TAPES IN THE MAIL
Remember that old rallying cry of the record industry in the Eighties: "Home taping is killing music"? Well, Mesa's No Name Maddox has administered the last fatal blow to music as we knew and loved her with this frightening, homemade porridge of samples, synthesizers and psychotics. "D.I.Y.--fuck the great God Warner Bros.," writes keyboardist N. Agony on the tape's photocopied insert; good thing he feels that way. It's a safe bet this three-man torture team won't be labelmates with Madonna and R.E.M. anytime soon. Or ever.
Dubbing this concoction "industrial/garage-sinister punk," the trio hit the ground running with "Finger Lickin' Good," which takes a grisly news account of a grave robbing in Texas and surrounds it with Armageddon echoes and lonesome blips from a synth. Other tracks tout a "fascist mix," a "Texas ghoul mix," a "Catholic disco mix" and my favorite, the "Jesus and Mary Chain mix," which ironically employs less hallway echo than all the other cuts. Whatever you do, don't listen to this fright fest of a tape alone. If you play it in a crowded room and everybody leaves (and believe me, they will)--GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND WAIT UNTIL SUFFICIENT TIME HAS PASSED BEFORE REENTERING! If you'd like to learn more about No Name Maddox, the group encourages you to "send a SASE or naked pictures" to: Bleeding Swan International, c/o Jason M. Colgin and Tiffany Erickson, 2145 West Broadway #139, Mesa, AZ 85202. And if you're lucky, maybe YOUR naked picture will be chosen to grace NNM's next release. The current one features a nun with a bad habit.
The four-track-recording revolution continues with Fevered Penguin's 27-song tape titled Beans for Dwarves. Any local tape containing that many songs constitutes every reviewer's nightmare, but more than half the numbers clock in at less than a minute and are, at worst, amusing.
No one ever accused Ween of being self-indulgent with its home recordings; Gene and Dean were just trying to entertain each other. But what is one to make of the Penguin, essentially a one-man operation? Pengy apparently has a lot of time on his hands to make quirky little recordings. One song sounds worlds different from the next, sorta like Chocolate and Cheese on a low budget. There's even a cover of the Surfaris' "Surfer Joe"--perhaps FP's bid for radio-friendly airplay? Nah! (No number.)
Phoenix's Donnie Dean and Diana Lee have aptly titled their "live at the Rhythm Room" CD Gimmick Free. You'd be hard-pressed to find a gimmick here since Dean's reggae rock and Lee's blues laments are pretty straight down the middle. After getting off to a ho-hum start with the title track--a horn-heavy instrumental that sounds like music to figure-skate to--Ms. Lee unclips her microphone for a little testifyin'. She's an engaging front person who keeps this drink-soaked crowd pumped with her unflagging enthusiasm. And when the lady trills up to those gospel flights of fancy on "The Need to Be," you can just about hear people put down their drinks to listen.
Adhering to blues-room etiquette, Lee never fails to introduce a band member who's about to solo. Her hot, sultry vocals might remind you of Ellen Foley, the gal who fogged up the windows above Meat Loaf's dashboard light. Even when the playing on this R&B/reggae mix threatens to become as slick as a Coors Light commercial, the soulful exchanges between Lee and Mr. Dean, her deep-voiced counterpart, keep things from becoming too generic. Sounds like a must-see. Phone/fax 973-5551.
A cursory glance at the May concert calendar for Tempe's Satellite reveals the group gigged a whopping 21 dates. What is this band trying to do--work itself into oblivion? Lord knows when the boys found the time to record this three-song demo. This must be a live-to-DAT recording since there's nary a trace of an overdubbed guitar or vocal, the better to demonstrate their stage sound to whatever club owners haven't yet booked these boys. If Satellite has its way, there'll be no days off in June. Singer Jay Damer clicks into his neat falsetto every so often, but otherwise sounds a bit like Live's front man. If there are any weak signals emanating from this Satellite, though, they're the lyrics. The best song here, "39 Degrees," tells us all about how bitter cold it gets living by the river in winter. Uh-huh. When people start actually discussing the weather, it's usually because they have nothing to say. Bands who sing about it risk similar accusations. Remember 10,000 Maniacs' "Thinking About the Weather"? Case closed! Several attempts at deciphering the word content of "She" and "Man for All Seasons" (more weather fodder) revealed little else. Maybe if Satellite worked less and had more fun, its next batch of songs might not sound so surly and humorless. But these tunes do have their hooks, and two out of three choruses were catchy. On the fun side, the tape cuts off before the last song's final chord is struck! Ouch! (No number.)
A band that has the lyric department all sewn up is Each Others' Legend. You might remember we reviewed the group's last tape no more than a month ago and compared singer/songwriter Joseph Langham to an agitated Roger McGuinn and T-Bone Burnett. Happily, there's no sharp drop in quality since then. If anything, this stripped-down, four-song demo is a lot stronger both vocally and lyrically.
There's a clever tune here about a guy who's convinced he's not going to heaven, so when he dies, he's bringing along "Fire Proof Rope" that "won't burn in hell." "Rush Limbaugh can have all of Howard Stern's fan mail," Langham sings, just so long as the singer can hang on to his quality hemp. There's not a whole lot of venues for folk-heavy bands of this ilk to play in the Valley except for the odd open-mike nights. That could explain why Each Others' Legend hasn't turned up in any listings yet. So where does EOL play? Call 'em. 1-520-773-0769.
Tempe's Postvale Road also sent us a second tape, but it's almost identical to the one it sent us last May, except with fewer songs. Since you folks out there clip out and save every installment of this popular Screed feature (don't you?), you can look up that review and see that although we said nothing great about the band, we didn't say anything bad, either. Times change, even if demos don't. Actually, one song, "Vitamin E," is new, if your idea of a Tempe band sounding like the Gin Blossoms is new. A tip to future repeat offenders with Tapes in the Mail: Wine gets better with age, not cheese! 730-5821.--Serene Dominic
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