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Mr. Mirainga
Mr. Mirainga
(Way Cool Records)

Mamba-punk? Samba-core? That's how the PR folks at Way Cool describe their label's latest artistic acquisition. Considering that the mamba is a poisonous tree snake from Africa, it's safe to assume they meant "mambo." But that doesn't really make sense, either, given that Mr. Mirainga sounds less like a troupe of Latin American foot-stompers than a reheated Jane's Addiction with maracas.

It's just not possible to sit silent while the niche marketers try to create a phenomenon, regardless of the reality behind what they're pushing. And the reality here is that Mr. Mirainga is closer to any of a dozen other loud three-chord wonders--Tripping Daisy comes to mind--than a true Next Big Thing. Still, there's something endearing about this tuneful, tequila-swilling quartet from Arizona that sings about lovin' the lady who picks through your trash and how it's "kinda cool to see the cars crash" in the rain.

Mr. Mirainga does manage to incorporate a few south-of-the-border flashes (especially the percussion and clean acoustic strumming on "Saguaro's Cryin'"), but Tito Puente it's not. Guess that's where the "punk" part comes in. Sid Vicious lives on in the melodic slam fests that pepper this disc, but don't worry, ma--it's nothing too dangerous.

Mr. M knows when to kick the distortion, but, even more important, the band knows when to shut it down to create enjoyable, if not always remarkable, pop tunes with a humorous slant. "Baglady" is a guitar wailer about looking for and finding love in strange places--like the trash bin. The song rocks in large part because of a chorus that threatens to leave the drum kit a shambles. "57 South" is more fodder for the mosh pit. The grungy "Safety First" is the best cut here. Its advice? "Don't wash your face with kerosene." A guaranteed hit with the OSHA crowd.

Lyrically, Mr. M is one notch above idiotic. Luckily for the band, no one reads anymore. What's on the minds of these young mavericks? Well, unless peeling out in your dad's car is your idea of a stimulating social interaction, not a whole hell of a lot. "Burnin' Rubber," the band's surprise radio hit off the Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls soundtrack, extols the virtues of driving like an asshole. This gritty, bassy rumble of a song comes off better than the movie starring a rubber-faced geek, even if neither effort falls into the category of stirring art.

Like Ace Ventura, Mr. Mirainga's sophomore release is, well, a little sophomoric. True, the straightahead drumming and animated bass make you want to sway and slam, and singer Potz Poturalski's got a big trap and bigger lungs, and really knows how to belt it out. But lyrics like "I got a thermostat and a big fat gasket-O/I through [sic] it all in my plastic basket-O" sound like they were scribbled on a Denny's napkin after four Cuervo shots.--Matt Golosinski

Mr. Mirainga is scheduled to perform at the "Birthday Bowl" festival for The Edge (KEDJFM 106.3) on Saturday, January 27, at Club Rio in Tempe, with a gaggle of other onehit-wonder bands, including Deep Blue Something and Amy Arena. The festival begins at 3 p.m.

High Lonesome
Feel Free to Do So
(Spark Records)

Country singer Eddy Arnold once came up with the most Dadaist song title I've ever heard: "The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me." So how's this for a Dadaist recording review: "The last thing you'll see at a High Lonesome show is me"?

That's admittedly weak, but so is this album, populated with songs about ordinary people you don't want to know, songs about treating '68 Mustangs like they're girls and vice versa: "Got the radio up, got the top pulled down," etc. What do these guys do, sit around a Ouija board, trying to channel Eddie and the Cruisers for songwriting inspiration? Where are you now, John Cafferty? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you!

It's one thing to rewrite Chuck Berry's "Nadine" and call it "Pauline," but it's another to hack out every killer line and sub it with high school band fare like "You tell me everything is fine, but baby, I can tell that's a lie (It's a lie, it's a doggone lie)."

When the High Lonesome boys aren't pepping themselves up with Wheaties/"Breakfast of Champions" doggerel like "If you can't believe in anything else, believe in yourself," they're offering glib condolences to a female friend who shows up at a party all "Black and Blue." Sample this swill at your own peril: "Gotta take the bitter with the sweet/But there's better ways to make ends meet/I know it's sad, but it's true."

That's it? These guys seem more upset that she's breaking up with her assailant (who, from the sound of it, is their friend) than that she was beaten. "Let him go darlin' before he hurts you." What was beating her black and blue--a preamble? Foreplay? Bruce and the E Street Band would've killed the creep by the second verse!

I wasn't even going to mention that drummer Jon Lindstrom stars as Kevin Chamberlain on General Hospital, because it's a bum rap to say a guy can't do two different jobs atthe same level of proficiency--like, er, JohnTesh, f'rinstance! But GH has already given us Rick Springfield and Jack Wagner, and three cases of rock 'n' roll malpractice mean that some serious license revoking for ABC is in order.--Serene Dominic

High Lonesome is scheduled to perform on Friday, January 26, at McDuffy's in Tempe, with Sun 60, Beat Angels, and Flux. Showtime is 7p.m.

Yoko Ono/IMA
Rising
(Capitol)

If anything constitutes a no-win situation, it's Yoko Ono's recording career. Fifteen years after her husband's assassination, most people still expect her to roll over and play Beatle widow. But Yoko has bigger flesh to fry--sonically re-creating Hiroshima, for example. Half of Rising, written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Truman's dropping the bomb, is a sobering, depressing affair. Happily, the other half is a blast (as in "fun," as opposed to kaboom!).

The power and focus sorely missing from Yoko's previous, sporadic releases are clear and present here. Obviously, involving her son's band helped her bring concepts to fruition. IMA also provides Yoko with her most sympathetic backing since hubby John Lennon was heard incessantly chewing gum and riffing happily behind her on those early Apple albums.

And, evidently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Sean Lennon's guitar work on "Turned the Corner" employs whammy-bar techniques similar to those his pop used on"Walking on Thin Ice." There are also some Lennonesque background vocals on "Talking to the Universe" that sound more like John than Sean.

You have to wonder what goes through Sean's head hearing "You're a dildo/I'm a whore/I'm a Barbie doll, you're a bore" coming from the same mouth that used to yell at him to straighten his room. Imagine: Yoko's in her 60s, and she still does those great manta-ray noises the B-52's nicked for "Rock Lobster." Can your mom do that?

Most rock fans' Yoko Ono collections begin and end with Double Fantasy, so hearing Yoko return to her old, improvisational self on some cuts--i.e., "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mommy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)"--may not be a welcome treat. "I'm Dying" and "Kurushi" are both lengthy cuts that consist of the title repeated over and over with different inflections and moans. It's the kind of music for which the term "acquired taste" was invented.

But all is not inaccessible. If Capitol were brave enough to breech-birth a single, it'd probably stop at the Crazy Horse-sounding "New York Woman." Other eye openers are "Warzone," where Yoko and the boys take on hard-core, and the playful "Ask the Dragon," which recalls Laurie Anderson's "Excellent Birds," except that Yoko mimics monkey, tiger, dragon and elephant noises rather than the inside of an aviary.

Ultimately, it's not Yoko's pet sounds that deserve attention, but her use of language, which is generally as direct as a shopping list. Not long after falling in love with her, John Lennon stopped writing lyrically artsy songs like "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" in favor of simple, plaintive observations like "Love," "How?", "Because" and "Remember."

Rising won't prompt you to rid your CD collection of fluff-filled McCartney albums, but at least you'll have no trouble interpreting its basic intentions. Miss-ah Yoko's rising!--Serene Dominic


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