Ice - Bad Blood CD (Morpheus/Reprise)
I hear blood bounces on ice, due to the differences in temperature, but not being a hockey fan I can't say I've ever seen such a thing. The relevance of this fact to the following review is left open to the reader's individual interpretation.
Ice's first record, 1994's Under The Skin, was basically what seemed at the time a one-shot side project combining God members Kevin Martin (also of Techno Animal), Dave Cochrane (also of Head Of David), and Lou Ciccotelli (also of Slab and Laika) with ex-Napalm Death guitarist Justin Broadrick of Godflesh and Final. For Bad Blood, their second project, they reassembled the four core players of Ice but augmented the group with numerous guest stars, most of whom seem calculated to give the record a specifically hip-hop spin--the exception being Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave's Bad Seeds), who contributes his trademark threatening whispery vocals to four tracks. The other guests are all either rappers or DJs or drum loop gurus, and the resulting album leans heavily over to the rap side despite its focus remaining squarely on the depth and complexity of the musical backing.
While it might have been intriguing to hear what a straight-up rap/grindcore blend might have produced, it's probably for the better that Bad Blood instead ends up a fairly unique project that ably glides under the boundaries between genres on its seven tracks. The music is more substantial and adventurous than that of most hip-hop records, the production less predictable, the beats not as monotonous. The vocals are overlaid two or three lines at a time, often confusing the lyrical content of the words in the interest of producing interesting combinations from the interaction of the vocal rhythms. Even when there's only one vocal line, it's prone to sudden distortion or other post-production fucking. Not recommended for middle-of-the-road rap fans who are only interested in the biggest newest thing--this would probably give them nightmares, wake them up screaming from their gangsta fantasy world. -Aaron J. Poehler
The Iceburn Collective
Power Of The Lion--Iceburn/Revelation (PO Box 5232, Huntington Beach, CA 92615-5232)
This instrumental seven-part prog-rock symphony aims for Miles Davis, but it settles for a near-replication of the spacier sections of the late Grateful Dead, plus a little King Crimson in its simulation of improvisation through meticulous planning. Iceburn honcho/composer Gentry Densley's creativity throughout Power Of The Lion seems to be at least partially religiously motivated, a suspicion which is carried out in the vague Hindi references sprinkled through the packaging. Not bad, but lacking in memorable melodies or even memorable passages, the whole thing leaves me fairly cold. It's actually somewhat impressive in places in terms of composition and commitment (or at least ambition) on the part of Densley, but I just can't see actually putting this CD in to listen to it for pleasure. I imagine a large portion of Revelation's hardcore audience doesn't have a lot of instrumental music in their collections, though, so to the target audience of this release this may seem to be something daring and new. For a seventy-minute instrumental composition to bring me back time and again it's got to be pretty striking, though, and in the end I just find Power Of The Lion lacking in whatever it might take to do that.
Iggy & the Stooges
California Bleeding--BOMP (PO Box 7112, Burbank, CA 91510)
This collection of live recordings of Iggy & the Stooges circa 1973-74 virtually redefines the word 'raw', but fans like myself will be grateful for California Bleeding's twelve tracks of (mostly) otherwise unavailable Stooges. This audio verité documentation of the under-recorded final lineup of the Stooges combines live tapes from Hollywood & San Francisco (hence the title) with interview recordings of Iggy talking about himself and the recording of either his first post-Stooges album The Idiot or its follow-up Lust For Life. To sweeten the pot for fans, the booklet is packed with previously 'unseen' photos of Iggy & the band from the time period where the music originated. California Bleeding probably isn't the best place to start your investigations into Iggy's work if you're a novice--better to check out the remixed version of Raw Power released not too long ago or perhaps the Nude & Rude 'greatest hits' compilation for that--but there's undeniable power in the grooves here despite the less-than-ideal recording equipment and conditions. At this point the Stooges were a muscular rock band that had played together for more than a couple years, with a hotshit guitar player that played like Keith Richards on speed and (unique to the '73-'74 band) a rocking piano player that doubled on harmonica and backing vocals, resulting in a fuller Stooge sound than ever before, a sound that seeps out of the edges of these tapes regardless of recording imperfections. BOMP's excellent Open Up And Bleed CD also documents this period and provides a slightly overlapping selection of material with CA Bleeding but the versions used are different in all cases, often significantly so, with the result being that both releases make worthy additions to be set on the shelf next to the 'official' Stooges canon of The Stooges, Funhouse, and Raw Power, with Open Up And Bleed coming in slightly ahead of CA Bleeding in terms of necessity to the Stooge fanatic.
Iggy and the Stooges
Wild Love (The Detroit Rehearsals and More)
Okay, lord knows I love the Stooges more than anyone I know, lord knows I have more Stooges discs than anyone I know, etc. etc. etc....but I think that if you listen very closely to this record you can hear the bottom of the barrel being scraped. As a Stooges freak I’m glad to hear this stuff once, just so I know what it sounds like, but outside of a couple of tracks we’re really not talking about ‘Iggy & the Stooges’ per se here. Most of this disc is James Williamson idly fiddling around on the guitar while Iggy makes up stuff along with it, sometimes in the direction of working on a new song, sometimes just screwing around. For collectors only—basically, buy every other Iggy & the Stooges disc out there BEFORE you buy this, if you buy it. And don’t think that the quality of this disc reflects the quality of the other Bomp ‘Iguana Chronicles’ discs, ‘cause many of the Bomp Stooges discs are killer.
Let It Come Down--Virgin Records America, Inc. (338 N. Foothill Rd., Beverly Hills CA 90210)
Solo albums by members of financially successful bands are always a dicey prospect. No matter how many millions a group's devotees may have poured into the group's discs, concerts, and merchandise, it's no guarantee (or even likelihood) that they'll pay another fourteen bucks to find out what's on the guitar player's mind when he's not functioning as a part of the band hierarchy. It's hard to think of a band that's sold more records to more people over a longer period of time than Pink Floyd, but how many of those Floyd fans bought David Gilmour's solo sets David Gilmour and About Face? How many even know they exist? The ersatz Floyd Gilmour started up in the mid 80's has raked in untold millions remanufacturing FakeFloyd music and touring playing sets largely comprising music the current members of the band had little to do with the composition of, while Roger Waters' elaborately constructed concept albums sit on the shelves--excepting, of course, his own FakeFloyd resuscitation: restaging and reperforming (and reselling, of course) the entire Pink Floyd The Wall album. He leans on that record the way Pete Townshend leans on Tommy for credibility.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to James Iha's debut solo release, Let It Come Down. Iha's day job is playing guitar in Billy Corgan's Smashing Pumpkins, a group rarely described as multitalented; in fact, the most damning accusation the band has had to endure has been that Corgan hired Iha and bassist D'Arcy Wretzky more for their looks than their playing and often plays their parts for them during recording. So it's no big surprise that Let It Come Down is a pleasant-sounding but lightweight record, eleven fairly insubstantial love songs with banal lyrics in a mid-70's acoustic singer-songwriter vein--the keyword here is mellow. Pretty predictable, considering: if I had to spend as large a chunk of my life as Iha listening to Billy Corgan screech I'd probably want to surround myself with soft-rock too. Nothing wrong with that; who knows, it could even open a few Pumpkin fans' ears up to the softer side of things. The crime here is in Iha's execution. The music on Let It Come Down contains little to suggest it exists for any reason other than to contradict Iha's detractors, a task it is sadly not up to--this is the kind of stuff that makes Donovan sound like a deep thinker. It's amply clear from first listening than Corgan is a better songwriter, better singer, and better guitar player than Iha (and no Corgan fan am I), and given the space to prove otherwise he comes up short of inspiration. In sum: anyone who paid their hard-earned cash for the Pumpkins' six-disc singles box set The Aeroplane Flies High will surely find Let It Come Down as welcome an addition to their record collection as any. The rest of us should stay clear of the blast area, because even though Let It Come Down may slide through the ears easily it gets boring fast.
This Will Fall on Dead Ears--Headhunter/Cargo Music Inc. (4901-906 Morena Blvd., San Diego, CA 92117-3432)
A few years ago, MaximumRockNRoll released a special issue highlighting the various evils of major labels, with particular focus on the still-prevalent practice of 'scam indies'--i.e., labels that try to appear to be independent labels but are in fact funded and owned by the majors. The point of this is to try and cash in on the cachet of cool a band gets from being on an indie label in order to build a band's following before breaking their 'official' major-label debut (the strategy was used successfully with Guns 'N Roses and the Smashing Pumpkins among others). Anyway, San Diego band Inch had the misfortune to be used as the example for an article called "Anatomy of a Scam"; at that time (June 1994) Inch's debut album was about to be released by Seed Records, a scam indie owned by Atlantic Records. That article described the process as follows: "A&R scout from LA office of Atlantic Records sees Inch (a four member band with two previous 7" releases) while down in San Diego looking for bands. Returns to LA & recommends the pursuing the band. Atlantic A&R staff greenlight the project and move it on to Atlantic scam indie Seed Records. If all goes well, Inch will develop a following thru radio airplay, alternative press, and national touring. Seed will pull every string possible to give Inch some form of street credibility. Craig Kallman, VP at Atlantic, eventually decides whether or not to recommend elevating the band to Seed's parent, Atlantic Records." I guess it didn't work out so well for Inch. This Will Fall on Dead Ears is their third album, and it's been released on Cargo, not Atlantic. Apparently somewhere in between they trimmed down to a three-piece band, and they got to play some Lollapalooza dates, no doubt as a result of more corporate string pulling. Singer/guitarist Stimy also picked up a debilitating drug habit, resulting in his bandmates naming the album after their belief that he wouldn't make it to the album's release. All the promotion in the world doesn't make up for lame music--the press kit describes the band as "power-pop", but it's actually more like slowed down Stone Temple Pilots with that band's Van Halen influence replaced with Pavement cops. All around I'd say things look pretty bad for Inch's future, but on the basis of this album it certainly wouldn't be any great loss should they vanish tomorrow.
Mike Ireland & Holler
Learning How To Live--Sub Pop (PO Box 20645, Seattle, WA 98102)/Sire Records (936 Broadway, New York, NY 10010, 2034 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90404)
This co-release sporting both Sub Pop Records and Sire Records logos is a bit of an odd duck; although one label is best known for the faded grunge boom and the other for collegiate alternative music, the contents of Learning How To Live are straight country in a retro vein along the lines of George Jones and Roy Acuff, heartfelt heartland music that sounds exceedingly familiar the first time you hear it. One gets the sense that both labels are grasping about for something to bring in some money they're not getting (money that they apparently think somebody is spending on No Depression music despite that genre's quick disappearance), but they probably thought the music was decent as well since neither one seems to have any experience in marketing this kind of stuff or any idea how to do so. Kansas City, Missouri-based vocalist/bassist Ireland was previously in the Starkweathers, a band that apparently broke up without releasing a significant amount of material, so this solo debut is really his first shot. It's professionally-done and well-recorded enough to slot alongside any given country album, but it does nothing for me. Ireland's voice has as affected accent that smacks me the wrong way and I don't think as much of his cliché-ridden compositions; the whole thing seems like a consciously contrived revivalism for a style that's best left where it fell. It's the kind of thing that overprivileged upper-class urban dwellers would play to convince themselves that they're down with rural folk. Not mainstream enough to sell to Garth Brooks buyers and not alternative-country enough for the suckers buying the Uncles Tupelo spinoffs, Mike Ireland & Holler seem likely to fall between the cracks and destined for footnote status.