Rhythm and Views
APRIL 12, 1999:
Man, It's Cold
PEGGED GENERALLY, IF not totally accurately, as working within the "no depression" genre is this young Brooklyn quartet. On the one hand, veteran roots-rock producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel skillfully steers Martin's Folly through a gritty, vigorous set; but you're not likely to encounter avant-bassist Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu) guesting on many alt-country records, eh? The band tilts more classic than current, referencing both the free-wheeling folk rock of Tom Petty and the cowboy blues of Green On Red. In fact, the desperate, organ-driven ballad "Man It's Cold" locates the intersection between both of those icons. Which is not to say the group doesn't have its own unique sound. It does, as evidenced by standout cuts "Throwing Stone," a moody slice of Muscle Shoals-meets-Memphis rock (nice harmonica and horn blowing), and "Track 5 Blues," a rousing psychedelic soul number that belies its modest title and sports a blazing, funky guitar solo. File these newcomers under "definitely keep an eye on 'em."
FIREBALLS OF FREEDOM
The New Professionals
THE SUPER-CHARGED Fireballs of Freedom sound as if they jumped in H.G. Wells' time machine and resurrected the dead souls of '70s monster rockers MC5 and '90s Phil Spector-loving proto-punkers, the Devil Dogs. Then they gulped down a handful of Black Beauties, plugged into their Marshall amps and transported themselves back to the dreary Pacific Northwest circa 1999, stealing the best attributes from both. These novice Portland rocket scientists have exploded on the scene like a homemade basement distillery with too much fire underneath and too much crank hovering above. What a long, strange trip it's been indeed for the Fireballs. It's hard to fathom these guys originally coming together in the sleepy, rolling hills of dullsville Montana, of all places. There ain't no hippy-dippy, sleepy-eyed altrock shoegazing going on here. This is eye-pokin' punk rock fury that would send Curly Stooge straight to the moshpit hell-bent on slapstick deconstruction. The Fireballs deliver raw, loose, savage and psychotic rock-and-roll that embraces fast cars ("Drag" and "Ten Lanes to Chinatown"), jaded urban belligerence ("Street Smart" and "Glass Jaw") and grunge rock hedonism ("Man's Rock" and "Red Carpet"). Watch out girls--these self-loving, chauvinistic fashion geeks are heading to a town near you.
The Oranj Album
REMEMBER HOW twisted the world looks when you accidentally drink too much cough syrup? Well, this quintet's guitarist Joe Gore, and ex-Tom Waits hornman Ralph Carney, are the Smith Brothers of contemporary music, with their angular versions of mostly movie themes no less intriguing than their previous album of schizo Mancini covers. Themes from The Magnificent Seven and Valley of the Dolls escape classification as mere novelty due to their skilled instrumentation clashes (mellotron and banjo on "Satin Doll") and an encyclopedic ability to reference tango, German cabaret and Hawaiian music. As is the case with Waits and John Zorn, it's cartoonish stuff, but entirely reverent when covering memorable melodies like "Midnight Cowboy" and "A Man And A Woman." These guys are in on the ground floor of an almost Dadaistic style of music we'll be hearing for a long time to come.
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