Home Grown

Spring's sprung, so it's time for our critics to reap and sow the good and not-so-good of local recordings

Here we have Sister Red, a band so cleverly packaged one would think they had David Geffen's millions behind them. An extremely attractive three-piece with a strong image, a ten-song cassette of superior quality (with sampling, no less) in a five-page foldout J-card, a recent full-page ad in Billboard.... We're talkin' major bucks here, and a lot of brains, too.

However it's music that usually gets bands signed, and here is the flaw in the Sister Red machine. Aimee's thin, breathy vocals rarely explore the range of emotions the rather uncomplicated lyrics would like to imply. Songwriter/guitarist Anthony Winters got off to a few good starts, but the songs lack a necessary catchiness, and are sometimes easily traceable to their inspirations; both the chorus and subject matter of "I Miss You" are nearly identical to "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

To its credit, the Sister Red organization is wise in the ways of business and marketing, but the outfit would do well to slip passion for a contract back into the music, where it's needed. A slick product, but one should always put something in the box before the ribbon is tied.

-- Suzan Colon

DJ Laz
(Pandisc Music)

DJ Laz presents a juicy target. The popular Power 96 DJ and his partner in crime, Danny D, stocked Laz's eponymous Pandisc release with all the lyrical rap-music elements that critics love to lambaste - sexist braggadocio ("Hump All Night," "Back in the Days"), misogyny ("Fatal Attraction"), and violence ("Lookin' for the Payoff"). Round up the usual suspects.

Laz is not as profane as Luke, nor as incendiary as Chuck D, but it's safe to assume that this album will curry little favor with the National Organization for Women or the Police Benevolent Association.

Of course, the only people who really care about rap lyrics are anal-retentive, self-appointed guardians of morality (you know who you are) and music critics who still haven't forgiven Dylan for going electric. This is DJ Laz, after all, not Tracy Chapman. He's aiming for the feet, not the cranium, and he's a damn good shot. The opening cut, "Mami el Negro," positively percolates. Combining expert production, pumping bass, and samples from the Wilfrido Vargas merengue standard of the same name, "Mami" kicks. The cassette also features an amusing pseudo-reggae tune called "Rub Your Belly," and is sprinkled with excerpts from the classic Alvarez Guedes comedy routine offering Spanish lessons for Anglos (Lesson One: ≠Come mierda! Lesson Two: No!). That's an example of another important facet of DJ Laz's music: humor. An overriding sense of fun pervades "Mami el Negro," and that has helped push the video into heavy rotation on Video Jukebox and MTV International, and the album onto the Billboard "Black LP" chart.

Yes, it panders to the adolescent Latin males who make up a large percentage of DJ Laz's audience. No, it's not likely to convert Joni Mitchell fans into Power 96 listeners. But it's more infectious than offensive, and boasts some catchy keyboard work from Little Danny B. Sometimes even pompous music critics know a party when they hear it.

-- Todd Anthony

Look Around
(cassette demo)

When they finally run out of reggae bands to play the clubs along Ocean Drive on lazy Sunday afternoons, someone ought to give Look Around a call. Their music is the perfect breezy, mellow, World Beat-meets-New Age tonic with which to kick back and watch the sidewalk Rollerblade ballet.

All the ensemble's members have University of Miami music-school training, but don't hold that against them. Accomplished musicians with geographic and ethnic backgrounds as diverse as the metropolis they call home, Look Around combine Afro-pop, Brazilian jazz, Latin rhythms, and traditional rock styles in an effort to carve out a fresh niche in the original-music scene. The resulting songs are pleasantly polymorphic, easy-listening material that won't fill you up or make you think too hard, sort of like Sade without the smolder.

The downside is that the Lookers might be too disciplined for their own good, to the point of muting some of their quirkier instincts, leaving their recorded material sounding tame. There is little indication here of what these indisputably talented players might come up with if they got adventurous.

-- Todd Anthony

Dear John,
(demo cassette)

I'm leaving you for another man. I know it's hard to face, but we've just grown apart. I hope you'll understand someday. By the way, I'm taking the car, the dog, and the three-song demo from No One's Son. I figured you wouldn't want it anyway - you were always saying how they weren't breaking any new ground by playing the kind of power-chord driven MTV rock so popular in the late Eighties. And what was it you said about the "Unidentified Flying Sandwich" instrumental? That it was a dual guitar circle jerk?

But I like the melodic, hook-heavy guitar on "Where Will It End." Sure, "Do It for the Money" is your typical Warrant/Poisonesque sleaze grind, but dammit, John, sometimes I don't want to think. I wanna rock.

You and I never did see eye-to-eye on anything. I'm sorry, but this is for the best.

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