By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The jackoff excursions on Psychotica's Espina are even more pretentious, and their hype is even easier to distrust. A life-size ad for safe sex (if not abstinence) who dresses like an albino salamander wrapped head to toe in latex, creepy front-creature Pat Briggs was an original Rent cast member, and there was a fiberglass display of him in Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before he even put out his first album - which hardly anybody bought, despite a main-stage Lollapalooza slot and at least one memorable song that traded death-rock whining about cat torture with witchy Johnny Rotten sneers from some cockney reggae woman. Psychotica's new CD relegates them to a smaller label, and tracks 2 through 5 aren't much more than vacant thudding sludge.
But the opener, "Ding Dong Dead," a stentorian Sisters of Mercy parody keyed around an a-cappella-churchbell hook, is cute in its own dumb way. And the album's surprisingly moving final four tracks encompass Station to Station Bowie disco, Bach-like fugue notes, instrumental Jamaican psychedelic pennywhistle dub, weirdly slimy strum-and-sound-effect-rhythmed nasal rapping about soup lines and digging ditches, and a cover of Donna Summer's version of "MacArthur Park" where Briggs alternately winds vocal hips like Axl Rose and wails like he wants to be the girl who left the most cake out in the rain.
Unfortunately, Briggs' biggest vocal influence overall is the deep-voiced not-much-fun-anymore David Bowie of the '80s. Hutch Walker imitates a younger and more palatable Bowie on 10 Speed's 10 Speed. His school day's insane, his work's down the drain, and unlike all the other glam revisionists I've tallied, his L.A.-based trio (with Soviet-born bassist) really kicks - it sounds like they drink a lot of coffee. Their interspersion of butch cock-rock growling with girly soul-food falsettos feels emotionally convincing, too, even though they're obviously joking.
10 Speed's pinnacle is the gear-switching rocketman fantasy "Space Queen," which name-drops Barbarella and Gidget and Luke Skywalker; their funky number about suicidal psychopathic girlfriends makes for some righteously wired rock & roll hoochie-koo as well. Their 16th-note chunkachunka beats and radar riffs are straight off Urge Overkill's Saturation album from a few years back, and their circular logo flirts with U.O. plagiarism too. Between Marc Bolan threads and limited-edition red-leather bike-seat-cum-Marshall-amp CD sleeve, 10 Speed probably have 1998's most glam sense of fashion. They taste a bit too vanilla to match Urge Overkill's (much less Mott the Hoople's) songwriting skills, though. So in the long run, like all of these nuevo-glam platters, their shiny little disc sounds pretty good when it's on, but it's somewhat hard to care about it when it's not.