|June 1, 1999
| by D.X. Barton, Concetta "Princess" Kirschner, and Anicee Gaddis
The Beta Band
"The Three EPs"
I'm not particularly cool nor that in touch anymore, the first
I'd heard of the Beta Band was when I got this CD, though
they're apparently all the rage among the cool and in-touch
both here and abroad. The disc, "The Three EPs," is a compilation
ofguess what?three EPs released by this Anglo-Scotch
outfit over the past two years.
that's a bonus for you, dear readers, as I can foist an opinion
untainted by hype or legend. And here it is: The first EP,
"Champion Versions," kicks a whole lotta ass; the second,
"The Patty Patty Sound," is about 50 percent good; and the
third, "Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos" is pretty much pure
liquid shit. Since they were put on the CD in order of release,
this inverse quality/time curve isn't promising. The numbers
that work the best"Dry the Rain," "I Know," and "B+A"are
good ol' classic rock numbers with more hooks than Melissa
Mounds' bra. Like a bottle of Saranac Black & Tan, you enjoy
detecting the flavor notes: There's King Crimson here, pre-"Dark
Side" Pink Floyd there, a bit of Stone Roses to freshen things
up, and a nice Beatles finish. The numbers that don't work,
which unhappily make up most of the disc, are pretty much
lo-tech apings of the Orb, with more noodling than a boatload
of ramen. Which is too bad, because these guys obviously have
talent, but seem to lack focus and discipline.
if you can accept buying a CD with about 35 percent good stuff
on it (nice to know this in advance for a change, ain't it?),
"The Three EPs" may be a happy addition to your collection.
I found it a nice, relaxing balm to this spring's Kosovo/Columbine
widening spire of violence, as listening to the good Beta
Band allows one to put up a gauzy wall of pleasant apathy.
If I was walking down Fifth Avenue with "B+A" on my discman
and looked up to see a 747 heading toward me with those two
teenage Nazi bastards at the controls, I imagine I wouldn't
feel too upset at all.D.X. Barton
"I Want Some"
I used to be in total rock-star love with Ian Svenonious,
lead singer of the Make-Up. Just to see him on stageshaking
like a crazed monkey or a young Mick Jagger, preaching his
fake gospel, taking audience members' faces in his hands,
and spitting an ear-splitting "Yeah-a-eah!" like Prince fucking
"Darling Nikki"was enough to make me sweat and swoon.
It was all enhanced by the band behind him, who didn't move
or blink, colder and straighter than Bill Clinton on the stand.
Definite rock theater.
alas, except for a couple of singles, the Make-Up's kick-ass
live wallop didn't really translate that well for me on record.
"Live at Cold Rice," which I believe was their first full-length,
was an attempt to transmit the live magic, but just like real
cold rice, you sort of want it heated up. (I don't really
know what that means, but what I mean is that I didn't like
it.) I do, however, like this more-than-full-length compilation
of singles, which includes some cool old numbers, like "Blue
Is Beautiful," a desperate anthem about pillsalways
a fun subjectand "R U a Believer," which makes me start
jumping up and down uncontrollably and grabbing my hair. (That
means I like it.) "Trans-Pleasant Express" is another one
of those old singles that has Ian screaming about wanting
to be put on a leash and taken for a walk. Who knew someone
could wax poetic about wanting to be your dog, yet again,
and still make me run to my nearest Petco?
of the songs on the record have all-star production: Brendan
and Guy from Fugazi (both of whom can do no wrong in my eyes)
produce 14 songs between them, and Calvin Johnson from Dub
Narcotic Sound System produces "R U a Believer." There are
a ton of songs on "I Want Some," and if the idea of the Who
meets James Brown meets the Stooges meets Prince, all on lo-fi
sounds good, then you will like this record. I was only let
down once, when I excitedly began listening to "I Didn't Mean
2 Turn U On," expecting a hilarious, rocking version of Cherelle's
1984 classic. Well, listen: Fuckin' with the "I Wanna Be Your
Dog" Stooges is one thing, but when you mess with Cherrelle,
then at least do my girl some justice! It was all garbledy-mish-mash
boring bangin' on a can! Oh well, I'm sure that they will
Make-Up that to us soon. (Ha ha.)Concetta "Princess"
latest jazz-pop ingenue was holding all the cards long before
she entered the game: She bears a strong resemblance to Uma
Thurman, was signed on to Calvin Klein’s cKone 1999 fall fashion
campaign, and is apparently a cousin of Björk's. But aside from
all the preemptive hype surrounding her debut album, Móa
does manage to strike a chord with her wiggy counter-melodic
vibrato: In fact, there are moments when she almost sounds like
a Björk impersonator. But there is also a self-evident depth
to her style, which may not be apparent on a first listen. For
all of Móa’s 24-year-old playfulness, there is an equal
amount of dark Billie Holiday-style raving.
is in many ways a timely album that may well find a niche
in the current market of electronic diaspora. The music is
the same formula of filtered drum and bass over synth noodling,
with some live piano thrown in (apparently Móa’s been
playing since age six). The surprise ingredient is the vocals:
Móa’s voice often sounds more like a reprisal of a 1920s
cabaret singer run through a vocoder, riding the line between
avant-cool and faux freaky. Tracks to dig are "Joy & Pain,"
which dipped into the insular dance community when coverboy
Victor Calderone and international fashion-surfer Dimitri
from Paris did remixes for a Tommy Boy compilation. "Tenderly"
is a jazz-club ballad (picture a pair of sleek legs crossed
over a baby grand), only it sounds more post-millennial than
post-war, rife with nostalgic keys and throaty pauses. "Raining
in My Heart" is Móa’s stab at a disco-inflected tune.
But "Memory Cloud" is the jewel in the tiarawatery grooves,
subterranean bass plucking, and a hearty serving of scratched
vinyl make it special.Anicee Gaddis
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