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Cake
Motorcade of Generosity
(Capricorn)

Ever get the feeling alternative rock is on the verge of collective suicide? I do. All the hot new bands sound so bedraggled with Weltschmerz it's a wonder they have the energy to pound out the same three power chords over and over.

The five members of Cake, I'm shocked to report, are not suicidal. They aren't even clinically depressed (at least they don't sound clinically depressed). The twangy guitar, the galloping rhythm section, the swirling trumpet A definitive signs of happiness, bordering on exuberance. One earful of the juicy riff that propels "Jolene," or the mischievous cooing samples woven through "Mr. Mastedon Farm," and you might even agree to let the boys shave themselves.

By Steven Almond

Tribe 8
Fist City
(Alternative Tentacles)
Various Artists
The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls in Love soundtrack
(Milan)

How democratic. San Francisco's all-dyke Tribe 8 demonstrates that a band needn't be straight and male to pound out stale, three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust punk rock. Oh, singer Lynn Breedlove elicits a grin from time to time, notably on "Romeo and Julio," wherein she recalls her past life as a gay guy in ancient Rome, and on "Neanderthal Dyke," on which she deep-sixes the PC lesbian agenda ("I never read Dworkin/I ride a big bike/Feminist theory gets me uptight/Get in some heels and lipstick/And I'll spend the night"). But mostly her monotonic rants, like her bandmates' tiresome instrumental fulminations, have the depth and breadth of a flatlined EKG. On occasion, though, they drop-kick the one-trick late-Seventies thrash to lapse into some thudding heavy-metalisms ("Flippersnapper") and ham-fisted glam ("Frat Pig," "All I Can Do") A as predictable and witless as anything by W.A.S.P. and M”tley Cre.

Conversely, soprano saxophonist Terry Dame (a woman with a track record of composing music for all-women ensembles and for noncommercial films by women) has written an evocative score for the just-released film The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls in Love. Dame's short instrumental pieces deftly combine her somber sax with Christine Kuhn's cello, Marie Breyer's percussion, and Tom Judson's piano to fashion music reminiscent of Gabriel Yared's remarkable score to the film Betty Blue. The soundtrack also benefits from the presence of three fine songs by queer-friendly artists: BETTY's ultrahooky "A Typical Love," Scrawl's simmering-then-explosive "The Clock Song," and Lois's wistful "Page Two."

By Michael Yockel
Tribe 8 performs on Friday, July 7, at 10:00 p.m. at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501 NE 2nd Ave; 757-1807. Admission costs $6.

Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio
Big Cliff
(Delmark)

Jazz wasn't always the province of polite, well-dressed young men rehashing old tunes and old styles. No, the JBM (Jazz Before Marsalis) era was plenty creative, full of chance-takers and ragers and fire-eaters and those artists willing to fly in the face of commercial wisdom simply to express themselves. Such artists were the founders of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, arguably the most innovative group of jazz musicians of the late Sixties and early Seventies. One of the AEC's founding members, bassist Malachi Favors, joins percussionist Kahil El'Zabar, tenor saxophonist-pianist Ari Brown, and violinist Billy Bang in this remarkable live recording (Chicago's Underground Fest 1994), encompassing some wildly creative, and, yes, even beautiful compositions written by El'Zabar.

Although the session is unapologetically avant-garde, there are lots of hooks, thrown mostly by Favors. The opener, "Another Kind of Groove," is perhaps the most listener-friendly track here, a deep bass riff pulling you in and keeping you there like the loving embrace of a completely mad mother; one minute it caresses, the next it dashes you to the pavement, as the squall of Bang's violin makes its presence felt. "Big Cliff," dedicated to the percussionist's late father, and "Blue Rwanda" make more demands on the ear (both skirt the twenty-minute mark), each as emotionally raw and honest as the most affecting blues tunes. Bang's violin bleeds like an open wound, his expression deeply rooted in pain and ecstasy.

Also in tribute to El'Zabar's deceased dad is the lovely ballad "For the Love of My Father," a slow but never quite dirgelike blues that features some gorgeous piano courtesy of Brown, as well as the tantalizing plink of El'Zabar's thumb piano. Thoroughly rooted in African drumming, El'Zabar hearkens to an earlier time, but never really looks back.

By Bob Weinberg

Naughty By Nature
Poverty's Paradise
(Tommy Boy)

If any rappers deserve to be called poets, Naughty By Nature's Treach and Vinnie do. The two don't delve into the depths of human existence, but man, do they love to play with words, firing off line after line chock full of snaking rhymes and alliterations: "Coming from the town of Illy/And alleys are full of Phillies and Rallys/Suckers get silly as Sally then found in alleys/I'm rowdy really...." They create scenes, drop allusions, and display knowledge of the world beyond hip-hop.

If any poets deserve to be called rap stars, it's this powerful trio (with DJ Kay Gee) from East Orange, New Jersey. On this, their third album, Naughty strikes up enough hard-edged partying in their smart lyrics and sharp beats to keep on top of the hip-hop core, while a handful of radio-ready tracks throw the group into wider pastures, reminding everyone they're also making marks on the pop charts.

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