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
While there's way more social awareness presented here than the usual beer-'n'-barf school of @narchy, it's presented in the more touching form of personal experience, as opposed to prefab political doctrine; the pressure of hypocritical religious conformity permeates "Faith," and a desperate, almost nihilistic sadness drives both the music and the lyrics to the title track. (Ralph Gorodetsky)
TNT Transistor (Spitfire)
Every once in a while, pop music can still make me feel the way I -- I mean my grandfather -- felt upon first getting smacked in the face by the Beatles. Giddy! Physical! Stupid! And good. So if I've gotta search out a veteran three-quarters-Norwegian eclecto-hard-rock band to repeat the sensation, I'm all over it.
You know what's toughest about TNT's trick? Sounding genuinely naive while delivering mature musical whammo. Tony Harnell's ability to huff helium, sing stuff like "I'm so lucky just to be/Where I am at any time" and make me believe it, the way he does on "Crashing Down," is rarer than plutonium 99, and that's almost enough. But this is a whole band. Ronni Le Tekro's guitar is always biting off these thick chunks of relentless rhythm, and he'll even toss in some crazed dissonances and effects just for fun. Bassist Morty Black doesn't care whether he has to play one note against eight chords or five weird notes against one E-major. And this kid drummer Frode Lamoy lifts the whole thing eye-high, bashing away with his high hat wide open as if he can't control himself.
A six-pack of your choice says you can't find another record in the last 20 years whose first half packs more melodic detonation than Transistor's. "Just Like God" tries to fool you into thinking it's techno, then dark funk, before pressing the pedal to the metal with a dragstrip chorus. "Wide Awake" is a smiling midtempo Cheap Trick ode to romance, minus the cynicism. The one song you'll play till you're sick of it is "No Such Thing," the kind of joyfully sad churner (nicely complemented by Le Tekro's babbling wah-wah solo) that could put Pat Benatar back on the map. "Crashing Down" is just a rush. The rest of the disc glides over commensurate peaks ("Because I Love You," "Into Pieces"), some somewhat flatter though still exceptional tracks, and a couple of pretty ballads ("Fantasia Española," "Under My Pillow") that you might or might not be in the mood for.
TNT's recent output suggests it's taken them 15 years to progress from good to incredible. 1996's fine Firefly and Live! (Shrapnel) would be worth its price for the Beach-Boys-go-headbanger masterpiece "Daisy Jane" alone. And Le Tekro's import-only 1998 solo CD Extra Strong String (Avalon) trumps ELO in atmosphere, humor and all-over-the-place imagination. It only remains to be seen if the masses will buy the goods. If they get a chance to hear it, the cash is in the till. Guaranteed. (Greg Burk)
VARIOUS ARTISTS More Oar: A Tribute to the Skip Spence Album (Birdman)
Skip Spence, an early member of the Jefferson Airplane and front man for Moby Grape, reportedly showed signs of mental instability even before he started doing serious drugs and showed up at a hotel with an ax (as in, not a guitar) looking for the Grape's drummer. Then he spent six months in Bellevue. From that moment until his recent death, he teetered on the brink of total dissolution, often homeless, never performing. He did record Oar in 1969. The songs were written during his stay in Bellevue, and sound like it. The harrowing disorganization of the lyrics and spare but chaotic arrangements render the music essentially elusive, rooted in private, terrible loneliness, despite moments of surprising humor and warmth.
Wisely, the artists on More Oar eschew the least explicable aspects of the original recording. Robert Plant delivers a wistfully restrained take on "Little Hands"; Tom Waits roars through "Books of Moses" like a man bent on self-immolation. Of the wackier efforts, San Francisco's late, lamented Ophelias fare best, capturing and sharing in the giddiness of "Lawrence of Euphoria."
Still, More Oar's ultimate impact is unsettling. Every lead vocalist is male (as were most on the 1990 Roky Erickson tribute, Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye); it's almost as if intimations of insanity offer male rockers a more comfortable outlet for irony-free emotional expression. And even the best performances here feel filched, somehow, from a ruin. Oar was a fever-dream that never broke. More Oar is imaginative and robustly healthy, and while the songs hold up well, they remain artifacts, offering few clues about how to cast the spells Spence did with them. (Glen Hirshberg)