Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Tiny Tunes

By Michael Henningsen and Noah Masterson

SEPTEMBER 21, 1998: 

Alibi Rating Scale:
!!!!!= Never to lend.
!!!!= Rock 'n' roll, baby. Check it out.
!!!= For aged, unfamiliar company.
!!= Coaster.
!= Jewel case.

Iggy Pop and the Stooges Live in L.A. '71 (Snapper Music)

There are better quality live recordings of Iggy and the Stooges, and certainly better liner notes have been written to accompany them, but this disc has its charm nonetheless. Which is surprising in light of the fact that it's made up in large part of muffled wank and unintelligable, drug- induced drivel. Still, hearing "Raw Power," "Search and Destroy" and "Gimme Danger" as performed by Mr. Icon himself in almost any context is something of a treat--even after all these years and a slew of really embarassing kinder, gentler Iggy Pop solo records. (Of course, that could be the reason this record is at all tolerable.)

There's not much more to be said except that regardless of the poor sound quality and plodding performances, this is an Iggy Pop record. You'll have to decide for yourself if that's reason enough to shell out for and suffer through it. ! 1/2 (MH)

Joan of Arc How Memory Works (Jade Tree)

How Memory Works could have easily been titled The Album That Killed Itself. Joan of Arc, the avant-rock quintet who made it (their second full-length), are quite adept at placing the mysteries of creepy synth sounds and textures into an art rock context and at the groove-oriented bashing about of bands like Tortoise and Tuatara, but it's when they take a fancy for early Superchunk too far that the whole thing comes apart at the seams. Tim Kansella (vocals/guitar) does his best to shriek most of the 11 songs into painful submission, drawing the focus away from the palatable soundsculpture that is How Memory Works' only saving grace.

It's quite a shame that an album so obviously crafted with care on an instrumental level could be forced to succumb to the whims of a single player. Most of the songs could be considered beautiful works of art, carelessly splashed with tomato sauce. The single exception, where Kansella's voice actually makes beautiful music, is "A Party Able Model Of"--a tinkering piano-based track that would make Smog's Bill Callahan smile (if indeed he has one in him) like a proud papa. But the rest of the record is so marred by nonsensical vocal musings and piercing incantations that it's more likely to inspire one toward a tri-state killing spree than it is to beg repeated listens. If the music simply stood alone and was allowed to let its deep grooves and otherworldly avant sounds do the talking, this would be a very different review. !! (MH)

Possum Dixon New Sheets (Interscope/Surf Detective)

If nothing else, Possum Dixon are survivors. In the past few years, they've dealt with drug addiction, suicide, line-up changes and less-than-enthusiastic label support--and still released one of the most solid pop albums of the year. Lesser bands would have returned to their jobs at coffee houses and weekly alternative newspapers. This is not to say that New Sheets, their third album, is Possum Dixon's best work. That honor would go to their last full-length, 1996's near perfect Star Maps. But New Sheets demonstrates a darker, more straightforward Possum Dixon--a band that has grown apart from the quirkier songs of their eponymous debut album. Part of the reason for this is the departure of longtime keyboardist, Robert O'Sullivan. Gone are the songs carried by keyboard, like "Invisible" from Possum Dixon. Those songs have been replaced by straight ahead rockers and moody, bass-driven arrangements. And for the first time, Possum Dixon sought help from outside songwriters. Ric Ocasek produced the album, and new wavers Fred Schneider and Dave Stewart (B-52s, Eurythmics, respectively) helped pen some songs. The end result still sounds like Possum Dixon, but a decidedly more conservative Possum Dixon. The degree to which this is due to the influence of collaborators as opposed to the natural maturation of the band is impossible to tell. Still, New Sheets contains a collection of winners. The "Heart of Glass"-inspired "Only in the Summertime" has a lilting chorus that'll be stuck in your head for days. And the final track, the down-tempo "End's Beginning," is a strangely hopeful song about a relationship gone sour; it's absolutely beautiful. For a band that has set such high standards for itself in the past, New Sheets is an adequate, if not groundbreaking, release. But compared to nearly anything on the radio today, it is refreshing and addictive. !!!! (NM)

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