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July 24, 2024

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Cruel Corner
Clint Darling Reviews...

By: Clint Darling

Clint Darling is on loan from

Where did I leave off? The last batch was good for a bottle of '97 Gotim Bru from Castell del Remei in Spain (courtesy of ever-wonderful Federal Wine in Boston -- the first time I walked in the place their clerk was wearing a baseball hat with the RESIST logo and once I quit laughing we swapped stories and "tasted" a few things). That stack over there is next?....well, at least the picture is fetching.

GABRIELLE shows off her big smile and great hair on the cover of "Rise" but the music is pale Girl Group trying to catch a ride with MACY GRAY on the Modern Chick Bandwagon. Just for kicks, and to see if I was feeling jaded today, I threw in an anonymous CD from one of the many varying stacks littering the apartment -- I'm still, as I write this, visiting my ex-girlfriend in Cambridge -- which turned out to be BEN FOLDS FIVE. I recognized the bouncy signature piano immediately but am still not sure which album I picked. What's up with no identifiers on the CD itself? We should just somehow know what every CD in the room looks like and which case it should go with? What if we're up for a government position and our Caribbean/South American not-really-legal migrant "friend" needs to clean the place immediately so that the power brokers won't see the empty bottles of Ten and Glenlivet? God, where is DAVE WALKER when I need that really over-the-top offensiveness? That's the mood I'm in because while Ben Folds Five, despite my not knowing which album this is still, sounds fresh and interesting and unlike any other band I've heard previously while summoning a few nods to the past (oh, it's gotta be "Naked Baby Pictures" cuz this next track is an obvious outtake), Gabrielle's lame minimal knockoff sucks and I'd like to discourage her and others with the same stilted artistic vision from ever recording again--it's a waste of everyone's time.

As this mood has hold of me, I should note right here that Ben Folds Five is still not at the junction in their career where an album of crap is something that makes good sense and why they released the material on "Naked Baby Pictures" is beyond me. Why not spend a week or two in an alcohol-and-mescaline haze at a decent studio and put out a 65-minute psychedelic opus to their lawn?? I'd have been happier but maybe they're not out to please me.

Still working off the beaten path, I was recently handed a 9-song demo from SURFACE CREEPER which is obviously not trying to please me although it pleases me greatly. Great bursts of noise that recall a severely dyslexic Sonic Youth bound off of some nicely intricate bass and drums. I need to check out CAVE IN while I'm out here on the East Coast but I think this music is in the same vein. We can make the comparisons to RADIOHEAD but early POLICE (without the reggae) are apt, as well. With a little more focus, these guys will make Portland, OR proud and might even be able to rescue rock radio from BUSH.

Back in the stack we find NATIONAL SKYLINE's 4-song demo/debut/ep-thing "Exit Now" which, ladies and gentlemen, is a winner. Actually, I really liked the name and even the mediocre art by ohiogirl couldn't slow me down. It's a great name and is an accurate idea of the scope and grandeur to which this band aspires and, mostly, succeeds in hitting. At times ambient, moody and majestic, National Skyline can also kick it into gear and play like they mean it. There are still enough rough edges to make me think that they're young and sincere but they're mature to the point that I think they have something to say. Damn, it's over. Only four songs? I want more. I'll play it again.

Straight up, I have no business reviewing a hip-hop album. I don't even know the difference between hip-hop and rap. OK? But what stoned son-of-a-bitch puts red lettering on a red background with that teeny print they use on CD sleeves? I can't read a goddamned thing on this CD so I'm not sure if it's a compilation or what. THE CREATORS give you "The Creators Present The Weight" and it's got that kinda blaxploitation/Pulp Fiction vibe but I don't think it makes anybody sweat. Let's try another cut....OK. The answering machine recordings set to :48 grooves between the songs are better than the songs. That's a bad sign. This doesn't seem to actually suck but it also doesn't have any crossover appeal.

Alex, I'll get you for this. PUNK CHARTBUSTERS....volumes 1, 2 and fucking rat bastard. Half of the songs contained on these three CD's are chosen for their schlock value anyway (ELTON JOHN's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me") and despite the entertainment value of this German pressing being not-so-up on the English that they're attempting this is just not very good. Can I bitch yet again about layout??? Don't put white lettering against a pale yellow background. Please. Nor blue against purple. Print one before going with it. Not even being foreign is excuse for this kind of stupidity. It makes being a punk look bad to be this fucking stupid. The songs? Suck. Sometimes, however, the song holds up to its rough treatment well enough as in Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane" covered here by someone you'll never hear of ever. I am tempted to burn a few of these onto one disc--"As Tears Go By" done by TERRORGRUPPE or TATTOOED CORPSE playing with "At The Hop." Most of these just make me shudder. I seem to remember enjoying this??? No, this is just a bad thing, I still appreciate good punk. Somebody must want to buy this.

ZYRAH'S ORANGE from Boston, MA ("don't worry, it's not a big college town") have released "body" which is a disc full of absolutely awful hippie shit. On top of which they take MACEO PARKER's name in vain. Do not pass go, apply directly to my next bottle of wine.

On "Kidnappervan" San Francisco's FOREIGN LEGION do something black in a manner that my Norwegian Protestant ass can grab onto and sweat. I like it and I'm keepin' it. The butt just keeps on comin', baby.

NO WAKE's "Retroactive" is more bad hippie shit. Really bad. Worse than Zyrah's Orange.

TINFED is out on Hollywood Records which raises some vague memory of that outfit being a flimflam joint but I forget why anymore. Very interesting use of a mellotron sound on the opening cut. A little more funky than the average alternaband but the weird over-the-top steel drum/mellotron/whatever thing is weird. Very weird. Disconcertingly up front. I don't understand what they were thinking. Even weirder, the first half of the album sounds like a rough mix with what I think are their best songs buried as tracks 7 & 8. I don't know that these guys are going to break the radio, which is clearly what they're aiming for, but I 'm not going to write them off. The songs are varied enough and have enough strength that they may show up again with a better idea of what they want and get it.

BIM SKALA BIM lay down the solid ska on "Krinkle" and do it with a determined happy face behind the horn section. Ska, like blues, suffers from a reliance on such rigid archetypes that the genius moves into the smallest of details and limits appreciation of just good vs excellent to a chosen few but Krinkle certainly have the basics mastered. Great wedding band? Yeah, it's an insult but not as much as you might think.....

"The Harsh Light of Day" by FASTBALL doesn't seem to stand up to it. Damnit. Rolling Stone says I'm supposed to like this but I'm not hearing it. I'll come back to it. This is maybe a test of my value system??

AMY RIGBY favors an interesting lighting on the cover of "The Sugar Tree" and I opened the booklet hoping for a better look at her and was sorry I had. Sorry primarily because it shows exactly how much of a male chauvinist pig I am in dissing her because she's an older gal who doesn't look great. If the wear and tear she's put on herself came across on the album it'd be good.....but it doesn't. She sounds like a high school kid wondering to herself what life holds in store. Not a great album. Not, maybe, even good. And we're back to that dark-grey on blue lettering problem. Oh well.

PIG IRON are from my adopted homeland of Oregon and make the egregious error of considering Portland part of the North Cascades which leaves me to assume that the reason they recorded 16 versions of the same crappy fiddle tune on "Fill Me Up" might be sheer dullness. Alex, why are they sending this CD to an indie rock online zine? I mean, how many lovers of bad fiddle come to this site? Do they have no brain?

SHAKER's album is either called "Progress Ave." or, the one I like better, "Sewer". Think of BLUES TRAVELER without the talent. Think of JOHN COUGAR MELLENCAMP with even less personality.

I can't take anymore of the bad music. And, yeah, I gave that FASTBALL album one more shot and still don't like it. For chrissake would somebody please send Alex something GOOD????? As a treat, for those of you who may have stuck with me this long I'd like to point out some albums that I really like--all of which I'm culling from my (ex) girlfriends' collection. It's hard saying "ex" all the time. I keep wanting to shorten it. I think without it. But there is a large technical hurdle to that verbage.....

>From the bathroom (this worries me a bit but maybe one shouldn't read psychology into where you find the album):

ALANIS MORISSETTE -- "Jagged Little Pill". Does she have another album out? Just kidding. Say what you will about the imitators, this is an excellent piece of music, art and personal statement (whether her or Glenn is up for grabs). I was fortunate enough to catch the tour behind this at Berbati's in Portland and as good as she was the thing I remember best is that her backing band was absolutely fucking incredible and I couldn't take my eyes off of them. I don't know who they were, with the exception of the only drummer I've ever paid attention to -- for attitude and overall stage presence -- who turned out to be Taylor Hawkins who now plays for Foo Fighters, but they allowed Morrissette room to roam and laid down a show that was blistering from start to finish. I've never seen anything this intense short of DEAD MOON. No shit.

MOBY -- "Play". Who woulda thought that I'd ever like Moby? Not me. Then someone made me listen to this (and they did have to make me) and, well, not only was it not bad but I even asked them to play it again. Now I have to rethink my entire prejudice against the genre. Hmmmmmmm. I hate that.

>From the coffee table:

AFGHAN WHIGS -- "1965". I'd rather write about the new Greg Dulli vehicle, THE TWILIGHT SINGERS, but although the case is here the album is badly missing. I suspect there's a Walkman involved with her trip to DC and that this might explain the missing disc. But "1965" was really quite a pinnacle for the band, summarizing all the elements they'd been trying to nail for so damned long and morphing them into an ass-shaking, floor-pounding catharsis of soul. My personal favorite is still "Gentlemen" but that's all wrapped up in situational crap that colors my view of it considerably. I enjoy "1965" more.

TRICKY -- "Pre-Millenium Tension". I earlier noted that I'm not qualified to judge much outside of my little indie rock world but I'll assume that such restrictions don't apply to liking an album from the other side of the tracks. I don't know shit about Tricky but this album opens strong and goes from there. By grabbing and holding attention, he earns my respect and by flashing his talents within a boundary-pushing performance he earns my buck. I'd buy this.

>And, frighteningly, from the top of the stereo:

AC/DC -- "Back In Black". I know that Steve Birch of MANDARIN practically dreams of playing on this album and I personally think that the entire band should have been taken out and shot immediately upon finishing this recording ("Stiff Upper Lip" anyone? See?). In a sick way, this may really be one of the greatest rock albums of all time. Guilty pleasure, indeed, I was delighted to find this in the stack on the board at NxNW for use as intro music at The Cobalt Lounge.

So I do like some things and this pile of crap I've been given to review might get enough at Newbury Comics that I can swing by Federal Wine and grab a bottle of something really good at their Wednesday tasting. See ya' after that. And if you think that your CD is interesting enough to withstand my mighty gaze, send it to Alex but mark it to my attention.

- El Clinto

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