Mavis's Dream Four

 

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Jason Thornberry sends us lots of stuff. Lots of stuff. More than Mavis could ever use in a paper edition of Dream. Some of these reviews will be in Dream Four. Some won't be. Can you tell us which?


BLUE MAN GROUP

"Audio" (Virgin)

If you've never heard of 'the Blue Man Group', then the rock under which you're currently residing probably doesn't get cable. They've been on countless tv programmes, with their brand of midriff-free, uh, World-Music. Which world? Good question. They appear to be six gentlemen, who daub blue paint all over themselves, and play a disjointed, angular, un-predictable brand of pop. Very intensely. A bit like Tangerine Dream with 180 drummers. The Blue Man Group utilize the usual guitar/bass/drums/keyboards rock-instrumentation (there aren't any vocals), along with a myriad of other, bizarre, home-made looking gadgets, all of which are fashioned out of PVC (plastic piping used nowadays for your plumbing system). Ever heard of these implements? Air poles (which is like a giant rain-stick) the 'pvc instrument' (which is a percussive device played in a similar fashion as one would address the vibrophone), and appears to require at least three people to properly utilize it. A tubulum, which is again, percussive, and resembles long plastic organ chimes laid out horizontally. A smaller tubulum resting on a back-pack, the cimbalom, which also resembles the vibes, and is played by three freaks, the "big drum", which is just a giant bass-drum, the drum wall, which is a flank of three percussionists, playing actual trap-sets, a zither, a dumpster (I'm serious), a chapman stick, the timpani, a 'pressaphonic', (huh?), a 'piano smasher', a ribbon crasher, cabasa, shakers, doppler drums, djembe, shaker gong, a gyro shot, gary strips, shekere, utne drums, sword, wiper, and angel air poles, baritone guitar, the mini snare, lap steel, shaker gong, cuica, a 'crasher', a toy drum kit, an alto drum kit, an electric dog toy, quellium, aronophonic, doppler toms, upside-down bass, 12-string guitar, extension cord bull roar, and a tremelo bass. Phew! All that comes together to make an instrumental whirlpool of sounds that are only recognizable after you've read the lengthy cd-booklet attached.Great album though. Only similar in my mind to maybe one of John Zorn's more-unhinged-than-usual projects. At their most tame, the Blue Man Group remind me a tiny bit of Tangerine Dream. A compliment coming from this guy. --Jason Thornberry blueman.com


CALIBOS

"self titled" (Arlingtone)

Dreamy, lush guitarock, that at moments seems a bit like Galaxie 500. Lush, very well-played, and almost hook free. I really enjoyed this cd, but the feeling was much like you'd get after a film with memorable explosions, plenty of car chases, and prat-falls, but very little in the way of a story line. Like a porno, with all the awkward lines expurgated; straight sex. It doesn't work on a cd, unfortunately. I went away going "Indie-rock. Lotsa guitars. Plaintive vocal bits. The odd instrumental ("Draft", which is actually the standout track. It's a pity they never found words to fit there.)" I knew that as soon as 'Indie-Rock' became an actual genre, a title, a category, it was only a matter of time before it ran sluggish on where to go next. A bit like painting yourself into a corner. You have your Sonic Youth/Nirvana-bees, you're Swervedriver clones, a few Rocket From the Crypt impersonators, and a couple of Pavement-heads. It's fairly boring to someone who just wants to hear something.new. Who cares if you sound like the lost Pixies record? What happens next? --Jason Thornberry arlingtone.com


CANIBUS

"2000 B.C (Before Canibus)" (Universal)

Did anyone take notice of the very public feud between rapper Canibus and LL Cool J that went on in '98? Apparently the two had some sort of disagreement, and LL tried to dismiss Mr. Williams by rapping about it on a song they both made guest appearances on. Canibus immediately shot back on his "Second Round KO" track from his "Can-I-Bus" debut: ".and if you really wanna show off, we can get it on, live, in front of the cameras on your own sit-com. I'll let you kick a verse. F*** it, I'll let you kick 'em all. I'll even wait for the studio audience to applaud. Now watch me rip the tat from you're arm (LL Cool J, and Canibus both have microphones permanently embossed on their biceps.), kick you in the groin, stick you for your Vanguard award. In front of your mom, your first, second, and third born, make your wife get on the horn-call Minister Farakhan. So he can persuade me to squash it. 'I say 'nah, he started it'." Canibus is usually bragging on his two cd's about how much of a badder MC he is than literally anyone else. Which, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and Kool Keith notwithstanding, is fairly possible. "I never said that battlin' me would be impossible. I just think it's highly mothefu**in' improbable." There were many moments, where I'd run the cd back, again and again. 'Did he really say that?' That never happens to me anymore. Is the fact that half of the stuff I listen to is a bore and a chore evidence that I'm becoming somewhat jaded? Canibus seems to feel the same way: "Now for the last couple of months things been real quiet, cuz I ain't heard sh** worth buyin." I guess I'm not the only one who's tired of how predictable popular music has become. "Same sh**, different laxative." With conviction and belief to spare, Canibus dispenses with the tired 'Oh, really, I hate fame" trappings evident in truly stupid 'flavors of the month', like Modest Mouse. Rather than bumming the whole planet out with some weepy proverb about what a rank human being he is, he instead chooses to toot his own horn (something that was a Day In The Office in the hip-hop of old, and is one of the few early standards that never gets tiresome, or seems out-of-step--unlike his misogyny and homophobia). If you're an up and coming 'indie star' (an oxymoron?) you don't talk about "urinating rocket fuel". No. You instead discuss the merits of, maybe, self-immolation. Over a hooky chorus, so the world can share your pathos, and hum it in line at Burger King. Cameos by Killah Priest (a peripheral member of the Wu-Tang Clan), Rakim, Journalist, Kurupt, and Rass Kass, this follow-up only let me down by being over. The guests of honor really just add slivers of mic skills to the cd. Canibus shines throughout. His debut "Can-I-bus" was great, and, in spite of some of his very '1955' opinions (which are fairly atypical of hip-hop, unfortunately), this is even better. A 9.1 on a scale of 10. --Jason Thornberry canibus.com or: members.xoom.com/Canibus


CARETAKER

"Pause EP"

Lo-fi, and suitably jangly, is Petersfield, UK's Caretaker. Things have happened fairly rapidly since their inception in December 1998, and this EP has already been played by all three 'happening' Radio One (BBC) DJ's: Steve Lamacq, John Peel and Mary Anne Hobbs. This is limited to 365, so contact Badmusic's site, if subtle, dreamy pop is up your alley, and place your order with haste. The sleeve boasts four songs, and there's a short bonus track tacked at the tail end. I'll give it three stars out of five. Stand-out song: Safe as Houses. -Jason Thornberry badmusic.net or: listen.to/caretaker


CASINO ROYALE

"Back to Back Bacharach" (Double Play)

I looooove Burt Bacharach. Love him. I saw him live at the performing arts center by my house. I own a couple of his instrumental cd's, and his very, very excellent boxed-set, which brings me to Casino Royale. Casting imitation as the grandest form of flattery aside, this is basically a tribute album. Translations of "(There's) Always Something "There To Remind Me", "I say A Little Prayer", "What The World Needs Now Is Love", and "Walk On By", (etcetera), are spot-on, but tired. Like a wedding band on the loose. Why revive what's still alive and well? An excellent artist to focus on (Hal David too), but how many similar cd's are out there? Would you wanna buy this, or the big collection I have, which has the radio hit versions of these same songs. And is three times longer. This is very, very, good, and maybe Burt'll phone this group up to record some of his new material. Then they'd be onto something. --Jason Thornberry


ALICE DESPARD GROUP

"self titled" (Arlingtone)

Sean O'Brien (bass/vocals and guitar from I See Spots) cameos here, but it's largely Alice's affair. Jangly, indie-pop stuff, fairly mid-fi, and mid-tempo. A post-pop, Replacements/Soul Asylum (with femme vocals)-like feel, not entirely like a fairly downbeat Figure 4. There are a few No Depression (nouveau alt. Country) moments, but for the most part, this debut sticks to somewhat of a formula. Alice Despard handles all of the vocals herein, and there are a couple of fairly catchy choruses (best song: Vessel), but on the whole, this record just didn't keep my interest. Not that it was bad or anything either. I listened to it for about three weeks, trying to let it grow on me. Nothing. Well, no. I did come back to Vessel a lot. The remainder is only.adequate, well played, and fairly tuneful. The tunes just didn't stick. --Jason Thornberry


DORA FLOOD

"Lost On Earth" (Double Play)

Another band plagued by a dim-witted manager. San Francisco's Dora Flood were in the studio doing demos for Elektra Records, but his bufoonery brought the band/label relationship to a screeching halt.. Unfortunately, they're still under contract with him, but they issued this debut, which is rich in dreamy pop-rock, with The Catherine Wheel and Radiohead embellishments. Great production, good song-writing, and an excellent recording make this cd quite good. Dora Flood dispensed with that manager, at least in the formal sense, and found a home for "Lost On Earth" at Double Play Records. I hope that gentleman has a very brief hold on the band. They deserve so much better. --Jason Thornberry doraflood.com or: doubleplay.com


I SEE SPOTS

"Word Order" (Deep Reverb)

Arlinton, Virgina is I See Spots home. Featuring the busy Sean O'Brien (also of the Alice Despard Group) on bass, vocals, and guitar. Rounding out the line-up is Joel Rosenquist, and Keith Richmond. This was recorded and mixed by I See Spots, and sounds great. It just didn't really hit me. One star out of five. --Jason Thornberry deepreverb.com or arlingtone.com


I SEE SPOTS

"Cantilevered Heart" (Arlingtone)

Recorded again, by the band themselves, it's a small improvement sonically over their "Word Order" debut, but has a leaden flatness, that makes wading through it kinda difficult, and not very rewarding. I (like most humans) had to look 'cantileverd' up: "Either of the two beams or trusses that project from piers toward each other, and that when joined directly, or by a suspended connecting member form a span of a cantilevered bridge." Huh? C'mon, guys, isn't that a little wordy and, maybe, pretentious for your second cd? No stand-out tracks this time. Rough sailing generally. Two stars out of five. --Jason Thornberry arlingtone.com


JURASSIC 5

"Quality Control" (Interscope)

Consisting of four MC's and two DJ's, Jurassic Five confuses the masses of asses who like their hip-hop in lil' unchallenging pieces. These are anything but sound-bites for fans with Attention Deficit Disorder. Leave that to Kid Rock, who really oughtta be jumping on the New Metal bandwagon, since he so strongly bears resemblance to a stoner, dude. Coming from the same open-mic café jams that were the breeding ground for Pharcyde, J5 were the result of two crews that morphed into one in 1993. This is their real debut, coming cold on the heels of the Jurassic 5 EP released in 1997. The speedy sales of their mini-LP proved that people were searching for something new, yet the flavor within the short release proved very palatable to those who still like bits of the Old School. Quality Control is the sensible continuation of that preview taste of what this Los Angeles group had in store, kicking the new and old styles at the same time: "been Too Legit to Quit before the Hammer pants." An understated, subtle, and deft touch at the turn-tables, the DJ's (Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist) lay down crisp new beats, along-side stuff culled from old Bebop and Swing records, to disorient the listener, and succeed in keep the sound from becoming predictable. No single style monopolizes Quality Control. Like the line-up (completed by rappers Chali 2na, Akil, Mark 7even, amd Zaakir), the record is a mish-mash, a potpourri of different flavors and styles, all coalescing into one, when the cd ends with the Buddy Rich on crack maelstrom of Swing Set. Apparently Jurassic 5 is the band to truly experience live. I saw EPMD a few years back, and they sucked. Nothing but crotch-grabbin', and empty bragging. Snore. It really under-whelmed and disappointed me, and made me think that maybe rap should be performed only in the studio. With skads of touring time under their belts, and people screaming at me about how utterly enthralling J5 is live, I just might have to check them out. Jurassic 5 don't have time to rub slow circles on Jada Pinkett's belly for People Magazine's photographers, or appear in moronic sit-coms. They're too busy living what they write. It seems like a good life. Jason Thornberry jurassic5.com or: members.tripod.com/~jurassic5/ or: bounce.to/jurassic5


KANARY

"Porno Church of the Ugly Man" (self released)

I saw Kanary a few years ago, stumbling into a deli that had a little music room in the back. The two girls and one guy were rocking all eight people. Who were sitting down. 'Here we are now. Entertain us!' I forgot that I came to use the toilet, and watched a few songs. Good vocals, energy, tight, concise songs, and a good drummer. Kanary are from Los Angeles, via Detroit, Canada, and New Mexico, with the beautiful Leslie Knauer on guitars and vocals, Tony Mattucci on drums, and Mary Kay on bass and backing vocals. Comparisons at times to Heart, the Runaways, and a few less 'Lisa Loeb-ish' female-driven bands will dog this group, but they should be able to rise above it. Especially if they can capture their live sound on tape, which I preferred over this release. Apparently "Porno Church." is their sophomore cd, and "Invincible", their debut, is in it's fourth pressing. I remember "It's Not EZ to be Me" from that night, and it's the stand-out track here. A solid album, and a B overall. --Jason Thornberry kanary.com


KILLAH PRIEST

"View From Masada" (MCA/Universal)

Heavy Mental, Brooklyn-born Killah Priest's 1998 debut introduced this witty word-smithery to the music world. Those who heard him previously on the GZA's Liquid Swords track B.I.B.L.E., were waiting patiently for him to come out with something of his own. He had already dropped an album with his Sunz of Man group (also featuring Prodigal Sunn, Hell Razah and 60 Second Assassin). Their 1998 cd, The Last Shall Be First, added to his mystique, but Heavy Mental was a disappointment to some. "View From Masada" definitely shines brighter. Masada (Priest's pseudonym) stands for "MostlyAnalyzing Situations And Drama Artistically", and it's obvious that he isn't interested in hot-tubs fulla bitches with big butts, gold chains, or hustlin'. When he raps about "staring hopeless at the gentle rain", you can tell boring ol' Poop Frog (I mean Snoop Dogg. Sorry.) isn't anywhere near the studio, with his played out rhymes about how big his unit is, or how all women are pieces of meat. Priest is more interested in people's thoughts, and sees himself as "the scholar", rather than joining in on the excruciating pissing contest rap is becoming. He explores the continuing race and culural-confusions keeping the United States stuck in a 1959-era time-warp of ignorance: "Is this the curse of this dark melanin?" he asks the listener in one song, and goes on to state the painfully obvious: "Walk beside White women, they start holding their purse. 'I just asked you for the time, bitch! What you got anyway? Some of the indian's turf?" He also is quick to point the finger at his own: "Project hallways filled with broke niggas, broken bottles of malt liquor, and coke sniffers. Dope dealers, and drug users with crack lighters. We thought we made it, but somewhere sh** backfired." Evident in his music is also a very welcome contempt for the rhyming-by-numbers that is getting siphoned up by the lemmings who think Will Smith or Eminem is really 'all that': "Be yourself. But you're scared to do that, cuz you won't see no wealth. See, most of y'all cats never bust no gats (guns). And most of y'all cats never sold no crack. Most of y'all cats better thank God for rap, cuz most of y'all that left the hood can't come back." Is there an answer to the chaos and confusion that is being amplified daily? Do you really think he even knows? "Look at my eyes. They're empty." At least Killah Priest doesn't seem satisfied to sit around, and let the stupidity fester: "I been broke too long to let a nigga rob me. The hand that writes is as good as the hand that holds the plow." Produced by somebody called the LZA, Just Blaze, Daddy Rose, Shamello & Buddah, Curt Gowdy, and Wiz, "View From Masada" seems to have benefited from the various spoons in the broth. Lyrically, the best moments on the album, of course, belong to Killah Priest, but he gets a little assistance at time from Ras Kaas ("You ain't dope just cuz you sniff it"),the phenomenal Canibus ("We judge MC's by their lyrical fitness. And punish DJ's for puttin' corny stickers on their mixes.") and a mystery guest on Maccabean Revolt ("I stopped smokin' weed. Now I get high off my pen"). There's a breeze of intellectual-ism, and maybe a respite from bragging about how big the trees are that every rapper smokes. This puts the very predictable shite that Cypress Hill talks without a break , ever, about how stoned they are (Wow. How amazingly original!) to shame. They should put the bong down, and pick up a pen. Always into something, Priest helped co-found the Four Horseman, a group with Canibus, Kurupt and Ras Kass. Best bet? Hunt down their "Getting' Pretty Good at Barely Getting By" album or View From Masada", and trade in Willenium while your at it. --Jason Thornberry killah-priest.com or: allmusic.com/cg/x.dll?p=amg&sql=B291249

 
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