THE MIRACLE OF TIME TRAVEL!
You win! It’s now my good fortune–courtesy of the wonderful people at the spiffily-revamped BAM–to expend my energy and yours in a gala, no-holds-barred regular column devoted to…and here comes the good part… my opinion. Lucky you. And while I’m limited to only offering my opinion about records, that’s OK. Because if you’re like me, you’ll agree that most records are 1) round, 2) sometimes shiny, and 3) often have a hole in the middle. Agreed? Good. We have lots in common.
As for that personal background of mine for which you’re surely clamoring–if my good friend and BAM L.A. editor Bill Holdship has failed to provide it elsewhere–here goes: Born in the rural south and nicknamed “Patches” by cruel friends, I worked long, hard, 16-hour…no, wait. I have lots of records and habitually listened to them as a youth when I should have been interacting with other human beings. I am afraid of strangers. My permissive parents allowed me to see so many exciting rock ‘n’ roll shows that I squandered whatever opportunity I might’ve had to attend an Ivy League college and become the wealthy corporate attorney I was surely meant to be. I loved disco, hated punk and new wave, and sincerely feel that the Rolling Stones peaked in 1961. The Beatles, however, remained OK for several years or so. I have been a big fan of “alternative music” since it was established as a genre in a nationally-distributed magazine article about a year or two ago.
Well, enough about me. For kicks, this column will regularly examine an arbitrarily-selected batch of new records and, in fine style, assign each of them a ranking from 1-5 in ascending order of “quality.” Innovative? You bet! And a word about my taste: it’s great. Since most rock critics are–how to say this politely?–syncophantic morons who mysteriously share the same opinion about almost every record, I’ll make an effort not to tread in too-obvious territory too often. And that reminds me: Aren’t R.E.M. just dandy?
Oh yeah. My favorite recording artist of the last 10 years is Momus.
JEFF BUCKLEY Grace (Columbia): While the surprisingly substantial debut album of Sony’s latest Big Boy offers some texturally impressive arrangements, good-lookin’ dude Jeff falls short in two vital departments. One: there aren’t many memorable melodies here. Two: He simply, unavoidably, can’t-be-blamed-for-it-but sounds precisely like his much more talented father, Tim, and will suffer by comparison for the remainder of his career. Recently saw him live and noted that every single time he went off on some zesty, arty vocal trill that wowed the youngish crowd, he was simply pulling the same stuff his dad was doing years ago–only not as well. Not his fault, but not ours either. 2.5/5
IVY Realistic (Seed): This utterly fab debut album features a female French vocalist, two overdubbed New York multi-instrumentalists, and production by Ultra Vivid Scene’s Kurt Ralske. It follows their recent red-hot EP called Lately, which sensibly concluded with a choice cover of “I Guess I’m Just A Little Too Sensitive” by Scotland‘s mythic Orange Juice. It is better than most everything else I’ve heard this year. Convenient and exploitative rock-crit shorthand: Imagine a double-tracked Nico singing 12 songs like “Femme Fatale” and not sounding like a gruff-voiced Feminazi. 4/5
THIS PICTURE City Of Sin (Dedicated/Arista) Old enough to remember the “generation gap”? Try this fun test! Get three white male rock critics, one in his mid-40s, one in his late-30s, and one in his mid-20s. Put them in a room. Play this fine CD. Innocently ask each whom This Picture lead singer Simon Bye sounds like. Guaranteed response, by age–Mid-40s: “Early Neil Diamond. `Solitary Man.‘” Late-30s: “The guy from Fever Tree. `San Francisco Girls.'” Mid-20s: “Bono. Lead singer of U2. Um, all their good stuff. I forget the names of the songs.” Then blow the room up. 3.5/5
A.R. KANE New Clear Child (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.) This sublimely tasteful, typically atmospheric set by that cultish Brit twosome–who really don’t record as often as they should–sounds unlike just about anything else out there. Were this being written by someone with a degree in English literature, you would next read a sentence containing the terms “smoky warmth,” “breathless intimacy,” “subtly soul-wrenching” and, of course, “arguably,” and you would believe it meant something. Weird. 4/5
ERIC CLAPTON From The Cradle (Duck/Reprise) While one suspects that this all-blues album is indeed something guitarist Clapton has been waiting to record all his life, one also suspects that the well-groomed superstar desperately needed to clear his throat before singing album opener “Blues Before Sunrise,” but didn’t. As a result, he sounds like a very old, grizzled black man, which I’m quite sure he isn’t. Is it just me, or wouldn’t a nice fresh remake of “SWALBR” be more appropriate? 2/5
VERUCA SALT American Thighs (Minty Fresh) Destined to be the Next Big Thing, as per their agreement with Satan, this Chicago explosion-to-be combines agreeably hard-riffing guitars with sweet female harmony vocals not unlike those of the late U.K. group Strawberry Switchblade. Wisely taking their name from the surrealist film classic Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory —Veruca was the snooty preteen rich-bitch, but damn she had soul–and already massive on KROQ, they now truly stand on the verge of superstardom. The Big Question: Will they garner the acclaim they so richly deserve–or will they swiftly tumble into the pits of Hades that await them? Heck, I don’t know. 4/5
Next issue: With that pointless introduction out of the way, there’ll be even more space for records! Giddy with enthusiasm?