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February 29, 2024

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The Return of Clint Darling
Ruthless, Cruel & Inhumane

By: Clint Darling

There's no way to get around starting this off -- I put the CD in and immediately thought "well, hell....this isn't bad". What, you probably wonder, could possibly get under my skin and thaw my frosty heart so quickly? RAMONA THE PEST and their "birds, bugs, bones" EP. Look, they're not great here -- this isn't epic stadium rock or Britney Spears. It's kinda fey lyrics that any elementary-school kid could want his much-admired older sister to sing for him with her boyfriend supplying over-amplified guitar. Any polish on these particular numbers would crush the charm and verve with which the band swerves into your heart.

The opening notes from ANDREW WAGNER were confusing but I made it a third of the way through Track One before hitting fast forward. The second number, cleverly titled "Mating Song Of The North American Dork", clearly revealed the source of my confusion -- Andrew Wagner is a male lesbian. The album "thank you, but our princess is in another castle" is an acoustic nightmare that would be perfectly at home in a non-smoking coffee shop in Eugene, OR.

CHATTERFISH caught my wife's eye with its handwritten sleeve explaining when things were written and recorded. It seemed very open and intimate. She was very excited about the opening six or eight bars of the first number....which then inexplicably morphed into screaming death-metal-ish crap. The rest of the album was downhill although the last song, "Weedz", was almost catchy with its so-called chorus ("Wait just a fucking minute. Wait just a fucking minute."). But I couldn't wait because the hollow-wood "pong" of each drum hit drove me up the fucking wall. Thankfully, I needed jewel-cases this month.

Christ. I can't get a full measure into this....nor the second...nope. Nothing could be good....oh shit! She's singing!!!! It's worse than I imagined. Run run run far will never hear of LEA BRENNAN and, personally, it's a good thing.

The HUDSON FALCONS have song titles like "Requiem For A Patriot", "Fallen Heroes", "I'm A Worker" and "Sweet Rock'n'Rollin Bad-Ass Bitch". If the reactions of the women in my kitchen are any indication, this band will actually repel "chicks". But if I was expecting a sort of Bruce Springsteen-meets-Lee Greenwood pap, I was sorely mistaken. Think again. They do repel chicks but they're more like Social Distortion-meets-The Cramps. It's not my cup of tea but it's not as bad as it looks.

The Falcons fell into place when I played the companion disc, SKINS & PINZ - VOL II. They're America First! skinheads! Wow! If you enjoy reverse mohawks, beer, working class limitations and one-chord wonders....well, you're not reading this column, so I'm not going to continue listening.

You can't get any further from close-cropped heads than MAYA SHORE in New Haven, CT and the beginning of "farewell to introductions" (can no-one use upper case anymore?) seems to be an artsy shoe-gazing rock for people working in a print shop and feeling a bit hungover. I was disappointed that there is no Maya and that Kelly is, from timbre of voice, a guy. Nothing a little therapy can't fix here.

A strong-chick vocal leads off "how to say goodbye" by SUSAN ROBKIN and this album is positioning itself for movie soundtracks and a spot on conference panels next to Ani DiFranco when the topic is "Music For The Thelma & Louise In All Of Us". This is not baaaad stuff, as the fancy clear sticker touting awards is quick to point out, and when Melissa Etheridge comes to my window, I might want her to have the rythm section from this album.

Rarely have I been so surprised as to find a long-forgotten copy of "Private Player" by JAMES ANGELL. Mainly I'm surprised because we just finished yakking about their show tonight at the Crystal Ballroom and the bad luck of forever being ten minutes behind the trend. Daniel Riddle, Portland's own Thin White Duke, plays guitar on most of this and brings his distinctively wanky texture to Angell's almost Waits-ian/Nick Cave vocals. The thing I like best about the album is that James didn't vanish from the Portland scene and "make it" elsewhere. No, parochial as it is, I actually respect him a lot for the presence of long-time players and friends like Steve Hanford and Tod Morrissey. I don't know the guy but my friends say good things about him and that's enough for me to put aside the many prejudices I built up while watching him imitate INXS during the late 80's. This is worth buying.

Title? Band? PREACHING TO THE PERVERTED is titled as an "electronic press kit" but it doesn't play around here so you'll have to go to and figure out what sort of lechery this might contain.

On the confusion tip, I don't know what this CD is selling me -- it's labeled with a graphic title for LO-BALL and a title of "It's Okay, I'm With The Band - Sampler" and a contact at The Talent House (music biz pimps). It sounds like one band so maybe it's a sampler of one band rather than a multitude of stuff that this talent agency reps. If LO-BALL is a band, they're kind of L7-ish and pretty good and I'd like to know more about them and when they're playing around here so I can send someone's little sister to be empowered.

If I hired Weird Al to sing NIN and Depeche Mode, I couldn't create a freakier sex-orgy album than this rural-British-accented outing under the name THIS VALE OF TEARS. Listening to "Exceed" is like gargling with pre-programmed synth programs to get the taste out of your mouth the morning after.

On the bathtub-elevator music tip, LAGUNA sent out this CD without managing to own a home label printer or a sharpie to write on the CD with. Probably popular with candle shop owners who are preparing for a Carnival Cruise but can't find their Kenny G album, this is the kind of thing that makes the trip to the fourth floor really really long.

Stilted and stiff, lacking soul and hoping to be Joe Jackson, TOM PAUL is not without....something. But "I Was King" would have to be released by a major international has-been like Bob Dylan or Tom Petty to have any weight. It's not a starting point.

Rockabilly has form and format, context and constraint. If you want to have an amazing party and be barraged by the question "where the hell did you find this band?" you need to have SEAN KENNEDY AND THE KING KATS come to your house (don't pay more than five hundred bucks) to play the songs from "Big Town". They are authentic enough to be Bill Haley & The Comets but fresh enough to be right here, right now.

I think my girlfriend, errr wife's, mother has LORI MCKENNA's "Pieces Of Me". Softly lilting, inoffensive and bland, this album reveals the inner soul of a girl with the almost-country-conviction of a hitch in the voice and a look into the camera. I took it off quickly.

If it's within my power to discourage SCOTT JOHNSON from following up his album "Dreams In The Making" with more, emmm, music, I would like to tell him that there is not one girl in his Sophomore Literature class who will sleep with him to be closer to his vision of Loverboy-ish/Bryan Adams Lite dreck.

On the other hand, and perhaps just as regrettable, PAT HANEY will find a limitless number of peach-scrubbed Southern girls in love with the romance of country music who will buy a copy of "Ghosts Of Things To Come" and treat him like a traveling minister for the night. I don't write the rules, I merely report on them.

If teen girls have to listen to disposable belly-baring pop, I wouldn't so much mind if it's COLLEEN COADIC and her album "the opposite only better". It's not 7 Year Bitch or Hole and you can play this for your parents without offending anybody but it's not the well-oiled-then-photographed machine of Britney or Christina. Not The Pretenders or Blondie but might go over as cutting edge in Arkansas.

Like a world-weary six-year-old confessing a crush on his thirteen-year-old babysitter, SPOTTISWOODE & HIS ENEMIES construct a more focused Wedding Party-meets-heavy-metal-show-tune alternate universe where every dark cloud has a silver lining. Not only am I keeping this but I don't even mind the harmonica. This is really good and every college student should find themselves trapped in a room with it for a weekend or two.

Not that white men can't dance but IKE JACKSON FEATURING U-N-I stood out on the advance to their upcoming album "Dollar Bill" for the simple reason that it wasn't shitty. I ain't down with the gansta rap thing or even remotely conversant in hip-hop but this shit made me wanna shake some ass. So while I'm not a fan of the genre, this is well put together.

Probably plagued by "country music Jennifer Anniston" reviews, DANI LINNETZ doesn't do herself any favors on "Five & Dime" by being unlistenable. Her best intro is three songs in and that's three too far.

While vanity pressing may have a point somewhere, there's absolutely no redeeming value for CD's like MARIEL. "Fragments of a Dream" is a self-fulfilling prophecy and the picture on the sleeve fairly screams "will suck for success". This is a waste of bar-code but not as bad as I was led to believe by the cover art.

Ending this month on an upbeat note, RADIOPHONIC ODDITY (produced and mixed by SIM 01) traverse a broader-than-the-playa scope of electronic-ish dance music. Not just your average chill'd beats, this is a showcase for someone with an better-timed musical vision to pick this guy (because for certain it's a guy) as their new house engineer. Not a waste but not Moby, either.
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