Motorcade of Generosity

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

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 Cre.

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

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.

And if any rap stars deserve to be called survivors, it's Naughty, which has delivered three classic rap albums and three hip-hop anthems in the last four years: 1991's self-titled debut brought "O.P.P."; 1993's Nineteen Naughty III turned up "Hip Hop Hooray"; and the new record's "Feel Me Flow" undoubtedly will get grooves going throughout the summer. Poverty's Paradise is Naughty's third testament to the group's talent, popularity, and staying power A in rap, an unprecedented achievement.

By Roni Sarig

Shane MacGowan and the Popes
The Snake
(ZTT/Warner Bros.)

Listening to Shane MacGowan without the Pogues is like drinking your whiskey without water: You don't need the mix to get the same buzz. Erstwhile Pogue and future Betty Ford Clinic hall of famer MacGowan exited his old band in 1990, reportedly owing to his bout with the bottle. Now, five years later, he rebounds as if he's on the perfect bender with his freshest batch of songs in years, borrowing from the likes of ale-fest anthems such as "The Rising of the Moon" and dueting with papal vigilante Sinead O'Connor on "Haunted" (ironic when you consider the name of his new back-up combo). MacGowan staggers and swaggers through his signature Celtic punk, mostly hitting the mark, though at times his enunciation makes Tom Waits sound like Tony Randall. Next round's on Shane.

By George Pelletier

...Rocks Your Lame Ass

Kind of an odd name for a Ramones tribute band. Road to Ruin, Shock Treatment, and Cretin Hop already must have been taken.

By Michael Yockel

Various Artists
The Soul of Black Peru
(Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.)

"Maria lando," the song that kicks off this compilation of Afro-Peruvian music, has the potential to become an international classic. Its minor-key melody, driven by a tinkling flamencoish guitar line, gentle percussion, and the plaintive singing of Susana Baca, evoke a beautiful, melancholy mood reminiscent of a suddenly remembered dream.

West African slaves were brought to Peru, as they were to other South American areas, but in Peru the Spanish avoided importing large groups from any particular ethnic group, knowing a common language could foster resistance to slavery as it did in Cuba. Smaller groups from diverse backgrounds allowed the masters to divide and conquer. The descendants of these slaves slowly were integrated into their new country, but memories of Africa dominate their music-making to this day. Black Peruvians welded Spanish, African, and indigenous musical elements for their songs; they also invented unique percussion instruments, including the caj centsn, a wooden box held between the legs and played with the hands, and the quijada de burro, a burro's jawbone with loosened teeth that sounds like a tenor giro (gourd). Afro-Peruvian rhythms most closely resemble those of Andean music A at least to these Anglo ears A but African beats never take a back seat, giving the resultant sound a distinctive twist.

Besides "Maria lando," which is reprised by David Byrne at the end of the disc, the album overflows with impressive songwriting and musicianship: Manuel Donayre's "Yo no soy jaqui," an energetic land cents (a type of dance) with a message of racial pride, sounds like a cha-cha; Cecilia Barraza mixes Peruvian mountain rhythms into "Canterurias" and comes up with something that sounds like an African waltz; and Peru Negro, the group credited with helping to revitalize Afro-Peruvian music in the 1970s, lends a fierce rhythmic propulsion to "Son de los diablos" and "Lando."

By j. poet


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