Rhythm and Views
OCTOBER 12, 1998:
WHEN SPERM FROM members of Devo and the Dickies met with DNA from Wendy O. Williams and then gestated in the Arizona desert for a few years, The Weird Lovemakers were born. These plasmatic Tucson sea monkeys are clearly inspired by junk-pop culture, cartoons, caffeine, Charles Willeford and loads of circa-1977 punk 45s. Flu Shot is an hilarious three-chord romp across the Lovemakers wild and wacky musical panorama, stoked by a 10-ton rhythm guitar bombast from Jason Willis; Gerard Schumacher's snappy, controlled drumming; and Hector Jaime's rock-solid, propulsive bass streaks. The Lovemakers wholly unique, vulgar sound is cemented by singer-guitarist Greg Petix and his constipated Leonard Graves Phillips-on-helium vocal histrionics. The 22 blasts of aural TNT on the Lovemakers' second album of garage-hatched punk rock rage are fueled by the unmistakable Devo-influenced "Trailer Anne," the absolute instrumental bizarreness of "Turbo Rat," and the highly improbable Rezillos-meet-Mr. Spock "Letter To Starlog." These goofballs even blaze a trail across a mosh pit during the relentless hardcore fury of "O.C.P." To enjoy every ounce of the Lovemakers embraceable weirdness, check out the totally indecipherable "Retard Sandwich," with its creepy Moog-equipped sci-fi shenanigans. The Lovemakers are all about having a good time and poking fun at themselves and life's minor absurdities. Thankfully, unlike some of today's mightier-than-thou punk groups, they left their political agenda in the dumpster. With any luck, the Lovemakers will persevere and avoid being obscure entries on the next Killed By Death compilation, and a microscopic footnote in punk trivial pursuit.
INSTRUMENTALS sometimes allow bands to play with words--you know? Still, with Boston area trio Juneau, impressionism rules. Its second album--recorded live in the studio with a few overdubs added later--suggests a tight psych jam-band finally confident enough to stow away their hacky sacs and venture into the realm of pure improv. The spontaneous feel is manifest--no rote 12-bar/144-bar blues progressions for Juneau. Prolonged overtures that sustain tension to exhausting degrees as the two guitarists clang and chime like dueling minimalists, relying on the drummer's instincts to offer the necessary rhythmic release. The music is not so much abstract as it is translucent, edging towards opaqueness; while the obvious reference points (Branca, Sonic Youth, '60s spacerock) are discernible, one has to peer intently to discern form. But there are moments of delicate beauty resting alongside violent upheavals. Best of all, Juneau remembers the one thing that bands of grosser temperament invariably forget: It's all about the melody, stupid.
The Best of John Hiatt
JOHN HIATT IS the heartland's answer to Elvis Costello: his songs are literate, pained, and highly ironic, delivered with a blend of Nashville twang and L.A. radio-friendly smoothness. As it happens, Hiatt's tunes make it to the airwaves in other people's mouths--Roseanne Cash, for instance, who had a hit with "The Way We Make a Broken Heart," and Suzy Bogguss, who briefly rode the country charts with "Drive South." This greatest-hits package is heavy on often-covered cuts from middle-period albums like Bring the Family and Stolen Moments, some of them revamped for no compelling reason. Hiatt's backing ensemble includes Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Krist Novoselic, Nick Lowe, and Paul Carrack, all of whom turn in fine performances.
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