Naughty Little Doggie
As punk rock's generational cycle spins ever onward, with last week's angry young thing replaced by this week's rabble-rousing shaver, it's reassuring to know that two of the music's fortysomething architects are still around spewing bile and caustic protest like the grumpy old men no one ever thought they would live to become. Former MC5 guitarist/songwriter Wayne Kramer follows his 1995 masterwork The Hard Stuff with the equally amazing Dangerous Madness, while Iggy Pop -- punk's forever godfather since his broken-glass days with the Stooges 30 years ago -- checks in with the edgy Naughty Little Doggie.
Iggy's been knocking out solo records for most of the thirteen years separating Doggie and Raw Power, the 1973 onslaught that heralded punk's youth as it terminated his tenure with the Stooges. There've been some good records (1977's double whammy of The Idiot and Lust for Life, New Values from '79), some bad ones (all of 'em from '80 to '88), and some that came to life, if only for one song ('93's American Caesar, for example, with its monster reworking of "Louie Louie"). Doggie, though, is something else -- a biting and bitchy statement of personal rage and focused indignation laced with compassion ("Outta My Head") and sleazy humor ("Pussy Walk"). "I Wanna Live" is a manifesto of ego and survival, "Knucklehead" skewers the mod cons of mid-Nineties life, and "Innocent World" yearns for a time and place that Iggy knows was anything but. Through it all, his crunch-rock quartet, the Fuckups, led by guitarist/co-songwriter Eric Mesmerize, give Iggy the pounding and driving accompaniment he's needed for years.
Wayne Kramer's Dangerous Madness is a cranky and stomping affair that reiterates the passions and concerns of his '95 Epitaph debut The Hard Stuff. Rather than resorting to the revolutionary sloganeering of the MC5, Kramer's solo work offers detailed snapshots of urban decay and internal confusion, punctuated by his squawking and squealing guitar runs. And like the modern Iggy, Kramer (with the songwriting assistance of rock scribe Mick Farren) has found a way to turn his bitching into glorious and anthemic rock and roll, from the blue-collar autobio "Back to Detroit" to "Something Broken in the Promised Land," a gristly and chilling rewrite of Chuck Berry's similarly titled '64 classic.
By John Floyd
Waitin' For George
At long last the Freewheelers are back, with an album full of joyous music for people not afraid to move their asses. The band's 1991 debut featured an incomparable ode to Oedipal lust called "Thinkin' 'Bout Your Mother." But the quintet subsequently jumped labels, shifted personnel, and spent a year or so waiting for ace producer George Drakoulias to finish up his work on the Jayhawks' Tomorrow the Green Grass.
The cheekily titled Waitin' For George wastes no time establishing a loud-and-proud sound: Luther Russell's sandpaper baritone and wiry guitar sail over a swirling Hammond B-3 organ, tinkling piano fills, and a chugging rhythm section, while three Motown-approved tootsies serve up some wailing back-up vocals. The dual keyboards lend the 'Wheelers a New Orleans-style melodic lushness -- a decadence, really -- that is fully in keeping with Russell's hedonistic lyricism. A sampling of his subject matter? Well, "Walkin' Funny" is about being too drunk to ambulate; "Ghost of Tchoupitoulas St." is a booze-and-bong-inspired vision of the Big Sleazy; "My Little Friend" is about -- yes -- the frontman's peter.
To his credit, Russell is also capable of writing music that aims above the neck. "(Chico's Sellin') Maps to the Stars" is the mordant chronicle of an underemployed Los Angelino: "Chico sits on Sunset/Crouchin' in a gray chaise longue/Sunday drivin' Monday/He gets what he can scrounge." Meanwhile, "What's the Matter, Ruth" is a raw-voiced lament that would fit comfortably in the Steve Marriott oeuvre.
One word of warning, amid deserved praise: The pace rarely slows during the thirteen songs collected here. With Russell yelling, the instruments blaring, and the rhythms coming fast and furious, this is mood music for a blowout, not chill time.
BY Steven Almond
The City of Lost Children Soundtrack
Funny how movies and CDs are different: When a movie is popular, it never leaves the theater, but when a CD is unpopular, it never leaves the store. In spite of hype from director Terry Gilliam (who, judging from his latest effort, 12 Monkeys, knows an overstimulated movie when he makes one), French filmmakers Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's The City of Lost Children didn't hang around in art theaters for very long. Will the soundtrack album suffer the opposite fate? One hopes not.
Some film scores don't stand up without the film's images. Here is the opposite case: Angelo Badalamenti's score makes an even deeper impression when it is freed from the film's endless visual assaults. There are three main themes: a sinister organ-grinder's tune, a mournful melody titled "Who Will Take My Dreams Away?" that is sung over the end credits by Marianne Faithfull. and a Main Title with drooping harmonies and scoring for divided strings that recalls the classic film work of Bernard Herrmann.
As is the case with many film scores, once you've heard the main themes, be prepared to hear them again and again. At least the composer gives us three of them in this case. However, Badalamenti avoids repetitiousness by composing variations on his themes, and by placing them in front of different musical backgrounds as the dramatic situations dictate. Like the film, the music is very dark and a bit of a downer, but it's also restrained and delicate in a way that the film can't even begin to approach. Badalamenti, whose prior work includes the scores to several David Lynch productions, clearly responds to cinematic weirdness with music of unusual beauty and poignancy.
By Raymond Tuttle
A Pogues album without Shane MacGowan: the perfect gift for anyone who loved those Doors albums without Jim Morrison.
By Michael Roberts
A Slice of Lemon
(Lookout/Kill Rock Stars)
Option magazine once detailed the twin camps of indie labels Dischord and K and found faction where there was none to find. The same is true of this rattle-bash double-disc compilation, which pairs the stable of talent at the Berkeley-based punk label Lookout with the Seattle/Olympia collective at Kill Rock Stars. The set list includes cherubic pop-punk (Delightful Little Nothings, Red #9, Go Sailor, Cub), horn-heavy ska (Shaken 69), and back-in-the-day retreads (Chickenhead), as well as some skewed trajectories that seldom cut it (Men's Recovery Project, Lice, Worst Case Scenario).
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Anyone familiar with nuevo punk will probably recognize Pansy Division as one-time openers for Green Day. Both bands can claim lineage in the Gilman Street scene, the all-ages Berkeley co-op and feeder stage for the fiercely independent Lookout label. Pansy Division's music is dubbed queercore, and they are one of a cabal of out-and-in-your-face bands such as San Francisco's Tribe 8 and Sub Pop's Team Dresch. "Ring of Joy," the Division's contribution here, is about exactly what you think it is, and sounds like a chiming, bawdy goof on the gay agenda. Among the other Lookout acts featured, the Mr. T Experience gives a nod to their School House Rock days with a cover of "Unpack Your Adjectives."
As for the Kill Rock Star roster, the Executioners amble in with "Court Food," a hooky love-and-regret slow-drive. Rose Melburg, ex-singer/guitarist with the now-defunct Tiger Trap, continues in the same dreamy vein as one-third of Go Sailor. The Frumpies, a side project for assorted members of Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, appear here with "Safety First," a clanging mess that sounds like a bunch of garbage cans rolling down a stairwell -- metal machine music without a purpose. Thankfully, Mary Lou Lord -- a street busker made good -- salves the Frumpies' abrasions with "Eternal Circle," a Baez-like strummer.
With a list price of about $16, A Slice of Lemon is a thrifty trove of cut-and-paste punk. Not exactly a call to arms, the collection is more like a hodgepodge tape from a friend. You forgive the lame tracks, hit fast forward, and pogo to your favorites.
By Jennifer Przybylski