damnations TX takes the torch away from "new" radio-friendly country (Shania, Dixie Chicks, etc.) and puts it back in a tacky barroom candle. Yet this band doesn't really sit with many of the alt-country and Americana acts either, because it doesn't thrive on a postmodern ironic wink. With its panorama of sounds from blues to bluegrass, Moon is more a nod to the best of the Texas outlaws of the '70s than any of country's modern subgenres.

Songs like "Jack's Waltz" and "Spit and Tears" remember that storytelling is key to a good country song. "Jack's Waltz" is rich with well-placed mandolin, piano and a strong, regretful narrative: "I raise up this glass to Mr. Death/I've seen him come and take a few of my friends."

Outside of the ballads and two-step numbers that dominate, there are a few surprises. The song "Half Mad Moon" mixes staccato fiddle and mandolin, pistol-shot drums and a casual banjo lead. This syncopated gumbo brings to mind Camper Van Beethoven's gypsy-flavored "Mating Oven." Another nice touch is "Finger the Pie," a rockin' little ditty that breaks the seriousness of the two sad ballads that round out the record.

If you're in the mood for a tall Bud and some bar peanuts, dim your lights, pop in Half Mad Moon and play outlaw of the apartment complex.

--Jonathan Bond


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