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
Smegma sound like they don't take direction from anybody. But since three of them (multi-instrumentalists Amazon Bambi, JuSuk Reet Meate and Dr. ID) have been playing together for at least a couple of decades, they know how to make music that works. The noisier moments of the V.U., Beefheart and Zappa might come to mind, but the influences have faded behind a personal gestalt that can incorporate synthesizers, guitars, rubber bands, transistor radios, found objects and the recitations of Richard Meltzer ("a fresh apple core/with two/rough and tumble/toenail clippings/inserted/makes a my-t-good/weapon"). And this isn't just some absurdofest, pard. Go ahead and turn it up; it actually sounds good, developing a pounding groove ("The Valium Restaurant") or floating into an involving 22-minute wash that supports some truly lyrical jazz trumpet ("Adventure in Sound").
Satie-and-Xenakis aficionado Reigle has lived in the Northwest U.S. and Papua New Guinea, and is currently working on his Ph.D. at UCLA. Heading in the opposite direction, psychedelic-culture lovers Smegma departed Pasadena in 1975 and now reside in Portland, Oregon, holding jobs like municipal-warehouse attendant. Ain't no classes in the musical revolution, though. These are two hemispheres of the same uncompromised brain. (Acoustic Levitation, 1436 S. Centinela Ave., No. 4, L.A. 90025; Pigface, P.O. Box 83713, Portland, OR 97203.) (Greg Burk)
Despite what certain annoying know-it-alls may tell you, hindsight isn't always 20/20. It's been nearly 25 years since he scored a No. 16 hit with "I'm on Fire," yet it's still hard to figure out why Dwight Twilley never became a household name à la Tom Petty. Both artists began their recording careers in the mid-'70s, on Leon Russell's Shelter imprint; both drew upon a similar mixture of influences from the '50s (Elvis, Buddy Holly, Everly Brothers) and the '60s (Beatles, Byrds), yet did so with enough verve to be embraced by the new-wave and power-pop movements. But even though Twilley made better records, at least at the beginning -- I'll still take Sincerely and Twilley Don't Mind, his first two LPs, over Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and You're Gonna Get It -- it was Petty who became the multiplatinum seller, Petty who became the youngest member of the Traveling Wilburys, and Petty who became the recent subject of VH1's Behind the Music. Not that Twilley has done too badly for himself; aside from a handful of '80s hits ("Somebody To Love," "Little Bit of Love," "Girls"), he scored a decent chunk of change when Tia Carrere covered "Why You Wanna Break My Heart" on the Wayne's World soundtrack. But while Twilley's status as a power-pop cult hero is assured, his profile has remained so low during the past decade that XXI, a 1996 anthology of his work, contained a self-penned poem that read, "Roses are red/Violets are blue/I'm not dead/And there's new songs, too." It's a sentiment that definitely applies to Tulsa, Twilley's first album of new material since 1986. Not only is Twilley still alive, but he's firmly in touch with the very elements that made his first records so compelling. From the opening snare crack of the leadoff track, "Runnin'," Tulsa is awash in jangly guitars, propulsive drums and slap-back echo galore. This isn't just a by-the-numbers case of rehashing old glories, though; the hook factor is exceptionally high throughout, and only a hard-hearted, tin-eared individual could resist the emotional tug of the wistful "Little Less Love" or the Spectorian "Baby's Got the Blues Again."
"Some guys have all the luck," laments Twilley on "The Luck," but don't feel too bad for him. After all, how many other cats get to release their best album a quarter-century after their debut? Tom Petty, eat your heart out. (Dan Epstein)
LOS LOBOS This Time (Hollywood Records)
From the beginning, Los Lobos were -- and still are -- a great rock-around-the-block-party band. Always could play the pulque out of all that traditional Mexican music, too. And when they came up with the head-spinning sonic surrealism of Kiko (1992) and Colossal Head ('96), they became something else entirely, something that sounded like "Dear Mr. Fantasy"era Traffic, actually. (I've seen 'em toss off a blinded-by-rainbows live version of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" 'cause they were playing London back in '93, so don't think these Garfield High alumni can't get psychedelic on your narrow ass.)
This album, their first for a new label, brings most everything this just-another-band-from-East-L.A. has ever done into one mixed-up, shook-up world. While the title track's lyrical reflections on past, present and future find their musical resonance in the echoes of an old soul record -- Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces' "Searching for My Baby" comes to mind -- "Oh Yeah" works out in a hand-percussion-driven Latin-funk-jazz groove like you can hear the homies playing every Sunday in Griffith Park. The bluesy guitar-rock of "Viking" is an imaginary portrait of one of those homeboys. Elsewhere, a pair of love songs ("Runaway With You" and "Why We Wish") shuffle along like Professor Longhair and Big Joe Turner, respectively. The sociopolitical "Some Say, Some Do" is appropriately bluesy, "Turn Around" is almost-straight pop, and the cautionary tale of "High Places" fuses funk-rock with psychedelic breaks.