<>gxŸ›h The Memphis Flyer: Music Reviews

Turn Up That Noise

An eclectic survey of recent recordings.

Stephen Grimstead, Editor

Seven Four Slide Seven Four Slide (Shoeshine)

LOOSE, FUNKY. DELIBERATELY abrupt. Oddly gothic.

All of those terms might be used to describe this debut disc from the local band Seven Four Slide. The back cover warns record dealers to "file under Modern Rock tempered with Jazz, Funk, and Industrial," and that really only covers the stylings of guitarist Ben Lansing, who shows off formidable chops ranging from trippy technical squiggles to minimalist Johnny Marr-ish jangles, with an occasional metal-crunch thrown in here and there.

Mary Van Dyke Roudnev's vocals run a similarly wide range, from caterwaul to whisper to Bongwater-ish spoken word. With a somber (but aggressive) vocal style that fits somewhere between Grace Slick and P.J. Harvey, she makes her way through verses and hooks and choruses with an almost theatrical solemnity. For the most part it works well, meshing mood for mood with Lansing's implosive playing. The lead track "Woman Teetering On A Fine Line" and the bilious "Junt Junt Junt Junt Jun-Uh," show how well the interplay between guitar and vocals can work when it comes together just right.

There will be some wincing when, on other tracks, the vocals go over-the-top operatic and come off affected and overwrought. And the cello, which seems central to the moody atmosphere the band is after, often sinks -- neglected -- deep into the mix. Nonetheless, this is a strong debut -- wherever you should decide to file it. -- Jim Hanas

Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny Beyond The Missouri Sky (Verve)

TWO OF JAZZ'S MOST DISTINC-tive artists combine talents on this beautiful, reflective, and highly original disc. Both draw on their pastoral Missouri roots for inspiration, and the song list finds them covering a traditional folk tune and some originals. Haden's family had their own gospel radio show, and he draws on this heritage with the inclusion of a Roy Acuff gospel tune his family sang, as well as "Spiritual," a contemporary sacred song by Haden's son Josh. A few haunting selections from the soundtrack to Cinema Paradiso complete the set.

This is a rare and wonderful recording, a series of duets that possess a uniquely calming yet compelling air. The quiet and masterful interplay between Haden's bass and Metheny's lyrical, melodic guitar playing creates a warm, comfortable atmosphere where each selection sparkles with musical virtuosity. Once you experience Haden and Metheny's Missouri Sky, you'll find yourself repeatedly drawn back for more of this remarkable disc.

In case you missed it, a couple of years ago Haden produced another lovely collaboration with pianist Hank Jones. On Steal Away: Spirituals, Hymns, And Folk Songs (also on Verve), Jones and Haden created a small, quiet masterpiece. Their renditions of classic American spirituals and folk material resonate with a strong yet subtle archetypal power. Like Beyond The Missouri Sky, Steal Away is rare and remarkable. Both come highly recommended. -- Gene Hyde

Mea Culpa Blindfolds And Cigarettes (Frankenstein)

AS MEA CULPA'S LEAD VOCALIST, songwriter, and determining force, Gilbert Garcia steers his band straight toward the heart of early-to-mid-'80s British-style power pop. Judging from the tight and catchy Blindfolds And Cigarettes, I would hazard to guess that Garcia must have devoured every track ever cut by the likes of Elvis Costello, the Housemartins, and, most apparently, Squeeze. Be that as it may, Garcia and Mea Culpa don't appear to unduly strain under anyone's influence; Blindfolds And Cigarettes is throughly excellent on its own terms.

Like Squeeze's Difford and Tilbrook, Garcia manages to interweave ever-so-slightly oblique melodies around and through clever chord progressions, playfully tweaking pop music's nose while consistently keeping the songs accessible.

Did I say accessible? The songs on this CD are flat-out irresistible.

Lyrically, Garcia seems quite often to be one or two steps behind the proverbial problematic lover (a venerable rock-and-roll tradition, of course). And/but, like so many smart (expressive) guys, he takes heart/refuge in his smart-guy idiosyncrasies via sundry devices, a favorite of which here seems to be the pun. To wit (no pun): "You say my gravitational pull is a drag." Or, "I've got the world on a broken string, but when I fret I'm out of tune with everything."

Wish I'd said that.

Anyway, if you love well-crafted pop with a relatively fine edge, take a chance on this disc. Blindfolds And Cigarettes is one of the very best locally produced (if that aspect kicks in for you) CDs I've heard in a long, long time. -- Stephen Grimstead

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