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Volume 90, Issue 87
Tuesday, March 11, 1997
Soundwaves: The bright walkway
Brighten The Corners
"Pigs they tend to wiggle when they walk/ The infrastructure rots/ And the owners hate the jocks/ With their agents and their dates," opens "Stereo," the leadoff single on Pavement's latest album, Brighten the Corners. The album is, one might consider, the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of indie rock brilliance for the band.
The last installment, Wowee Zowee, was unfortunately forgotten or never heard about. This took the five-piece band out of the spotlight that shone in its direction due to the success of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain attention achieved because of catchy pop songs like "Cut Your Hair" and "Gold Soundz." Wowee Zowee did very little for the band, aside from deterring many from its music.
Whether Pavement realized anti-pop music wasn't really the best avenue is unsure, but Brighten the Corners returns the band to the peak form it displayed on both Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and its critically-acclaimed Slanted and Enchanted. In fact, the latest release is the cleanest production ever attempted by the band.
Aside from "Stereo" (which may honestly be one of the best pop songs ever written), the album travels through all the flat notes, chord change-ups and out-of-tune vocals that are typical of Pavement. "Shady Lane" is an out-of-breath challenge during the verse for singer Steve Malkmus, though it is a rather slow, mellow piece about a blind date. The band takes a more straight-ahead rock touch with "Embassy Row," with varying guitar styles flowing melodically while Malkmus discusses the "netherworld of foreign feeds."
The album ends with the song "Fin," where one of its lines reads: "I trust you will tell me if I am making a fool of myself." Pavement must love to jest because such an idea is impossible for an album of this high calibre.
Britain's Cranes are one of the most original bands around. They have a crazy mosaic of aggressive, angular pop underneath the cherub-on-amphetamines vocals of Alison Shaw. The band has just released its fourth full-length called Population Four. It's really good.
Population Four takes the band's uniqueness and puts a bit of retro spin on it. There are moments on the record which are reminiscent of The Beatles, then Shaw's controlled howl kicks in and we're back to normal, at least normal for the Cranes.
A first on this record is bassist/keyboardist/guitarist Jim Shaw singing. The song is "Can't Get Free," a stunning piece of work where Alison's vocal style would have been inappropriate.
This record should do well to bring back the fans who might have been put off by the band's last CD, La Tragedie D'Orestre et Electre, which came out last December. That disc, based on plays and poems by Jean-Paul Sartre, was called a little too arty for a very arty band. This was just not true. The last CD went further to prove the band's diversity and showed that Alison Shaw can use that crazy British voice to sing French.
With Population Four, the Cranes have tried to make an album very different from their last. The trademark stuff from earlier recordings Alison's reverb-drenched voice, Manu Ros' detached are-you-listening-to-the-same-band-as-we-are drums and the guitar parts you could gash your finger on are back. They're just a little less attacking.
In the end, the listener realizes that when Alison Shaw sings, her evil side takes over, putting her in command of your attention. Lemmy from Motorhead or Eddie Vedder could learn a few things about presence from her.
Pimps, Pumps and Pushers
This debut CD from Austria's Sizequeen is another entry into an already oversaturated dance market. Peter Rauhofer, the band's primary member, serves as mixer, producer and principle songwriter. While many songs are collaborative efforts with local Austrian DJs, this is mainly Rauhofer's show and he fails miserably. Imagine Right Said Fred's campiness combined with Milli Vanilli's talent and you're nearing the ballpark.
Sizequeen deals in European dance club music the type usually heavy on little else but bass-driven energy. Unfortunately, the unrewarding Pimps, Pumps and Pushers can't provide even that. Most of the affairs here are droning, redundant and lack originality. At times it feels almost as if Rauhofer has taken a break and forgotten about the songs. As a result, many of them last twice as long as they should.
The first single, "Horny," is an eight-minute track begging to be put out of its misery before it's even halfway finished. Sadly, the remaining offerings suffer from the same syndrome. Melodically, there's nothing here that's catchy enough to attract even the most fickle dance fan and on occasion it becomes virtually impossible to differentiate one track from the next. Lyrically, Pimps, Pumps and Pushers is laughable, with most of the lyrical content limited to nothing but the song title's repeated chanting.
The album's production is also a weak point the instrumentation and arrangements are sparse, limited and boring. The album's single redeeming quality is its length a measly 10 tracks. Aside from that, there's absolutely nothing here that will help Sizequeen stand out from the crowd.
David Lynch has brought along some heavy musical hitters for a trip down his Lost Highway. Included on the soundtrack are such hit-makers as David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson and Lou Reed.
Music which drive this soundtrack, the sounds that invoke the spirit of Lynch's cinematic creation, are the instrumental mood pieces courtesy of Barry Adamson and Angelo Badlamenti. Adamson brings a dark, detective feel to two versions of "Mr. Eddy's Theme" and "Hollywood Sunset."
Badlamenti, a longtime Lynch collaborator whose sounds complement Lynch's visions for Wild at Heart and the stellar Twin Peaks TV series, brings his jazzy soundscapes to seven of Lost Highway's tracks. The best of which are "Red Bats With Teeth" and the steamy "Fred and Renee Make Love."
Admittedly, the singles grab the listener's attention and for no small reason. Marilyn Manson is its old chaotic, obtrusive self, though "Apple of Sodom" is one of the best things this band has ever done.
Lou Reed's "This Magic Moment" provides upbeat break from the soundtrack's overly dark feel, while Smashing Pumpkins' "Eye" shows Billy Corgan is not as afraid of dance hall loops as one may have previously expected.
David Bowie's "I'm Deranged" is more evidence of his penchant for drum and bass, while Nine Inch Nails' "The Perfect Drug" suggests Trent Reznor and company are beginning to lean in a similar direction.
Reznor has two solo offerings here and serves as the album's producer, under the close watch of Lynch himself. Reznor's instrumental pieces were formed by imitating the feel of some of Lynch's crude drawings. If that sounds weird, that's just David Lynch. And for any music to complement a piece of Lynch's film work, to go the conventional route will never properly lead to the Lost Highway.
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