Local Wire


On her first solo release, the former Banshee shows us that the influential punk songwriter of the '70s and '80s has moved on and evolved musically without losing her edge. Having waited so long to do a full disc of her own, she takes the opportunity to experiment, and the CD is filled with loud, distorted guitars and droning sounds that seem almost custom-made for her voice. "If It Doesn't Kill You" is the first to grab you by the stomach with its lush arrangement of guitars and strings, all conveying the message that one has to try new things every once in a while to help form character. The sparse instrumentation on "Loveless" does exactly what it means to do — make you focus on the desperation of the lyrics, which speak of someone who has hit rock bottom but cannot wait to get back on her feet again. "Drone Zone" has you almost reaching for the Dramamine, as the saxophones and vocals seem to spin around to resemble a drunken buzz, and "Sea of Tranquility" mixes acid jazz drums with a cacophony of African, Latin, and urban sounds. The only radio-friendly tunes on the disc are "They Follow You," which has a '60s psychedelic feel (the backing vocals seem taken directly from George Harrison's "Blue Jay Way") and the closing tune, "Heaven and Alchemy," a rock ballad that also has a retro, early '70s feel. Mantaray is clearly not easy listening and can only be recommended for those who don't have a weak ear. It takes a few spins to get used to, but the experience is rewarding if you allow yourself to enjoy the ride.
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Ernest Barteldes