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
But it’s the five-minute-plus title track in which Hannon runs the gamut. Beginning with a haunting Jack Bruce warble, the song builds to a series of grand choruses that make the wait — and the entire disc — worthwhile. Hannon’s tunes are crises waiting to happen, often utilizing string/horn sections and definitely not written with mass consumption in mind. As he says in “Note to Self,” “The writer writes for himself, not for you.” (Michael Lipton)
THE STICKMEN Insatiable (Cuneiform)
Despite recent Angelenocentric reports to the contrary, not every great punk-era band came out of SoCal. Looking back carefully over the early ’80s, we see that every city had at least one really amazing band. Boston had Mission of Burma, Akron had Tin Huey, and on goes the list. Dozens of great regional records had their 15 minutes and then went quietly into that good nightclub (which generally closed soon after for letting in underagers).
Philadelphia boasted the Stickmen, a band so violently original that this review can only emphasize to the point of redundance that they were fantastic. Reviewers almost always threw in a line like “Blood Ulmer on diet pills.” They were that quirky and funky — far more so than Ulmer or NYC no-wave bands like the Contortions — but they were tight. Their songs were all short, with interlocking parts that begged comparisons to Captain Beefheart at his most sculptural. Though they sounded nothing like Beefheart, they did sound like they were full of amphetamines (which some of the members were). The bass-and-drums team of Bill Bradfield and Jim Meneses (now a leading light in the avant-garde world) was funk at its most extreme. Beth Lehman’s Acetone organ parts were intense jump cuts. And front man Pete Baker made Lord Buckley look absolutely placid.
Insatiable collects the Stickmen’s complete recorded output onto one disc, and even includes Quicktime movies of the band live. Few things deliver like this, and fewer still age this well over time. Then again, very few things were ever this fresh in the first place. (Skip Heller)
LISA LOPES Supernova (Import)
Supernova was supposed to be Lisa Lopes’ manifesto, her declaration of independence. It was meant to be her Miseducation, Mama’s Gun and No More Drama all rolled into one. Her solo debut away from Chili and T-Boz, the other two-thirds of TLC, was supposed — once and for all — to resolve the question “Who is Lisa Lopes?” The answer is so unpretty: No one will care after listening to this collection.
The production is cold and sterile, with nearly every track sounding as though it were stitched together from sounds emitted by old children’s toys: a jack-in-the-box, Speak & Spell. (In the right hands, that’d be a dope approach. But Lopes and her vision-emaciated team of producers can’t pull it off.) Nothing coalesces. The vocals, finger snaps, keyboards and samples all seem phoned in from their own universes; they never serve the whole. Further crippling the situation are gratingly trite lyrics: Lisa is embittered, embattled, and so artless that the clunky song titles (“Let Me Live,” “I Believe in Me”) say all she has to say. Things take a turn for the unintentionally funny when Lopes, whose flow here is more than a little similar to Lil’ Kim’s, pouts through the bratty “I Believe in Me” like a sulking 5-year-old: “This jam is dedicated to moi/I believe in me ’cause I take care of me/All I need is me.” And when she goes for the positive outlook, she does no better than “[I’ll] never neglect to spread my wings and fly.”
What makes the whole thing so truly depressing is that in small doses — in her own group, or in her cameos on Donnell Jones’ “You Know What’s Up” or Lil’ Kim’s “Ladies Night” — she’s an effortlessly cool presence. (To be fair, TLC has always been so much more than the sum of its parts.) But on Supernova, the bruised, haunted and furious quality she’s always brought to the table has been flattened; Lopes is reduced to a cartoon wit’ attitude. (Ernest Hardy)
JIM O’ROURKE Insignificance (Drag City)
Insignificance’s cover painting (a chubby, balding figure being sucked off by a bunny) makes it an explicit companion piece to 1999’s Eureka (featuring the same figure frowning in pink lingerie), Jim O’Rourke’s first record to take the counterrevolutionary step of featuring his own vocals. In between, he’s done a hard drive’s worth of production work, tour stints as Sonic Youth’s bassist, and the slim Halfway to a Three-Way EP. O’Rourke is an exception to the steep increase in pretension that has marked the last few years of independent music: An honest-to-DePaul degree holder in composition who’s worked credibly in remixology, collective improv and post-minimalism, he’s now making records on which — get this — he writes some melodies and lyrics, then performs the resulting songs with other musicians.