Local Calls

Since I...
(independent cassette)
By Christina Henriques

Since I...? That's the band's name, strange but appropriate. Not only is their name an incomplete thought, so are some of their lyrics: The three-song tape begins with "Lost Dreams" and a chorus that goes, "Come to me, come to me/...Lost dreams of.../Lost dreams of...." They've got a fill-in-the-blanks kinda thing going. The music itself is built on a keyboard foundation, a Ray Lynch "Celestial Soda Pop" sound. The second track, "Spend the Night" (a totally original theme), sounds like a continuation of the first song. And "Filthy Rich" gives a little room for guitar and bass to be heard along with those keyboards.

Not that this demo is all bad. If the band would dig deeper into the lyrical suggestion box and vary its sound a bit, it'd open some ears on the alternative/new wave front. In fact, the vocals are a vague cross between the Furs and a-ha, straight outta the early Eighties, so if Hollywood ever makes a sequel to the movie Pretty in Pink, these guys will be contenders for the soundtrack.

Barnyard Delights & Other Songs
of Protest
(Style CD and cassette)

Was that the Beatles? No, no, it was the Byrds. Or Neil Young. The Silos? Matthew Sweet? Who the hell am I listening to?

Oh, Rooster Head. No wonder.
A music writer could go completely 'round the bend trying to pinpoint all the influences, homages, and appropriations the members of this incredibly talented and unrepentantly diverse outfit bring to their music. Barnyard Delights, their third release, finds SoFlo's best and brightest at the top of their craft, rolling out more sweet stuff than Willie Wonka's chocolate factory.

Rooster Head remains the most accessible original rock band on the local scene, the band that single-handedly contradicts all those who would put down the area's rock talent pool, the (dare we say it?) thinking person's rock band. If they have a shortcoming (they must; they haven't yet outsold Garth Brooks or Pearl Jam, and we all know how closely related sales charts and artistic merit are, don't we?), it's that lead vocalist/songwriter Michael Kennedy is not blessed with golden pipes. So you won't hear Rooster Head cover octave-stretchers like Mariah Carey (at least not faithfully). Big fucking deal. Non-Davie residents (and perhaps even a few of the shitkickers themselves) with enough functioning brain cells to recall the Chuck Berry tune that inspired it will break their achy hearts over "Going Back to Memphis." Kennedy's voice is confident and expressive, his phrasing refreshingly original, and his timing dead on the money. And, yes, most of the songs he writes fit comfortably within his range. He's no fool.

If you've been thinking about sampling some local original fare but haven't opened the menu yet, take a tip from a regular: Rooster Head should be your first course. They're accomplished and versatile enough to please even the most discriminating gourmand, yet sufficiently hook-conscious and melodic to appeal to those not yet fully weaned from Top 40/AOR. As Americans prepare to usher in a new era in presidential politics, the time has come to begin thinking about a Rooster in every pot.

Buy This Tape, Or We'll Shoot the Cat
(independent cassette)

The cat lives, nine times over. The music -- psych-funk groove rock -- makes the sale, and the packaging is a bonus not always found in local releases (as is a nod to an old National Lampoon cover). With the major exception of the Goods' 5 Steps to Getting Signed, we can't think of too many area releases that include so much fodder on the J-card, not to mention such dramatic and tasteless cover art. That would be a b&w photo of a handsome black cat being held by the scruff of its neck while a variety of firearms are pointed at its face, the expression of which reveals that this grimalkin is none too happy being a model. God forbid they make a video, the kitty seems to be thinking, its eyes at half mast and its little kitty teeth protruding slightly. There is a disclaimer inside: "No small furry animals were harmed in the course of producing this tape," and besides, an inner-sleeve photograph reveals that the puss is running this show, as cats are wont to do.

Of course, no one buys a tape just to read the liner scrawlings, but we support the belief that an album is an album -- a package of recorded music plus the package itself. Hell, R.E.M. made an (abstract) art of it back in the days when vinyl existed. Nonetheless, Swyambu scores high on the music front, too; the feline need not fear.

The themes are the standard stuff -- deep psychosis, cultural rebellion, and darkly brooding, introspective moroseness of the sort upon which Pink Floyd built a career. That's just the themes, Swyambu sounds nothing like Floyd. The Chili Peppers and any number of other neofunk, hard-rock outfits, maybe, especially on "Psycho-Freak," which deals that cranking hand, even upping the ante with a sweet, recurring keyboard-generated boing that was almost deleted in the final mix. Here's one sucker for hooks who's glad the decision went the other way.

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