Rhythm & Views
JANUARY 12, 1998:
IAN WHITCOMB AND THE WHITE STAR ORCHESTRA
Titanic: Music As Heard On The Fateful Voyage
WHITCOMB WAS A one-hit wonder in 1965 with "You Turn Me On," but he's spent the rest of his career unearthing and re-recording (sometimes bizarre) songs from the ragtime era. For this project he tracked down the exact repertoire and scores of Titanic's orchestra. It's a creepy listening experience, considering how the band felt it needed to continue playing throughout the disaster: The band played the final song, "Dream Of Autumn," as its members literally sank into the water. Whitcomb's recreation of the music is exceptional, and will make a far more lasting impression on listeners than that damned movie. One of the best albums of the year--and an important one.
JACK KILLED JILL
REVIK DEFLIN is one tough-sounding chick. Deflin's the frontperson/ vocalist for this San Francisco-based, 1977-inspired punk quartet. She makes snarling Penelope Houston of legendary, dead-and-buried punk rejects the Avengers, sound in retrospect like robots punished to an eternity of adult contemporary Muzak hell. Deflin spits out lyrics of social malfeasance with acidic wit and impassioned conviction, with the raw, youthful exuberance of X-Ray Spex Poly Styrene. So all you doofus emo-core whiners step aside or catch a mouthful of her size-seven combat boots. Jack Killed Jill are seasoned punk rock veterans who pack a wallop that would floor any of those faceless and interchangeable Lookout or Fat Wreck punk-pop bands that have flooded today's scene. Formerly Winona Ryder's guitarist, Eric Mundane slices his way through a dozen prime choice cuts ("But I'm Not Fucked Up" and "I Hate Wednesdays" are both top sirloin), like Sam the Butcher did when he violated Alice with his meat grinder. He plays lean, sinewy leads with no excess fat in sight. The whole Brady Bunch family would be proud. Jack Killed Jill delivers the meat, and then some.
THANKS TO A landslide of hype, the musical descriptions ambient, techno and electronic have become almost as vague and meaningless as "alternative" has. With the release of Aria another nail has been driven in the coffin. Calling itself a combination of ambient/dance and opera to "create something sexy, new and very dramatic," Aria instead comes off as a calculated marketing ploy trying to capitalize on the trend. The end result suggests that the creators (Mario Grigorov and Paul Schwartz) have, at best, a fleeting knowledge of the genre they claim to be improving. By turns maudlin and bombastic, the music of Aria lacks the subtle nuance of sound color and spatial resonance that distinguishes the best electronic/ambient music. Unimaginative drum programming, power ballad guitar chords and cheesy keyboards bring to mind the Red Rocks hell twins Yanni and John Tesh more than Brian Eno or the Orb. It's hard to imagine to whom this would appeal outside of fans of Yanni, but judging from recent programming, look for a PBS special soon.
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