Volume 92, Issue 20

Wednesday, October 7, 1998



Acme can't get past generic name


Jet Engine

SS Records

This Guelph-based rock quartet's second album, Jet Engine, may very well be the musical equivalent of Kraft Dinner. This album is bland, homogeneously mediocre and probably didn't take very long to make.

Instrumentally, Jet Engine is remarkably unremarkable. The band plods lackadaisically through song after song of boring, stale chord progressions and bland vocals. Each track sounds strangely familiar – a lot like the one before it, which wasn't that good to begin with. Anyone looking for an original or distinctive note on this disc would probably fare better with a needle and a haystack. At best, Acme's sound may evoke apathy and indifference in listeners. Usually, there's a strong desire to just turn them off.

As for lyrics, while Jet Engine profits from a good line here and there, the words are mostly predictable and trite. One gets the impression that these are quirky, sorta clever guys who like writing quirky, sorta clever songs. Does Canadian pop music really need more frivolous, useless tunes with empty titles like "Supermagicman?" Somehow, the band manages to throw nine tracks of lyrics at us without ever saying anything about anything.

Acme definitely stuck to the recipe on this one and the result is a decidedly unpalatable brand of audio macaroni. Hopefully, next time these guys get cooking in the studio they'll at least have the artistic decency to throw on some ketchup or cut-up wieners into the mix. For now, Acme is a group to avoid.




V2 Records

Ras Kass is to hip hop what the Goo Goo Dolls are to modern-day guitar rock – about as fresh as a stale fart in a car with the windows closed.

The problem with Rassasination is the conventionality in which it wallows. It seems as if he's following a blueprint to make a hit rap album. For instance, throw in some guest MCs (in this case RZA of Wu-Tang and Dr. Dre), some heavy beats and the usual riffs on bitches and Benjamins. The problem with this blueprint is you still need an original vision to bring it to life. Ras Kass seems to have forgotten this. Most of the songs on the album plod along with lackluster rhymes and beats that would put an insomniac to sleep.

Gangster odes such as "Conceited Bastard" and "Ghetto Fabulous" fail to catch fire because Ras always seems to be trying to convince the listener just how "OG" he really is, while the beats seem like they jumped out of a third-rate video game. "Interview With a Vampire feat. God and Satan" is almost as pretentious as listening to an interview with the Gallagher brothers.

Nonetheless, there are a couple of tracks that break out of this tired mold. "H2OProof" bumps along with a slowly infectious groove that suggests Chronic-era Dr. Dre and "OohWee!" is tight and funky with some pretty funny lyrics. Alas, two songs does not make an album and Rassasination makes you just want to roll down that car window.



Gentlemen's Blues


Life should be easy for Cracker. In the '80s, as the late lamented Camper Van Beethoven, they created the archetype for the original smartass indie rock band. With the slightly jerry-rigged Cracker, leader David Lowery has tried to keep the droll sass, while attempting something approaching sincerity. It hasn't been easy.

Although 1995's Kerosene Hat came close, their last effort The Golden Age found them doing something worse than failing – they sounded bored and unfocused. Sales of the album reflected their apathy.

Thankfully Gentlemen's Blues is a return to form. Back is the bone-dry sarcasm and swagger. Also in ample supply is what passes for sincerity that is filtered through the increasingly world-weary Lowery. It's all wrapped up and driven home by the unobtrusive production of Don Smith who mostly chooses to keep things simple and punchy.

The obtrusive synthetic meddling of Golden Age is wonderfully absent.

In order for Cracker to survive as a band they need to get back on track or get out of the way. Gentlemen's Blues is as good as Cracker needs their music to be – and as such recommended.




Roadrunner Records

Since forming in Los Angeles in 1990, Fear Factory has enjoyed a considerable amount of success, due in large part to their seemingly incessant touring.

So far, however, their success has been limited to fans of the hard rock genre. This is why Fear Factory's latest album, Obsolete, is an important step in their career – they seem intent on changing all that.

The core content of Obsolete is like every other Fear Factory album to date. Almost every song on almost every album can be reduced to one formula – Burton C. Bell roars over a high-speed guitar and drum machine for the verses, which are separated by choruses which sound like the Gregorian chants. The aesthetic value of this combination doesn't come across so well in text as it does in song.

Described by Bell as a "techno-metal, cyber-metal, terminator-rock" hybrid, Fear Factory takes high-speed guitar and drums and juxtaposes them with almost ethereal sounding electronic melodies. Their acceptance of electronic augmentation over classic speed-metal led to two remix albums – rare for a metal band.

These remix albums are where Fear Factory teamed up with Rhys Fulber of Front Line Assembly. Fulber did a large number of the mixes on both albums and is their new producer for Obsolete.

Whether it is a result of this collaboration with Fulber or not, Obsolete differs from other Fear Factory albums through the inclusion of a few slower songs. These three songs, "Descent," "Timelessness" and their planned first release "Resurrection," stand out as a real change from the monotony – and this is a good thing, because that monotony may have been the only thing holding Fear Factory back from more widespread success.


To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998