Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Rhythm & Views

FEBRUARY 9, 1998: 

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Live From Planet Ska, The Best of British Ska Live
Music Club

CONSIDERING THAT THE second wave of ska came about primarily as a multi-racial response to the economic and social oppression of Margaret Thatcher's England, it's not surprising that it took the third and fourth waves to break the apolitical American mainstream. The original Two-Tone scene combined the exuberance of reggae's predecessor with the communal spirit and rebellion of punk rock. That subsequent versions kept the hyper-kinetic syncopation of the music but left any message by the wayside should be a given in these days of tunnel-vision radio and video playlists. Live From Planet Ska provides an antidote by collecting 16 recordings of seminal bands from Britain's first ska revival. Strangely, of the four bands represented, only the Specials are heard during their prime, from a live show in 1979. The others (Bad Manners, The Selecter & Special Beat) are heard in various reformed versions recorded in '91 and '92. While the over-the-top humor of Bad Manners is an acquired taste and begins to wear thin (Madness would have been a better choice), the updated Selecter and Special Beat (consisting of members of the English Beat and the Specials) turn in rousing versions of their greatest hits that never bear the weary mark of nostalgia. Even better than the newer selections, the four songs by The Specials show the immediacy and power of the best Two-Tone band in action. While the sound quality takes a dip, the band is on fire, ripping through incredible versions of "Gangsters" and "Too Much Too Young" that make poseurs like No Doubt and Sublime seem all the more anemic in comparison. Great stuff that deserved a better progeny.

--Sean Murphy


FU MANCHU

The Action Is Go
Mammoth

THESE FOUR WHACKED-out stoners, including a couple ex-members of Kyuss, could've easily filled the bill as house band for the cast party to the '70s-parodied teen flick Dazed and Confused. Mix equal amounts heavy Blue Cheer guitar thunder and toss in some excessive wah-wah pedal melodramatics reminiscent of Sir Lord Baltimore, and the Fu Manchu brood will step past the smelly bongwater spilled by the nimrod extra who didn't know how to inhale and couldn't hold his liquor. Produced by White Zombie guitarist J. Yuenger, The Action Is Go tackles similar musical terrain as White Zombie if they trade in the cult horror/exploitation movie homage for redneck stock-car worship and drugged-out outer-space imagery that covers everything from out-of-control rocket-fueled dragsters to creepy interplanetary contact. Bombastic otherworldly rhythms not for the faint of heart, and certainly not unlike the fuzz-laden metal of Orange Goblin and Monster Magnet. Feast your sensory devices on the smell of nitro-fueled funny cars careening down a "Burning Road" toward death and destruction. The ultra-funky Bootsy-like bass slapping of Brad Davis propels "Guardrail" into terminal road hog bliss, and the gargantuan Godzilla stomp of "Laserbl'ast!" brings your worst sci-fi nightmare to monstrous reality.

--Ron Bally


PEARL JAM

Yield
Epic

WHEN THE KFMA-FM Saturday night jock labeled Pearl Jam "freakin' idiots" at 7:30 p.m. on January 31, it was a sign of the times. Not only did said pinhead's epithet get uttered within mere hours of the Seattle band's first Monkeywrench Radio live broadcast of '98, it illustrated why the myopic radio format known as Modern Rock is due to slide down the poop chute faster than a take-out plate from Los Betos. Don't get me wrong: I think KFMA is great. Just the same, biting the hand that feeds you without any semblance of context--in this instance, the jock dissed Pearl Jam for the holy sin of not listing song titles on the CD and thereby making his job tough (despite the fact that the titles are in fact printed, and in the correct order, on promotional copies)--is rather inelegant, as Modern Rock arguably wouldn't exist had it not been for the emergence of bands like Pearl Jam. More to the point, Eddie Vedder & Co. have it within their grasp to take things, radio included, to the next level, if only the talking heads will shut up and listen. Yield is a powerhouse set, 48 minutes' worth of pure, classic rock-and-roll venom. Dig: from lead single "Given To Fly," which channels vintage Who so effortlessly you'd swear that Daltry had re-donned his fringed vest and Townshend had rewired his hearing aid; to the swaggering '70s glam-crunch of "Faithfull" [sic]; to the gossamer swoon 'n' drone of the balladic "Hiding," even to the bizarre electro tones, robotic riffing and goth-choir vocals of "Do The Evolution," clearly, Pearl Jam has more on its mind that maintaining the illusion that grunge is alive (or even matters). These guys plug into something far more timeless--and mark my words, they'll be around long after local radio stations have been bought, sold, and reformatted.

--Fred Mills


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