Minor Chords and Major Themes

(E Pluribus Unum)

The Posies may or may not be finally broken up, but their main cohorts in way melodic, way sardonic power pop, Boston's Gigolo Aunts, have unexpectedly returned to life after almost five years of hiatus, thanks to the Counting Crows' E Pluribus Unum label. The power of positive negativity never sounded so sweet. Actually, the negativity part's toned down here, counterpointed with reassurances such as "Everyone can fly (you just have to try)" and "Blue sky hopes and horoscopes agree in the end/That timing is your real friend, your only friend." Even in the most hopeless of situations, singer Dave Gibbs' characters keep on a pushin' for renewal, cranking out new personal ads and urging friends to "get yourself together baby." The positive parts, meanwhile, are kept from saccharinity by the quiet acknowledgments of realistic disillusion, such as in "Everything Is Wrong" and "Residue."

Yet even in the album's saddest moments, the smart, level-headed vocals and the plaintive guitars keep things from getting too mopey. Like all the best smart-pop from Big Star on down, this album is filled with intelligent assessments of the personal condition set to hoppin' guitar chords and drum fills, providing a context of continual striving for, and demanding that, things be better. I could listen to this for days. In fact, I probably will. CLARK HUMPHREY


Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians


This yellpee, recorded onna "field trip" in 19 'n' 56, is one SOLID buncha trad/dance "folk" instrumentals, tho' I heard the "style" called "Olde Time" from people who grew up 'n' lived in the Southern APPALACHIANS, played HOT by ladies 'n' gents on 'bout ANY instrument they'd a finger on. However, these songs ARE abridged as, I s'pose, historians only need a snippet o' a song 'n' fo' time constraints of the LP format. Now, in practice this shit'd get played fer parties 'n' dancin', a single song'd be a 20 minute plus "set"! Uh... so set yer Compact Shit player on "repeat" 'n' commence to stompin' like Jed Clampet! MIKE NIPPER


Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss?

(Flaming Banker)

This a reissue o' the Feederz action, sans original title, Teachers In Space, 'n' photo o' the Space Shuttle blowin' up, AND is the "punk" I growed up on... boni-fried '80s "hardcore"... U.S. of A. style! Dig, fer y'all o' le "younger generation"... uh, the Yo-rons 'n' "kids" call 'em "new school," the Feederz DO spew the confontational politics 'n' sound a li'l like Rudimentary Peni. However, unlike RP, the song writin' done wif LESS consideration o' "pop" formula 'n' played wif MO' "abandonment"... uh, the playin' is looser wifout much self-consciousness which, in turn, makes 'em sound, as most U.S. bands, a bit mo' severe 'n' threatenin' the "Status Quo." MN


Hedwig & the Angry Inch


What, another rock musical? Have no fear. This isn't the pseudo-rock of the Who's appalling Tommy, a show that clearly lost something in its translation to the Broadway stage. Hedwig & The Angry Inch is a different kettle of fish altogether; what must be the first rock musical--well, probably the first musical--about a transsexual, the hapless Hedwig of the title. The Berlin refugee was the unfortunate recipient of a botched sex-change operation, leaving "him" with nothing more than (you've guessed it) an "angry inch." What to do? Become a rock star! What to play? Glam rock! After all, Bowie-Bolan et al. played at gender-bending for years, but Hedwig is the bona fide article. The music sounds appropriately trashy, from its ballads to its barrelling rock 'n' roll stompers. An off-Broadway run has assured this show of cult status. And it's a heck of a lot more fun than Rent. GILLIAN G. GAAR


One And One Is One


In the past, I've expressed displeasure with the Western World record companies that curate Third World music for passive consumption by Birkenstock-wearing WASPs. So why should I approve of a Western World record company curating Third World music for passive-aggressive consumption by Urban Decay-wearing WASPs? Maybe because I happen to personally like this hi-NRG dance tuneage better than Paul Simonized wine-party music. Or maybe because the source material, commercial East Indian pop, is already a highly commercialized, high-camp-value genre that is in no way ruined by its use as inspiration for this Asian-British crew's original (apparently sample-less) dance-beat pastiches. Or maybe because it's just such infectious fun. CH


Live in Montana


Meat Puppets fans are in for a happy happy spring, for Rykodisc plans to reissue seven of their albums on CD, complete with bonus tracks, CD-ROM material, extensive liner notes, and the whole kibosh. And to get things rolling comes this offering, the MP's first ever live album, taken from a 1988 show in Missoula, Montana. The band's in fine, warped and twisted form, goosing up "Plateau" with daffy bird twittering, braying for the ladies in the audience to drop their panties on "Get Down," and tossing in a skewed version of "Blue Bayou" for good measure. Some have felt the Meats never lived up to their potential once they left SST, despite the momentary attention their work garnered following their appearance with Nirvana on MTV's Unplugged showcase in 1993. But Live In Montana captures the group at their creative height; the next best thing to being there. GGG


Hurlyburly: Original Soundtrack


In case you've forgotten, soundtrack albums all used to be like this: an original suite of instrumentals composed to complement the on-screen action, instead of a promotional tie-in hodgepodge. And it's good stuff: Lounge-y, poppy, but never-kitschy jazz bubbling smoothly along. It'd rate a third star if not for the pedestrian, studio-singer vocal on the central track, "Black Mamba Kiss." CH


I Am a Diver

(Kitchen Whore)

Onetime Stranger music writer Mia Boyle, who's performed around Seattle in such bands as Bullet Train, Moxie, and Radialarmsaw, delivers a moody suite of slow and sultry ballads, performed on multitracked guitars and vocals with ample echo effects. A few of the tracks sound like what Hole's "Doll Parts" might have sounded like if sung by a more human-scale personage. Other tracks drift into a hypnotic dream state somewhere between subtle awareness, erotic afterglow, and the quiet not-really depression of staring outside on a rainy, overcast March day as the diffused light fades into diffused twilight. Utterly beautiful. One might also note that Boyle only includes a few, quite small photos of herself on the inside flaps of the gorgeously designed Digipak. In the age of Lilith mania, it's refreshing to know there's one female acoustic-singer-songwriter type who'd rather be known for her work than for her image. CH