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Volume 91, Issue 25
Thursday, October 9, 1997
This Southern Culture is pure white trash
Southern Culture on the Skids
Plastic Seat Sweat
Despite the seemingly care-free nature of their music, Southern Culture on the Skids have been defending their latest release, Plastic Seat Sweat, against charges of flippancy and novelty. They claim the album fuses social satire and commentary with musical proficiency.
The bulk of the album is riff-based with a heavy leaning towards influences such as rock-a-billy legend, Carl Perkins and the original beach boy, Dick Dale. Rick Miller's guitar is pervasive, but his use of effects is ornamental too much reverb on his amplifier and an excessively fuzzy choice of pedals. Miller's rhythm playing is decent (though somewhat trite) but his soloing is straight-up pentatonic crap. The occasional flawless tremelo and eerie melody is about all that stands out of his contributions. SCOTS' sound seems to be guitar-oriented, but it is the synchronized efforts of bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman that propel this band.
The two tracks which stand out are "House of Bamboo" and the title track. The former, sung by Huff, is a calypso-based song that recalls the vocal virtuosity of Astrud Gilberto. Plastic Seat Sweat is a sophisticated trance composition that makes use of a variety of instruments including a hammond B-3 organ, a sequencer, a trombone and an electric sitar. The song is not listed in the booklet or on the back of the case. It is a total anomaly and a welcome surprise.
The lyrics are not sophisticated and unfortunately they are easily discernable. Only three songs on the album are instrumental; the rest offer a sort of scrapbook of trailer-trash images. If there existed the faintest gleaning of lyrical self-consciousness, one might have bought the social satire bit but it sounds more like a good publicist muzzling the band's critics.
SCOTS enjoyed moderate success with their last release, Dirt Track Date a more subdued effort. The band toured for a year and a half, relentlessly promoting the album before they regrouped to record Plastic Seat Sweat. They have a contract with DGC and intend to keep writing. It is easy to see in this album the seeds of musical creativity and proficiency that are, as of yet, undeveloped. As long as their record company remains loyal and the band hones a less rococo style, SCOTS may achieve a musical style that suits a greater listening audience.
MOM II: Music For Our Mother Ocean
Surfdog / Interscope
A creature of the '90s, the benefit album is that daring animal aspiring to be critic-proof by virtue of its inevitably noble aspirations. This basically boils down to "How dare you slam our album, you cad? Think of the baby gerbils! Oh, the humanity!"
MOM II, the sequel to last year's musical endeavor to clean up the world's oceans, is a bit better than most. It starts out great with surf-guitar legend Dick Dale and about 15 tracks later Jimmy Buffett stumbles in. In other words, at first the music reigns, later the cause: how else to explain Buffett's presence as well as that of The Beach Boys?
But truth be told there's a decent chunk of a good album here. After Dick Dale's updating of Misirlou (yes the Pulp Fiction one), things move along nicely through a string of good tunes including the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Hell, even the Jewel track is passable. Then things start to flag, but what 22-track album wouldn't?
In the end there's nothing here that a little judicious editing couldn't fix. And what better medium for a benefit album than the compact disc? So pony up the dough (consider it a charitable non-tax-deduction) and give MOM a chance.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997