Bovine "Bovine"; The Levellers "Mouth to Mouth"
By Michael Henningsen
MAY 18, 1998:
Alibi Rating Scale:
Continuing on a streak of local releases that literally leap out of the old home stereo, Bovine have finally released their debut, putting to rest any fears that the band are a live-trick pony. It is, in fact, the opposite that's true. Over the course of the CD's 13 tracks, the trio come off sounding like seasoned studio professionals with something to prove.
That's due at least in part to Stacy Parrish's thoughtfully restrained production work, but mostly to the fact that Bovine are the real rockabilly deal. Bassist Pat Kowalski and drummer Adam Tillie (despite the fact that this record represents his first recording foray) sound as though they were born to the music, resulting in a rhythmically precise record with an overt sense of swing. Guitarist/vocalist Pat Bova, though, is the record's hinge. There's always something a little devilish about the best rockabilly, and Bova leaves little doubt that he sold his soul at the crossroads long ago. His guitar work, replete with carefully placed hollow-body vibrato and subtly intricate passing lines and solos, is matched perfectly by his vocal mastery--one that recalls the past masters while leaving plenty of room for his own soulful transfusions.
Bovine's has long been a sound audiences have charged home-stereo friendly, and this debut provides supporting evidence. While rockabilly may forever be most effective in the live setting, this record comes damn close to making you believe the band's in your living room. Just close your eyes. !!!! (MH)
The LevellersMouth to Mouth
The Levellers are named after the section of Oliver Cromwell's civil war followers who advocated Republican politics and the freedom of worship. (The name also has the distinction of referring to an area of Brighton, England, called the Level, near which the bandmates once lived.) It's not surprising that they are passionate advocates of social causes promoting liberty: They coordinate many of the events that other bands play at. But their biggest revolution is the music they play.
The Levellers forged their own genre by playing Irish folk music set to the tone of hard rock. Their 1994 self-titled release was heavy enough to set it firmly on heavy metal ground. The guitar leads in "Warning" and "Belaruse" brought the sound of the Irish fiddle to electric guitar work with as much flair as Metallica's "Call of Ktulu" displayed with classical music and Led Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Loving You" demonstrated with blues.
Beginning with their first truly remarkable LP, Levelling the Land (China/Elektra), each album has seemed a triumph--but a triumph so unique, so distinct from the rest of contemporary music, that it seems impossible for them to outdo themselves with their next release. It's hard to know how far you can stretch a concept when you're the only ones attempting it. But once Levelling the Land came out, 1990's A Weapon Called the Word seemed like an interesting concept piece that served only as a bridge to their newer work; the 1994 self-titled album brought their music to new levels, and 1995's Zeitgeist, released solely on London's China records after Elektra stopped working with the band's new albums in the United States, was a masterpiece that blew the previous albums away.
Mouth to Mouth, which to date has no distribution in this country, is more of a pop album than their previous attempts, with plenty of solid, straightforward melodies palatable for popular consumption (although the band has long had a solid following in their native land and the continent--Levelling the Land reached number two on the UK charts and went gold, while Zeitgeist entered the charts at number two and in its second week climbed to number one) and a step back from the power chords they had experimented with on their previous two albums. But it is pop composed on Celtic melodies, with fiddles and mandolins serving counterpoint to snare drums and guitar rhythms, two cultural music traditions fused in sounds which have no close musical competition. !!!1/2 (AE)
(Mouth to Mouth is available on the Internet at www.meteorcity.com)
--Michael Henningsen and Aaron Emmel
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