Okay, folks, it's that time once more. Get out your six-packs and handkerchiefs and prepare to get steeped in local color, but first this: You may want to check out the Smoking Popes, coming to us all the way from Chicago. If the band's Get Fired CD is any indication, this is great punk/pop with fail-safe lyrics about love and girls and girls and love. The Popes are funny. The Popes rock. Who could ask for more? That'll be Friday at the Underground. Call 231-0488.
Another import from Chicago is Moonshine Willy, not an aging bluesman but a trio that does what it calls "alternative country." Also on the bill is hometown talent the Ramblers, featuring guitar whiz Mario Moreno, and Ned Beatty and the Inbreds, an interesting concoction made from the boys in Earl C. Whitehead and the Grievous Angels. All this will be at the Rhythm Room on the birthday of our great nation; call 265-4842.
Critical Mass is the rather heavy-handed name of a band that makes some rather heavy-handed music. This quartet can play, make no bones about that, but the vocals are often off-key and too Geddy Lee-meets-Supertramp for my taste. And some of the high harmonies are not too harmonious. These guys sound like they've got their sights set on re-creating Seventies arena rock (a frightening notion), and for some reason, they felt compelled to cover Rush's "Spirit of Radio" as the kicker of this four-song tape. Call 839-3819.
From one Ralene Baker comes a two-song offering that shows her to be a woman with a strong, lovely voice from the Kate Bush school. The tunes are acoustic-guitar based and not particularly original. No number.
Talk about an attention-getting presentation. Mick Mathews sent me a tape--now I'm just guessing this was unintentional, mind you--that was dubbed roughly three times faster than it should be. I kept getting the urge to switch it from 45 to 33, but you just can't do that with cassettes. Basically, it sounded like a speed-metal version of the Chipmunks. Then the thing began completely distorting, and unless Mick is pulling my leg or really trying something new, I'd say he should march back to whoever duplicated his tape and get his money back.--Peter Gilstrap If you ever feel so deeply engulfed in self-loathing that you say, "Hey! I don't deserve to hear any music that could bring me pleasure," then consider giving Blind Guy Driving a listen. Despite the amusing title, the band's Stop Staring at My Breasts cassette stops being funny the minute the vocals come in. These joyless, self-important lyrics make you hate singer Mike Curtiss immediately, which is too bad for him since drummer Darren Dorton wrote them. "I hate the words I could've been," Curtiss yelps, but you'll just hate the words. Guaranteed. Nobody has any business writing lines like "Fame, fortune and success has [sic] all been a lie" if they're sending Tapes in the Mail. Dorton's predictable chord progressions and bad prose about where his destiny lies are excruciating--his destiny should lie someplace where he can't find a pad and pencil. The only bright spot is the last song, "Da Da Da Da," which (surprise! surprise!) singer Mike Curtiss wrote. Its jollity recalls Monty Python's "Eric the Half a Bee," its melody suits his vocal range and it's not a pretentious bore. Call 267-8153.
Next, destiny leaves us on the Glass Heroes' doorstep, and not a moment too soon. Put on a faded Max's Kansas City tee shirt and make yourselves at home with this five-song tape Don't Lie, Don't Pose. At last, Phoenix has a band that sounds like a buncha guys from Queens, even if we had to import them from Detroit. Lead guitarist/vocalist Keith Jackson must've been fed a steady diet of Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers, the Boyfriends, the Ramones, the Voidoids and any other Bowery bums with Les Pauls you care to name. Fans of the New York Dolls will appreciate how Jackson's vocal inflections dip down at the end of every line, just like David Johansen's did back in the days when his personality crisis had nothing to do with being called Buster. Jackson's straightforward lyrics neither lie nor pose, but maybe a little posturing might go a long way in helping you distinguish Glass Heroes from its influences. Since this tape was recorded and copyrighted in 1991, these minor adjustments have probably already taken place. Race to see them in a club, if just to prove to your lazy Phoenician sensibilities that Loud Fast Rules have a home in the Valley of the Sun. (No number).
Picture Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano singing Pat Benatar songs and you come close to describing the Visitors' demonstration tape. Despite singer Cindy Swan's versatile pipes, nothing can salvage these songs once writer/lead guitarist Bob Harris starts to chime in vocally like a robotic Fred Schneider. The best songs here are the two on which he doesn't open his mouth. The guitar sound on this tape is also lacking--in volume! It's not a good sign for a heavy-metal band to have guitars so heavily compressed, chorused and limited that you feel like the sound's coming from the belly of a pencil sharpener. Oh, well, maybe they play through a massive stack of pencil sharpeners live. Before you decide to frequent one of the Visitors' gigs, find out if that guy from A Flock of Seagulls has posted a reward for the safe return of his nutty hairdo (see picture). Call 866-8273.
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Lastly, Jess Hawk Oakenstar (no relation to Black Oak Arkansas) sent in an advance review copy of his album Your Heart Will Show You. Unfortunately, it was so advanced it didn't have even the song titles listed. Oakenstar's an amiable, coffee-house singer/songwriter who has a very good producer--the multi-instrumental coloring is the best thing this tape has going for it. His songs range from the good-timey (weighing the pros and cons of hanging out at some state beach) to the righteous (that "family values" issue everybody's been bored by since Murphy Brown first got her nostrils all flared up about it). If you share his views, you'll enjoy his material. Just be sure you like the gentler, mellow sounds of a boy and his acoustic. Honk if you miss Dan Hill. Call 258-7985.
@hed:Tapes in the Mail. Again.
@cut:The Visitors, keeping New Wave hairdos alive in the Nineties. @body