Olé--Gadfly Records, Inc. (PO Box 5231, Burlington, VT 05402)
Tonio K. is a singer-songwriter of the 'slightly too confessional' variety who released three largely ignored major-label albums during the eighties, albums that have since been picked up and reissued by Gadfly Records. Olé (subtitled "The Persistence Of Memory") is comprised of tapes pried from the grip of A&M Records, tapes of sessions from 1989 that were intended for Tonio's fourth album, an album that wasn't to be. The reasons for the album's cancellation are detailed at length in the excellent and entertaining liner notes (headed "There's no abyssness like show abyssness") by Tonio himself--in fact, I found the booklet accompanying this CD more interesting than the music itself: Tonio's self-deprecating tone is more palatable in print than the self-consciously clever song lyrics, which tend to come off like substandard Warren Zevon (but not as funny), and the story of the making of this partially aborted project is more compelling that the slightly contrived situations in the songs. It's hard to avoid the feeling that despite all the 'name' musicians appearing on Olé (Paul Westerberg, Booker T. Jones, Los Lobos' David Hidalgo, Peter Case, Elvis Costello & the Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas, Charlie Sexton, Marc Ribot, and producer T-Bone Burnett among others) it's basically much ado about relatively little; this set of songs certainly isn't substantial enough to qualify as legendary lost material--it's essentially a (minor-league) star-studded curiosity. It's tough to judge an unfinished work too harshly, though, and it all comes together at least once, "Pardon Me For Living"-- a song that is included both in its original form and as "Day And Night", a botched attempted clean-up of "Pardon Me"'s bold lyrics, resulting in a much more clichéd and much less interesting song.
Chris Kelsey Trio
The Ingenious Gentleman of the Lower East Side--CIMP Ltd (The Cadence Building, Redwood, New York 13679 USA)
The Ingenious Gentleman of the Lower East Side is Chris Kelsey's debut album as a leader peforming his own compositions; he has previously recorded for the same label as a member of Lou Grassi's sextet and as part of a duo with Steve Swell. Here, soprano saxophonist Kelsey leads drummer Ed Ware and bassist Dominic Duval through a free-jazz set of originals inspired by "The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha", in a parallel that draws comparison between the average free jazz musician's pursuit of his craft and the legendary Man of La Mancha's tilting at windmills. Recorded across two days, totally live and clear, the performances on The Ingenious Gentleman of the Lower East Side throw off improvisational sparks. Recommended for anybody looking for an adventurous chunk of modern jazz music that breathes.
Kent - Isola CD (RCA)
Kent's Isola is very Smashing Pumpkins, only with less Queen studio-rock influence and even more Anglophile Oasis leanings. The catch is they're from Sweden (yes, just like ABBA, as every review is required by law to point out) and were 'discovered' (whenever I see that word I smell cow feces, I don't know what it is...) opening for the Cardigans. According to the press kit, in Sweden the government subsidizes bands, paying for everything from rehearsal space to guitar strings. That explains a lot. Kent have apparently released three albums already over there, but this is their first all-English endeavor. The whole thing comes off like a calculated attempt to crack the U.S. market--it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference where these guys are from: the way they sound on this record, they could be from anywhere, because it all sounds like an amalgamation of the sounds of Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis (and therefore second-hand Beatles), and Radiohead. Not very distinctive, in fact it's rather generic; the band is essentially a front for singer-songwriter-guitarist Joakim Berg in the same way the Rupert Pupkins exist entirely at the whim of Billy Corgan, though I imagine Joakim probably let his bandmates play on Isola (which means island, apparently, though in Italian rather than Swedish--that's just what we need, interject a third language).
I'm left thinking that it's an awful long way to go for a middle-of-the-road corporate rock band; could it be American musicians are wizening up and getting more interested in making art than conforming to other people's arbitrary standards? Yeah, right, we should all be so lucky. More likely Kent just sold enough records in Sweden to get the parent company to give them a shot at the big market, and they're just throwing the band and their record against the wall to see if they'll stick. Maybe Isola will stick with somebody, but it won't be me; these songs passed in one ear and out the other, and I didn't hear anything to bring me back. -Aaron J. Poehler
Eternity--Babyjane Records (26 Dorchester Drive, Manhasset NY 11030)
Wow, this band even looks exactly like Soundgarden, so it's no surprise to find that the music inside sounds like it as well. Mainstream grunge-tinged rock with a touch of Journey and REO Speedwagon among its Seattle-derived elements, with one incongruous stab at Johnny Cash-esque country-rock ("Tokyo Cowboy"). I can easily see this band opening for Pearl Jam or the Red Hot Chili Peppers given a major-label contract, but without that specific type of major backing it's hard to see this type of slick commercial music succeeding on an independent level. I can't say I'm particularly struck by it; I wasn't particularly struck by Soundgarden either so maybe I'm just not in the target audience here but Soundgarden's songwriting was a lot more consistent and they still failed to reach any really major type of audience. I think I would have preferred it if the band rocked a little harder and aimed at FM radio a little less; the whole thing sounds awfully careerist and not particularly artful to me, and every element is familiar from somewhere else. Parts of Eternity are really just so clichéd they're corny--"Not Fair To Me", a particular offender, goes on far too long and make me want to shoot the whining, annoying lead singer and whichever member of the band thought this half-written riff constituted a song. Despite the fact that practically every line contains the word "soul" there's no real soul-searching here and the music itself is certainly not soulful. All in all it's the kind of stuff I can easily do without in my life, and I'll never listen to it again since Eternity seemed to last forever the first time around.
Kiss The Girl
Mainstream pop-rock. This is the kind of opening band I’d watch for about a song and a half and then wander back to the bar, running into someone I knew along the way: “Hey, what’s up…so what do you think of ‘Kiss The Girl’? Yeah, I think they suck too…” Terrible fuckin’ lyrics. (www.kissthegirlmusic.com) – Aaron J. Poehler
MDFMK--Wax Trax! (1657 N. Damen Ave., Chicago IL 60647)/TVT Records (23 East 4th St. New York NY 10003)
This EP features remixes of tracks from KMFDM's new album, which is titled with unpronouncable (and un-typesettable) runes in the grand Led Zeppelin tradition. Potential purchasers of this 6-track CD should include anyone who can't get enough KMFDM as well as DJs looking for freshened up tracks to mix into the dancefloor rotation, or alternately the CD might well make a low-cost introductory sample of the band's music for the financially strapped. The rest of us will probably have our KMFDM listening needs best satisfied by the full-length album, since many of these mixes sound more appropriate for dancing than sitting at home and listening--the three mixes of "Megalomaniac" get a little repetitive.
Clouds Burned By Sunshine 7" (Second Nature Recordings)
Apparently Krakatoa was these guys' first band, formed back in 1992, but they split up and went on to other things (Threadbare and Harvest, it says) after about a year. A couple of years later ('95, to be exact) they were all in town at the same time and decided to do a couple of songs together for old times' sake. These are those two songs: A-side's called "Eclipse", the B is "Indulgence". It's easy to see why these guys don't play together regularly: this record combines screaming hardcore with Slint math-rock and wanky metal guitar overtones. These elements don't sit easily next to one another, but for a couple of weeks' worth of work it's not bad. It sounds like it was an enjoyable reunion anyway. –Aaron J. Poehler
5--Virgin Records America, Inc. (338 N. Foothill Rd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210)
Ol' Lenny's playing the bored rock star this time around with his new album's couldn't-think-of-anything-better title and the star-cooling-his-heels-in-the-back-of-the-limousine cover photos (at least he didn't give himself a tail this time around), and the extravagance extends to the packaging as well: a twenty-page booklet with a foldout cover just for three pictures of Lenny in the limo and the lyrics for thirteen songs. I think about three times as many trees died for this glossy paper as necessary. Given Lenny's limited set of influences/sources, the fact that he's back to playing most of the instruments himself after the more rock-oriented Circus, and the hints telegraphed in the packaging (one man isolated by his wealth and/or success) it's no surprise that 5 veers towards the Prince thing more than anything else, especially evoking the purple one's Black Album/Lovesexy period ("Supersoulfighter" could be sequenced into the Black Album and only Prince would know the difference). Adding to the effect is the fact that vaunted technophobe Kravitz has gotten away from his former trademark vintage recording techniques, recording his new album entirely in the digital realm and adding loops, samples, drum machines, and synthesizers to the mix. The result is an uncomfortable mélange of the old and the new that never really congeals, with an uncomfortable dearth of the memorable singles on which Kravitz's career rises and falls; it doesn't help that his skill with the new digital toys isn't up his abilities on the older equipment, so the computerized sounds sound preprogrammed straight out of the box. It's as through Lenny didn't really know what he was going for and consequently find himself lacking direction--one feels like he's the kind of guy who you might think was pretty cool if only he wasn't constantly trying to show you how cool he is. At this point it's pretty much a given that the only really worthwhile, consistently rewarding Lenny Kravitz album most listeners are ever going to need will be the inevitable Lenny Kravitz' Greatest Hits (5's much-better-than-the-rest-of-the-record album-closer "Can We Find A Reason" is mooted for inclusion), so you might want to save your pennies for that one unless you've already got the preceding four albums and still play them regularly.
Walls of Sound--OO Discs Inc. (261 Groovers Ave., Black Rock CT 06605-3452)
Saxopohonist Ulrich Krieger's album Walls of Sound is a thing of minimalist beauty, approaching Eno's ambient music in effect via interpretations of four pieces, one by John Cage that is so empty-sounding that Krieger has overdubbed himself playing each of the four lines in the piece five times, for a total of twenty separate tracks, and still it barely sounds like there's anything there! Obviously this isn't what a lot of people think of as 'saxophone music', but Krieger's skill transcends the instrument--you forget what exactly is generating the sounds, they're so consistent and consonant. The rendition of Jospeh Celli's "Video Sax" is a little more obviously eventful that the other two sax pieces, in the sense that the listener can hear more melodic content. The final piece is a departure performed on the Australian aboriginal instrument the didjeridu along with tape manipulation and other didjeridu overdubs--nevetheless, it fits comfortably alongside the saxophone pieces. It's not for everyone, but Ulrich Krieger'sWalls of Sound may be the perfect medium between adventurous modern classical-tradition music and ambient electronica despite its largely non-electronic instrumentation, and thus occupies a strikingly unique space in the racks.
Krupted Peasant Farmerz
Peasants by Birth, Farmers by Trade, Krupted by the Dollar CD (Coldfront Records/Farmhouse Records)
Decent generic punk rock the way it used to be: just instrumentally skilled enough to play the songs, which are just as complex (not very) as they are capable of playing; lots of complaining about society, the state, religion, guns and nuclear weapons; tunes held together by the guitars while somebody rants on top; fifteen songs in half an hour. This CD was recorded in two days back in June of '94, plus two live tracks from a month later; the early vintage of the recordings makes me wonder if the band is still together or what. I guess I'll just have to wonder since no info was included. My best guess is that Coldfront is reissuing a vinyl record from 1994 plus a few bonus tracks. It's very DIY, apparently done on free and/or 'borrowed' studio time--Peasants by Birth, Farmers by Trade, Krupted by the Dollar isn't anything special but it's not too bad; it's just that there are/have been/will be lots of these bands, and we each have our own personal faves. –Aaron J. Poehler