Record Reviews

Mojo Nixon


Whereabouts Unknown (Ripe & Ready)
Geez, ya gotta cut USA Today a little slack for mistakenly printing Nixon's picture as Roky Erickson: Ol' Mojey-Wojey is, after all, doing his best Roky on the cover of his latest, Whereabouts Unknown. And although the sign on the back cover of the CD has the indigent-appearing Nixon holding a "I Say Bad Words on My Record" sign, no one reading titles like "Don't Ask Me Why I Drink," "Girlfriend in a Coma," and "Tie My Pecker to My Leg" (co-written with head Beat Farmer Country Dick Montana) is going to be surprised at the testosterone-laden, locker-room mentality displayed within. I'm a big fan of stupid, and this is not to say that Nixon's catchy-as-all-hell, well orchestrated songs don't create huge laughs; they just don't create very memorable music.
2 1/2 stars - Margaret Moser

DON PULLEN & THE AFRICAN BRAZILIAN CONNECTION


Live at Montreux (Blue Note)
Five guys, five tunes, 73 minutes in the outdoor air of the hallowed Montreux Jazz festival. The opening riff sets the melody and from there, it's one 10-15-minute roam after another through the Brazilian jungle by way of the African Desert - thanks to tight tropical rhythms and percussionist Mor Thiam. Pullen, the 53-year-old Mingus sideman who died last month, passes the solo torch back and forth with Carlos Ward (Cotrane, Don Cherry), whose alto sax soars serenely sweet, and gives this seamless album such an airy feel - which is not to leave out Pullen, who pumps the languid, often upbeat pulse of this affair with his easy yet energetic pianistics. Thiam's mantra chants on the closing two numbers "Kele Mou Bana," and the tropical Sonny Rollins dance groove of "Aseeko! (Get Up and Dance!)" bring your invigorating afternoon at the Swiss music fest to a close, leaving you with a longing for next year's pilgrimage to the jazz outpost.
3 1/2 stars - Raoul Hernandez

NEW BOMB TURKS


Information Highway Revisted (Crypt)
Taking their name from a character in the late-night cable staple of teen flicks Hollywood Knights, the Turks' Information Highway is a welcome addition to many record collections worldwide. Recorded in Austin almost a year ago, and packed with 15 songs of raw, unbridled punk energy, Ohio's Turks combine three-chord changes matched with some serious, crooning vocals instead of the requisite rawk-bark. Lyrically speaking, it's nice to see subjects that diversify themselves from something other than drinking, fighting, and fucking (try "Brother Orson Welles"). Although this album steamrolls out of your speakers, pausing now and again to shimmy on top of the wreckage, the main difference between the Turks and other punk bands is you're left with something more substantial than an anthem in your head once the concussion clears. (New Bomb Turks play Emo's Friday 12.)
4 stars - Kelly M. Petrash

CAKE


Motorcade of Generosity (Capricorn)
Before the Beatles changed their worlds, frat boys washed dishes back at the house, singing along with clean-cut folkies like the Brothers Four. Though Cake fits the modern definition of neither frat nor folk music, it wouldn't be at all surprising for them to launch into "Samakamwaki Brown, " the Brothers Four at their most bizarre. While they've been known to straightface Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" live, their album is cover-free, and, since we're on the subject, genre-free. A quartet made five by a trumpet player, Cake carry themselves with the snittiness of technically proficient, lyrically aware music lovers, who are almost anachronistically untrendy and brazenly proud of it. Check their first single "Rock `n' Roll Lifestyle," a talk-sing rant that pisses on the very kiddies they should be courting as fans. Their guitars are too clean and their lyrics too clear for the alterno-populace, probably leaving them at the hands of, well, folkies and frat folk. Sorry, guys.
2 stars - Mindy LaBernz

BUSH


Sixteen Stone (Interscope)
The British tabloids usually make a great fuss over their next big thing, which generally changes weekly. Bush hasn't made the cover of Melody Maker, but that may be a blessing in an American market. Where recent British invaders have not exactly failed but moved sluggishly, Bush may very well succeed. They're simply more American than the likes of Suede, Oasis, and Blur. Vocally and lyrically somber, sexual and intense as our Seattle boys Eddie, Kurt, and Chris, they're driven by the immediacy of Gavin Rosedale's grainy purr and the surge of Nigel Pulsford's guitar. Not guilty of the typical British pomposity, their only sin is the gravity with which they assail each song. Ah, but Gavin's a lovely bloke, and since the album has been produced properly, all they need is a bit of good old American marketing, and they'll show Oasis the real meaning of huge.
3 1/2 stars - Mindy LaBernz

TOMAS RAMIREZ


Tejazz (Vireo)
It has always been my contention that had it been released in NYC or L.A., Tomas' debut of a dozen years ago Jazzmanian Devil would have been a commercial jazz success. During this same period, I fondly remember the night Ramirez more than held his own on stage with the late firebreathing saxman Joe Farrell and trumpet ace Luis Gasca. It's this balance of explorative vision and commercial sensibility that characterizes Tejazz, the long-awaited second release from Austin's perennially popular and mercurial saxophonist. Highlighting this set are two extended, high-powered pieces, "Nothing Yet" and "La Puta," both long-time staples of the band's frequent Elephant Room gigs. Ramirez is joined by the ever-tasteful Doug Hall on keyboards and Mitch Watkins on blistering guitar as all three musicians are given plenty of room to stretch out and create. I just wish more of the local jazz scene were this adventurous. The rest of this collection is filled with decidedly lighter fare, from the funky to the sublime. The lovely voices of the Tejana Dames, with whom Ramirez plays regularly, grace the Delmore Bros.' "Blues Stay Away From Me." A pair of short sax interludes open and close the set, providing fitting bookends to this strong return to the fore. Denos Mas, Tomas.
3 1/2 stars - Jay Trachtenberg

CHRIS MARS


Tenterhooks (Bar None)
Someone get Chris Mars a producer. Sure, I love the former Replacements drummer's wry sense of humor, his Ray Davies-like tune crafting ability, and yes, his twisted artwork that has adorned the covers of all three of his solo releases, but does he have to do everything himself? The credits of Tenterhooks let us know in no uncertain terms that the album was "Written, produced, performed, engineered, mixed, arranged, whacked, bruised, beaten, eaten... helped and ruined by Chris Mars." So what's wrong with this slab of DIY? Well, for one thing, Mars' vocals continue to be overreverbed to the point that they reek of a guy who's not confident of his voice. For another, the whole disc sounds tinny, like one that's only been run through two ears. Mars is a long way from running out of great subjects/targets for his anger and frustrations; here he hits mall music ("White Patty Rap"), Rush Limbaugh ("E.I.B. Negative"), and in "Brother Song" takes on the sad life and death of Bob Stinson ("Sleep fast/Sleep well/Let all the monsters go back to hell"). He even does some neat turns with disco ("Water Biscuits"). In fact, if this album sucked, the sound wouldn't bug me. But as it is, what Tenterhooks most sounds like is a demo. A good demo, but I'd rather have waited for the album.
2 1/2 stars

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