Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Rhythm & Views

July 14, 1997: 


If You're Feeling Sinister
The Enclave

WITH A NAME like Belle And Sebastian, perhaps you'd expect some precious and terribly earnest duo of harmonizing folk strummers in ruffled shirts. And though you'd be completely wrong about this mysteriously camera-shy, seven-piece pop orchestra from Glasgow, Scotland, you'd still somehow have the right idea about them. Led by singer and songwriter Stuart Murdoch, Belle And Sebastian make exquisitely gentle and lush folk-pop that would blend into a pastoral country scene the way long grass or a rolling brook--or a pair of folk singers--would. Murdoch as a writer shares Morrissey's knack for coming up with great song titles--"The Stars of Track and Field" or "Judy and the Dream of Horses," for instance--that pay off in the lyrics as often as they don't. When the words work, Murdoch seems to characterize sleepy northern towns--full of confused kids and the twisted adults they grow up to be--the way Ray Davies sketches London. There's a dreamy melancholy that constantly gets upstaged by wry wit. More appealing than the verse, though, are the players. It's a large-band folk sound, comparable to Nashville's Lambchop or England's Tindersticks, only brighter, poppier, and much more Scottish. With at least three voices, electric and acoustic guitars, pianos and organs, cello and violin, horns and harmonica and even what sounds like a warped plastic recorder, Belle And Sebastian use a full palette of colors. But even at their most upbeat, they paint in subdued watercolors. What results is big music that manages to sound rich while still feeling quite small and intimate.

--Roni Sarig


Here At Black Mesa Arizona
Beggars Banquet

UPON FIRST LISTEN, Here At Black Mesa Arizona seems an unlikely and suspect wedding of genre and inspiration--techno and trip hop combine with Native American (Navajo, Yankton and Lakota Soiux, Chickasaw) chants and melodies--uncanny, yes, yet somehow fitting. Past meets present and tradition confronts innovation, combining to deliver ancient messages set to rave rhythms, speaking in many languages of reverence for the planet, the value of traditional culture, resilience and hope in the face of all adversity. Sandy Hoover and Sam Minkler (of Flagstaff) organized this compilation effort--the former laying down the dance rhythms and the latter contributing the majority of the vocals--forming the backdrop for showcased samples from various Native American artists, including poet Raymond Cantil, flutist, vocalist and hoop dancer Kevin Locke, and activist Phil Lane, Jr. Despite my initial skepticism, the combination works on a variety of levels, and is a compelling listen.

--Lisa Weeks


Sweet Thing
Warner Bros.

BE AFRAID, BE very afraid; for if there's any hard evidence that pod people live among us, it lies in the proliferation of pud jazz like this stuff. You might think from his name that the guy's of some substance (bone = marrow; James, as in Etta or Elmore), rather than the lame riff-rider the title cut proves him to be. But swear to God, you could take this schlock and attribute it to him, Eric Marienthal, Najee, Bob James, Eric Koz or any of their duplicates and no one would notice the difference. It's Safeway jazz--and can you distinguish one song from the next when selecting salami in the frozen food department? Looking at it from a historical perspective, there's one potentially good point about the music: '40s big band music got so bad that real jazzers retaliated by creating bebop. Could very well be that this generation's hot players will kick jazz into a long-awaited new phase as a fuck-you to Boneless Jim and his ilk. The one star is in appreciation of the CD having come in a plastic jewel box rather than a paper sleeve, saving the rain forests from any responsibility for this bulldozing of jazz roots.

--Dave McElfresh

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