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Tucson Weekly Rhythm and Views

APRIL 17, 2000: 

QUADRAJETS When The World's On Fire (Estrus)

What happens when you take the triple lead guitar subterfuge of Lynyrd Skynyrd, synthesize it with the brute speed metal-punk ferocity of Nashville Pussy (sans the chicks) and add monster Nugent/Stooges/Blue Cheer '70s-inspired power chords currently adopted by the likes of genre rejuvenators the Hellacopters? You get a motley bunch of Confederate flag-waving punk rednecks known as the Quadrajets. Summoned from the one-room shacks nestled outside the thriving metropolis of Auburn, Alabama, these mosh pit Billy Bobs don't restrict their worship of rock 'n' roll to the gods of Southern rock, three-chord punk and early '70s heavy metal. They also feel just as comfortable singing Mudhoney-debased blues ("John Lee Hooker Is My Heavy Metal" and "My Baby Wants To Die"), Memphis soul/R&B as interpreted by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion ("Solid Gold Soul") and the Antiseen school of gore punk ("All My Rowdy Friends Are Dead"). On "The Tomb Of Johnny Reb," the Quadrajets channel the spirit of Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas hopped up on steroids and gallons of moonshine. While the ghostly likeness of Ronnie Van Zandt rears his revered image in the seven-minutes-plus fuck you-if-you-don't-like-Skynyrd paean "If You Ain't Down With Ronnie V (You Ain't Down With Me)." It's a swelling Collins/Rossington/Gaines-inspired three-guitars scorcher where the layered instrumental attack keeps building and ultimately climaxes in a detonation of a multi-lead instrumental cacophony worthy of "Freebird." The ragged, slightly speeded up cover of Blue Cheer's "Second Time Around" implodes in a fusillade of feedback, random screams, and tambourine thumping as a rugged drum beat from J.R.R. Tolkin holds the whole caterwauling breakdown from becoming an under-rehearsed sludge rock shambles. The Quadrajets manage to pull off this psychedelic distorto-shebang with flying rebel colors. -- Ron Bally

STEELY DAN Two Against Nature (Giant)

Steely Dan is rock's equivalent of salt and vinegar chips -- loved or hated, but never, ever, met with a shrug. Often too smart for their own good -- heck, too good for their own good -- the white-boy jazz-funk duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen produced a string of classic albums in the 1970s, many consisting of music you felt as much as heard. While some critics railed that their music was too polished, too clean, even too perfect, the two racked up a rabidly loyal fan following across the musical spectrum. (For example, Bruce Springsteen and Anita Baker both list Royal Scam among their favorite albums of all time.)

But after 1980's Gaucho, the duo pulled a Rip Van Winkle and disappeared for 20 years. But now they're back, and if you hated them then, well, you're really going to hate them now, because they haven't changed a bit. However, if tight rhythms, exquisite musicianship and subversive lyrics sound like a welcome change to today's vulgarity and low standards, Two is for you.

If anything has changed, their lyrics are even creepier than before. Where "Hey Nineteen" spoke of lust for the barely-legal, "Cousin Dupree" casts a jaundiced eye at a (thankfully unrequited) quest for the decidedly illegal. -- Tom Danehy

SMASHING PUMPKINS Machina: The Machines of God (Virgin Records)

ALMOST AS FRIGHTENING as Billy Corgan's perfectly orb-shaped head is his band's ability to take lemons, make lemonade, and then turn the lemonade stand into a Fortune 500 company. Since the Pumpkins' success from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in 1996, the group has endured a myriad of rockstar fiascos including the heroin death of keyboardist Jonathon Melvoin and then the firing (and rehiring in 1999) of partner in crime and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. Even after 1998's commercial failure Adore, the Pumpkins have managed to produce what may be their most viable and musically solid album since Siamese Dreams. Brace yourself for the singles, because rest assured the airwaves will supply enough Pumpkins for everyone. Sounds of Gish and Siamese Dreams resonate in "I of the Morning," while "This Time" 's "for every chemical you trade a piece of your soul," suggests Corgan is enjoying some retrospective clarity now that he's weathered the troubles once plaguing the band. Machina grows with each listen, like a good idea, mesmerizing and addictive. -- Danielle Fox

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