Man Or Astro-Man?
A Spectrum Of Infinite Scale
Searching for that perfect CD to take on your next alien abduction? Look no further. The band that once provided the quintessential modern soundtrack for surfing the waves has now concocted the quintessential soundtrack for surfing the Web. Whether this is musical heaven or a close encounter of the worst kind is debatable, but never dull. "Spectrum" is a moody, atmospheric work that strays far from the group's hangin'-ten roots, attempting to go boldly where no band has gone before. Intentionally obscure and packing more inside jokes and strange noises than a Plastic Ono Band box set, the SETI rock of "Spectrum's" sonic temple is haunted by the ghost of Casio future. With song titles like "Song of The Two-Mile Linear Particle Accelerator Stanford University, Stanford, California" and "Multi-Variational Stimuli of Sub-Turgid Foci Coverting Cross Evaluative Techniques For Cognitive Analysis of Hypersignificant Graph Peaks Following Those Intersubjective Modules Having Biodegradable Seepage," you pretty much know what you're getting into. One track consists entirely of the whirring buzz of a dot-matrix printer. Two-plus minutes of the whirring buzz of a dot-matrix printer. Brilliant! The final song sounds like someone trying to find an AM radio station while driving through Western Kansas by way of martian spacecraft. Traces of the original Astro-Man abound, though, particularly in the surfin' bird mechanical resonance of reverb-soaked numbers like "Preparation Clont," where the band cranks the amps up to (Ocean's) 11. Produced by Official Olympian God of Indie Noise Rock, Steve Albini, this thick slab of pointy-eared Spock rock takes the garage surf thing about as far as it needs to go. Then it goes a little further. Then a little further still.
The Kentucky Headhunters
Songs From the Grass String Ranch
Some bands have such great lyrics that it would be a crime to exclude them from the liner notes of their releases. Then you have acts like The Kentucky Headhunters, whose delicate prose includes such gems as: "I gotta get me a cup of coffee and eat me a honey bun" and "There's a Cajun cutie called Coco-Mo/She shakes all night if you treat her right." Why the Headhunters feel compelled to actually commit their verse to print is beyond me, but what the heck? For 30-plus years, various incarnations of the Kentucky crooners have been shilling their patented brand of Allman Brothers-flavored country rock to anyone willing to listen. While the group's 1989 debut, "Pickin' On Nashville" was a terrific antidote to the ultrasheen tripe coming out of the country capitol at the time, it has since created a body of work practically defining the phrase "diminishing results." The band's latest effort fails to break any new ground and is virtually indistinguishable from its previous few efforts or the myriad releases by country-fried hacks currently topping the pop charts. Songs such as the let's-take-the-square-out-of-square-dance "Jessico" or the bland Bocephus blues of "Once In A While" won't gain the group any new fans in the country or rock genres that it so desperately attempts to straddle. While this stuff is certainly light years better than anything you'll probably hear by Faith Hill this year, the Headhunters owe a great deal more to Hank Williams Jr. than to his dad.
reviewed by Geoff Harkness