Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Rhythm & Views

MAY 4, 1998: 

Bran Van 3000


LED BY FILMMAKER/VIDEO director James Di Salvio, Bran Van 3000 have just the combination of innocence and contrivance, knowing indulgence and dumb charm to make the U.S. release of Glee (with three songs added to the original) sound like the soundtrack to a very hip (relatively speaking) After-School Special. The key selling point here is light-hearted eclecticism, and there's plenty of it: Bran Van have their way with hip-hop and reggae, metal and pop and soul, and--perhaps most self-consciously--country and techno (try the drum and bass/country song "Willard," or the trip hop and western "Supermodel"). Problem is, in 1998, the intermingling of music styles is so much a given it's practically clichè. Besides, the trouble with eclectic--especially when, like Bran Van, there's as many as 32 different chefs in the stew--is that it becomes difficult to define a consistent voice through which power and vision are conveyed. While Glee nods to '80s artists as predictably disparate as Quiet Riot and The The, its most interesting reference points are drawn from more recent history. "Couch Surfer," an ode to being a penniless moocher, and "Drinking in L.A.," about wasting time in Southern California, take us back to the glorious slacker-ific days of "I'm a loser baby...," complete with white rapping and a sampler/live instrument concoction. In at least one way, Glee is truly a work of prescience: It's undoubtedly the first recorded document of the inevitable Early '90s revival.

--Roni Sarig

Man's Ruin

Whoyoucallin' Cracker

THESE FOUR FEMALE hardcore punks from the mean streets of Atlanta have just three things on their minds: sex, violence and alcohol. Does anyone remember the Man's Ruin flash-style tattoo stencils you could find at any tattoo shop, which most of the neo-rockabilly hoodlums sported during the mid '80s revival, kick-started by the Stray Cats? They all featured a scantily clad babe sitting in a martini glass beckoning one to lose himself in a weekend of booze and sexual debauchery. Well, Man's Ruin would proudly display tattoos of muscle-bound lugheads flopped drunkenly in beer mugs flipping the bird to all who stared. Examine the sing-a-long chorus to "Come A Little Closer" for all the descriptive lewdness these sex-starved nymphos so proudly embrace. These gruff-and-tough skinhead-loving babes grind up all those self-important Riot Grrrl pussies on "The Color Red," pulverizing them into harmless fairy dust with lyrics that address spousal abuse and random violence. On "True Love," the object of desire is not some beefy security guard that relishes banging heads together, but any bottle of hooch that'll do the trick quicker and more satisfactorily. They even have the balls to undertake "I Don't Like You" by notorious '80s UK racist punks, Skrewdriver--and get away with it. As Man's Ruin so proudly proclaims at the end of its lyric sheet: "We can out drink, out fight and out fuck all y'all." Hey ladies, you'll get no arguments here.

--Ron Bally

The Connells

Still Life
TVT Records

THE CONNELLS may be letting their maturity show, but they're still one of the best, largely unappreciated pop bands to survive the mid '80s. Still Life is album number seven, whether it is in fact "lucky number seven" is a matter for today's increasingly fickle buyer's market--it also marks 13 years since The Connell's debut. The presence of producer Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Wilco) is readily felt in the record's countrified accessibility and bright polish, especially on "Gauntlet" and "Circlin'." The southern country REM-ish feel that has always hovered in the wings of the North Carolina band's earlier efforts emerges fully on much of Still Life, but there's no mistaking that Still Life is closer to vintage Connells than anything they've produced in the last five years. Fans of Darker Days and Boylan Heights will find The Connells none the worse for wear, if not quite as enterprising as they once seemed. You may not fall winded or be particularly surprised, but the Connells' Still Life will catch you with pop's sweetest, tried-and-true embrace.

--Lisa Weeks

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