Turn Up That Noise
An eclectic survey of recent recordings.
Stephen Grimstead, Editor
Hole, Celebrity Skin (DGC)
Loves long-dormant band Hole has just released its first record since 1994s Live Through This, and in the interim theres been a peculiar transformation. The previous album was a fine piece of work, with several durable hits (Violet, Miss World, Doll Parts). Now, admittedly, grunge is dead, but whod have thought Hole would turn into a cross between Veruca Salt and Belly? Celebrity Skin, a concept album that purports to laud all things Californian, is mostly jangle-pop, often so slickly produced it verges on bubblegum. Its not bad, exactly, just generic and forgettable.
What happened? Well, this lends credence to widespread suspicions that Loves late husband Kurt Cobain was the true talent behind Live Through This. That albums songs followed the familiar Nirvana pattern of melodic verses alternating with explosive, screamed choruses, and it was thick with pain and irony. Without Cobain, Love still tries to convince us shes got an attitude, but the former grunge queen has become Miss Sunshine one of the new songs, Malibu, is an homage to the Beach Boys.
Is Loves music really orchestrated by the men in her life? Consider this: Her friend Billy Corgan had a substantial hand in writing and producing this album (hes credited on five songs), and Northern Star one of the better tracks sounds very much like Smashing Pumpkins Tonight, Tonight, complete with a string section and Loves whining drone, which seems to be a conscious imitation of Corgans annoying voice.
If Celebrity Skin proves anything, its that Love is no great singer. Now that shes stopped screaming, the flatness of her monotone voice cant be disguised. You can hear her cigarette-diminished lungs sucking up air before each phrase, and she doesnt have enough breath to sustain a note.
But hey with all that plastic surgery, she looks like a movie starlet onstage. In pop music, its possible to succeed based on image alone luckily for Love, because her sound has no substance. Debbie Gilbert
Bare Jr., Boo-Tay (Immortal)
Here is a major-label debut that slays me almost as much as I was slain by my first encounter with the Replacements so many hazy, frenzied, wasted years ago and I dont even listen to this kind of stuff anymore.
Bobby Bare Jr. sings and writes like Paul Westerberg with an impeccable country-music pedigree; not too surprising when you consider the fact that Jr. sprang from famed country artist Bobby Bare and grew up as a rock-and-roller within Nashvilles hyper Music City U.S.A. culture.
Boo-Tay shows the younger Bobbys country influences without shame. But way more than anything else, this CD thumps with a true-blue rock-and-roll zeal. Bare and his bandmates claim and celebrate heroes from Neil Young to Ronnie Van Zant, Perry Farrell to Korn. And yes, Bare Jr. have put more than a touch of Jason & the Scorchers mojo to good use here.
This band consistently pulls off that very toughest of tricks: They place their ragged, huffing/puffing, wobbling musical apparatus in motion and keep it moving without ever really allowing it to completely fall apart.
Boo-Tays lyrics reveal Bares capacity to grasp calamity while maintaining a survivors sense of amusement. On Soggy Daisy, an inspired ditty about various old folks dying in a nursing home of the same name, Bare writes, Here are some people who would love to have lived/May have done things that they wish they never did/A great seducer/A horrible singer/An unknown psycho killer/A hopeless romantic/A survivor of the Titanic/A small person who wished he were gigantic/A loud person who thought too much of himself/A shy person who never knew he was better than everyone else/A great artist who knew he was a sham/A lawyer who always found a new way to scam On The Most, a manipulative beauty with a well-honed sense of the power of her boo-tay asks everyone she tries to make, Do you care enough about me to beat the hell out of the one who loves me the most? Bares keen observations regarding human screw-ups are particularly poignant/funny on Faker, when he declares, Every corner she cuts reaches out and cuts her back/And every little white lie she tries to sell turns black as coal/What a heartbreaker, to be a failure as a faker
Boo-Tay is one excellent album, and if his label doesnt let him down, Bobby Jr. should soon receive some well-deserved recognition.
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