TAPES IN THE MAIL
The Beat Angels at Long Wong's?
Unthinkable? Impossible? Perhaps, considering the bile that the Angels' fey, puckish singer Brian Smith has spewed on the Mill Avenue "scene" in these very pages. But apparently, Smith and the boys' insatiable need to simply "entertain" won out; last Saturday, "bile" turned to "smile" as the slimmest quintet on the west side came east, crossing city lines to take the stage at the club that was wet nurse to--do I really have to say it?--the G. Blossoms and D.H. Workshop.
What the hell, it was a great night.
The band was in superb form, the electric front line fighting force of Pate, Brooks and Jackson (with names like that, they should get ten-gallon hats, codpieces and skintight jeans and catch the next flight to Nashville) forming a mighty wall of rawk, and don't forget Jon Norwood. If clocks could play drums, it would take a diamond-faced Rolex to replace this man.
Wong's being slightly larger than a garage, space was a tough thing to find during most of the set. I would not want to be a cocktail waitress at that place. Wedged into a corner, I ran into multimedia talent and Coors Light drinker Ted Simons, who observed that--even in the case of the anything-but-jangly Angels--"this place makes any band sound like a Mill Avenue band."
I don't know about that, but I personally detected no whiffs of backward baseball hats or flannel. Zen Lunatics opened up, and, no doubt buoyed by the spirit of Michael Landon, were an absolute pleasure. For pure spirit-raising experience, the Lunatics are better than Prozac.
Now, let's face the music.
Hillbilly Devilspeak sent in a four-song seven-inch (on England's BGR Records, no less) that has some fine moments. Some of the tunes really crack me up. For some reason, I doubt they're supposed to, though I'm guessing the trio is not without a sense of humor, judging from the cover art featuring Schlitzy the Pinhead. "Revenge of the Micronauts" is kind of distorted, herky-jerky surf-core. Perfect. This should be on every alarm clock. Vocals, especially on the metallic, midtempo "Paedophile," consist of little more than Janovesque screaming, but Devilspeak's forte is not lyrics. "Paedophile" (which goes straight into "Restraining Order") pretty much consists of the word "paedophile" repeated for a while. And then "restraining order" repeated for a while. At the end of the piece, we are treated to someone fucking around with a delay pedal, making helicopterlike sounds ad nauseam as the final groove catches on the needle and goes on and on. I guess that's so you won't forget to take the thing off. The band didn't send along a phone number.
The frenetic, dance-or-go-home outfit that is Warsaw delves deeply into the world of ska, with brief excursions into funk and punk. There's as much Madness here as English Beat, and the tight playing of each of the six members is truly something to behold. Dig the sax gymnastics of Jim Hughes on "Telescope Pointed at the Sun" and Hughes' own "Marijuana," a shot of adrenalized reggae with insipid lyrics ("I like to smoke marijuana/It gets me high if I wanna") saved by his gorgeous solo. Vocalist Chris Poland manages to sound like Paul Weller, not necessarily a bad thing, on his "Ever So Smooth," an unrelenting, rhythmic pump job. But then, that's Warsaw in a nutshell; the band has been on the Phoenix-Flagstaff-Tucson circuit for a while now, and, judging by tapes, it is not to be missed. Call 1-602-881-4704.
I saw the name Bowl of Cereal. I slipped the tape into the box. I nearly fell asleep. Doug Lauber, the person behind BOC, wrote in hoping for "that rare positive review." Gosh, I sure hate to disappoint, but this three-song tape sounds like a one-man project by a guy with a pleasant tenor voice and the ability to run a home studio. And that's about as positive as it gets. The music by Bowl of Cereal does not snap, crackle or pop; it's self-serious, midtempo stuff with lyrics so bad they're hard to take seriously. But hey--if you think I'm full of shit, read this: From "I Can't See," we have "I can't see, what you do to me/I can't tell, is it heaven or hell. . . . You take me up, then you bring me down/I felt so low, when you let me go." Okay, how about the pointed insight of "Politicians taking all my time/I can see now all they say is lies" found in "Political Waste"? I rest my case. Call 860-4929.
Frank Mackey is a member of local neobluegrass band Ned Beatty and the Inbreds, and that heritage-from-the-heart brand of music is all over this personal four-song, self-named tape. Mackey is a facile acoustic guitarist, from the subtle figures of the pretty pop-folk "Swimmen in Unison" to the punishing flourishes of "Kelly McFiesty." "McFiesty" (a bit cloying for me) is a spoken/sung story song about this Kelly fellow--"He didn't learn about life from an instructional book, experience it was his lesson in futility/And old Kelly always got what Kelly went after/Lord he was a son-of-a-gun, Kelly was a scrapper." Mackey--who'd better have Irish blood to get away with pronouncing "eyes" "oyz" and "sacrifice" "sacrifoice"--is a cross between Dougie McClean and Pete Seeger; he sings with passion and has his act down. The only thing I question is his spelling; the tale of a tough Emerald Isle gal who "never had a vacation on the French Riviera/Lost a chance to sing on national radio/Put up with situations of consistent disaster/Lives off a government check" is titled "Part Steal Part Rosary." No number.--
Get the Music Newsletter