[Sidebar] January 29 - February 5, 1998
[Music Reviews]
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Neat neat neat!

Sensible new releases

by Michael Caito

The first punks from Britain to ever put out a single and tour America were The Damned. They're still going, arriving this week with originals Captain Sensible (a bassist switched to guitarist) and singer Dave Vanian. Sensible has enjoyed an almost expectedly warped solo career through several records -- the latest of which, the good Cap told one interviewer, was best sussed while on drugs.

But since Stiff released Damned Damned Damned in '77 the band have been tripping all over the musical map in a steadfast attempt to raise flippancy to an art form. For instance, changing the chorus of Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" to "great big tits" in a then-scandalous paean to Lady Di in '81, which I bring up now only because given recent circumstances it's even more tasteless and thus way funnier. They did have a blast, though, abetted by inimitable drummer Rat Scabies as they plowed on, releasing a psychedelic soundtrack to a film which never existed (Give Daddy the Knife Candy) as Naz Nomad &the Nightmares in '84 before sidling into semi-oblivion . . . tons of semi-crap reissues, more-or-less half-hearted new ones, continued lineup revamps and a steady decline in output. Which of course offered a perfect punk presage for a bracing '89 comeback with a tasty live record to boot called Final Damnation (Restless). Nine years later: how do, Captain? Brooklyn Steamer open Wednesday. On to the wax . . . .

Rebuilthangartheory / Bermuda (independent split 7")

Two trios, one a longstanding pop outfit and the other comparative newcomers. The hangartheorists (guitarist Ken Linehan, bassist Margie Wienk and drummer/singer Rick Prior) last year issued Vimmana (Scribblehut), a four-song EPwhich suffered from poor production but very little else. If you listened past the mixing hell there were several -- including the whole of "Soliloquy of Bobbing Lantern Buoys" -- mythic, majestic moments. Their track off Load's Repopulation Program compilation gave a more accurate insight into what they're capable of achieving with decent production, but in an era of hipster bands who hold low fidelity in a truly mystifying sort of retarded regard, maybe that's what they were chasing.

Idon't think so. Rebuilthangartheory seem to be a trend-proof trio carving a sound at their own pace, similar in evolution to Purple Ivy Shadows. The tracks off this 45-r.p.m. time-share play it halfway, production-wise, between the EP and the compilation track, which bodes well, and their facility in the melodi-pop realm seems unforced and imaginative. Neither gleeful and silly or painfully self-aware, they work in burnished red oils under a flickering fluorescent.

Bermuda give another worthwhile whirl on the reverse. While they can sound like the Godrays, they segue into a fine little fury, with vocals more effective than the shaky warbles of the flipside. Guitarist Nate Dimeo and drummer Cara Hyde work beautifully off each other on the first cut -- shades of Raskin/Graning in Scarce days, and that's a large compliment. Overall, this split's a must-grab, first-rate sampler.

Tripod Cats (6-song independent EP)

Ray Memery's spent time on guitar in several South County-based bands, having worked with Groundhawgs (I think, unless Ikilled that brain cell) plus Superbug/Catfish Hunter guitarist Marc Archambault (now pickin' in the Carolinas) and trumpeter/singer Buell Thomas, who's still living/studying in New York. This is Memery's first crack up front singing (and writing) and he lunges for it. Don't know if he's Irish or German or what, but Memery cannily recreates instances of pub-wide chaos which can only arrive in a tiny room with a bunch of lit humans singing along to every single song. It's a rare gift built for ale halls, a la Southside Johnny and Springsteen (or Mark Cutler), only without cars and trains and references to global cesspit New Jersey. Only the slightly-overwrought "Just the Way We Are" mars the finish on this nifty debut. A refreshing break without scenester fakery. Nice going.

Kevin Fallon

Kevin Fallon:Poorman's Songbook (Jokers Wild 8-song CD)

I'm convinced that if you handed Kev used dental floss he'd conjure a jazz reel with a merengue outro. And make it good. Poorman's Songbook is exactly that -- a sonic bulletin board of all the tools necessary to eke a livelihood out of being a pro musician. Fallon's strings include banjo, lap steel, acoustic and electric guitar, electric bass and (ahem)keyboards. While his bailiwick may be the Celtic realm (sprinting out of the gate with "Cold Frosty Morning"/"Boating Up the Sandy"/"Barbara's Fancy"), listening to the deft turns in Bert Kamar's "Land of Jazz" it's easy to hear the sizzle because Fallon always knows what's at steak . . . err . . . stake. Don't let his humor -- and there's plenty from this wry multi-instrumentalist -- overshadow the scope of his musicianship. The main thrust of his Songbook seems to be about the pure joys of playing, which is not a joking matter. 

You can't not hear it. With capable home skillets like Mike Bresler (here contributing clarinets/flute) and Fred Wilkes (bass, some vocals), the tried trad "Cluck Old Hen" has a place right next to offbeat Fallon originals like "Me Pongo," which must be heard to be believed. The overall effect will leave you in high spirits and with a higher regard for Fallon's deft touch. If there's a point I take out of Songbook, it's that if you're gonna play out, it's OKto have fun, it's not a competition despite any contest you can name. But if you slack, there are cats like Fallon and Bresler around to flat-out embarrass you even while telling you a joke. Critic's mission statements aside, here's a real, fun listen, poignant and wise-acre all at once. Five stars . . . six if it only goes up to five.

STARS & BARS. Tonight (1/29), talented Beantowners Mistle Thrush ride a super record into the Century Lounge with new Newporter Another Girl and John Street Porch Band. Friday, Six Finger Satellite rip sh** up with V Majestic at the Met while Erin McKeown opens for the always-superb Dar Williams at Brown. Both McKeown and the Satellite are working on new releases; both take no prisoners. None. The Luponian complex wreaks further havoc Wednesday with Burma/ Kustomized alum Peter Prescott, who, word has it, will have a new record out in '98. Shanghai Tang, a supergroup of sorts including members of Six Finger, V Majestic and more, open for Prescott's Peer Group. Wednesday Feb. 4 finds the Amoebic Ensemble joined by Tennessee's Hosemobile and the His Panic Band at the Century; heads up for the Followers on the 7th.

Kristin Hersh's new one Strange Angels (Ryko) will be webcast at www.liveconcerts.com this week. Find it there or through the KH link from the Rykodisc site, www.rykodisc.com/3/features/kh sharp. Da record is out February 2.

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