Pride and Glory
A Southern-rock band composed of heavy-metal musicians from Los Angeles might sound like a ghastly idea, but Pride and Glory’s Geffen/DGC debut evokes an authentic neon-beer-sign, shotgun-in-yer-pick-’em-up-truck vibe. With a little Sabbath influence thrown in for good measure. Pride and Glory frontman Zakk Wylde is, after all, Ozzy Osbourne’s current guitar hero.
“Ozzy’s so cool, but if you work at McDonald’s, you don’t eat cheeseburgers,” says Wylde. “So when I was on the road with him, I started listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers.” Post-tour, Pride and Glory grew out of drunken jam sessions at Los Angeles’ Coconut Teazer. Wylde and Osbourne, however, remain close. “It’s like moving out of your parents’ house,” says Wylde, who joined Osbourne’s band at age 19. “You always go back for the holidays.”
The group’s other members have different concerns. Bassist James LoMenzo was formerly in the ’80s platinum pop-metal band White Lion, a fact that appears nowhere in the band’s publicity bio.
“That was a fashion band, and it became unsatisfying very quickly,” says LoMenzo. “With Pride and Glory, I don’t have to get my crime-fighting costume together. All we have to worry about is if the amps are on.”
Pride and Glory’s first drummer, LoMenzo’s White Lion colleague Greg D’Angelo, left under less than amicable circumstances and was replaced by Brian Tischy, whose previous experiences included a project with ex-Zebra frontman Randy Jackson. “He was trying to put a poseur Warrant-Slaughter band together,” recalls Tischy. “The manager said, ‘We’ll sell more records if you change your last name.'” To Brian Storm.
Pride and Glory afforded a less structured environment. “If you can’t be honest in what you’re doing, you’ll never be satisfied,” says LoMenzo. “You’ll always have this hole, and you won’t have a chance of long-term success.” Not to mention that “heavy metal is regimented. This sort of music is just easier to play when you’re drunk.”
In the world of dance-hall reggae, where top male DJs like Shabba Ranks and Yellowman bluntly chat women down as submissive sex toys or sluts, Worl-a-Girl are an island of breezy feminist banter. Blending a ragamuffin Caribbean vibe with sassy lyrics and glowing harmonies, Worl-a-Girl are a four-woman crusade for equality, following such reggae divas as Sister Carol and Marcia Griffiths.
“Women have to fight in reggae, and that’s why it works better for us as a group,” says Miss Linda, who shares chatting — Jamaican rapping — duties with cohort Sensi. “With that unity, people have to listen to what we have to say.”
On their Chaos/Columbia debut album, Worl-a-Girl, songs like “No Gunshot (Put Down the Gun)” spin a pacifist message, defying the violent cock-and-thrust stance of their male peers. “Ten Commandments,” a cheeky reworking of a misogynistic reggae song, demands that men attend the screaming baby, use condoms and fulfill female fantasies since “it’s better to give than receive.”
Worl-a-Girl, patois for world of girls, came together in 1991 at an impromptu performance at a Manhattan club. Releasing the singles “Chemis Ina Dis,” “X Amount a Respect” and “Murder He Wrote,” an estrogen-angry answer to Chaka Demus and Pliers’ slackness anthem “Murder She Wrote,” Miss Linda, from Brooklyn, N.Y., London-born Sensi and singers Charmaine (Jamaica) and Sabrina (Trinidad), all in their early 20s, earned the grudging respect of the reggae community. By last year, Worl-a-Girl had performed in Jamaica’s SunFest, won two prestigious New York Reggae awards and recorded “Bobsled” for the Cool Runnings soundtrack.
All four admit that their R&B-flavored dance hall may sound foreign to the American ear. “It’s new,” says Miss Linda. “Are we reggae? What are we? Worl-a-Girl. We just have to get people used to it. They’ll get it one day.”
Shudder to Think
That voice. It’s damn near impossible to describe. “I got kicked out of a band once because my voice was always sort of like ‘Um, excuse me?'” says Shudder to Think’s singer, Craig Wedren. Nothing to excuse. It’s sinuous and powerful, and it winds its way around some of the planet’s most surreal, intriguing lyrics.
Wedren joined band mates Stuart Hill (bass), Adam Wade (drums) and original guitarist Chris Matthews (who was replaced by Nathan Larson) in Washington, D.C., in 1988. “To me, they sounded like shitty hardcore,” says a sentimental Wedren. “To them I sounded shitty, so it was a match made in heaven.”
A slew of 7-inches and two LPs ensued, prompting tours with Smashing Pumpkins and Fugazi. This summer, the former recipients of Sassy magazine’s Cute Band Alert will grace Lollapalooza’s second stage and polish up their major-label debut on Epic Records, tentatively titled Pony Express Record. “I’d like to think it’s not like any other music out there,” says Wedren. “It’s not experimental, but it’s definitely pushing a lot of boundaries.”
Smif n Wessun
“Bucktown,” the breakout single by Smif n Wessun of Brooklyn, N.Y., is one of those songs that rips into radio by sheer force of popular demand, bucking expectations and giving new meaning to the term “pop music.” But “Bucktown” is no novelty, and its proud descriptions of Brooklyn as “home of the original gun clappers” sure isn’t pop in the usual sense. The track has an underproduced skeletal appeal; the terse, muscular rhymes by 21-year-old rappers Tek and Steele are as compelling as they are simple and grim. “Bucktown” took off so briskly, selling 75,000 copies in just three weeks, that the duo was a long way from having a full-length album completed to cash in on the single’s obvious appeal.
“The inspiration for the song was straight-up Bucktown, U.S.A.,” says Steele. “Bucktown is everywhere. We’ve been to places like Missouri, and we can tell you it’s the same shit goin’ on as we see in Brooklyn.” As far as explaining the song’s runaway success, Steele says: “I think if the idea could be bottled, then everybody would be making hit jams and selling 75,000 in one week. We’re just representing ourselves, and people pick up on it. ‘That’s why we say, ‘All heads recognize real heads on the rise?'”
Well, isn’t this sweet. It’s Veruca Salt’s 7-inch disc, and it’s the sunny color of orange sherbet. Such pretty harmonies, too, and enough irresistible hooks to fill an album! But what’s this? “So sorry, lady/So sorry now/I killed your baby/I don’t know how,” they cheerfully, demonically sing on “All Hail Me.” Yes, many happy discoveries await in Veruca Salt’s breathtaking debut — no mean feat, considering the band hasn’t cut an album yet.
The Chicago quartet — singer-guitarists Nina Gordon and Louise Post, bassist Steve Lack and drummer Jim Shapiro — materialized after Post and Gordon were united by a mutual pal. “My friend told Louise, ‘Nina’s miserable and needs someone to make music with,'” says Gordon. As for Post: “I was drifting. I was a piece of driftwood.” The two hit it off, bound by, among other things, a reverence for the Breeders. They advertised for a female bassist, but Lack responded. Efforts to find a female drummer were also futile, so Gordon’s brother Shapiro stepped in. “He didn’t own a drum kit,” says Gordon, “but sounded amazing.”
Veruca Salt are currently recording with producer (and Liz Phair drummer) Brad Wood and gearing up for a fall tour. And what, exactly, is Veruca Salt? “It’s a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” says Gordon. “She’s the total spoiled-brat chick who goes down the egg chute.”
Rodan guitarists-vocalists Jeff Mueller and Jason Noble like to make art by shellacking such things as dead birds. Which doesn’t have much to do with anything except to show how this band has a penchant for making something beautiful out of something ugly. Or vice versa.
All this artiness transpires down in Louisville, Ky., where the group — which also features bassist Tara Jane O’Neil and drummer Kevin Coultas — spends its days creating ambient, atmospheric guitar noise that suddenly gives way to a racket that sounds vaguely similar to a construction sight. Or, to put it more clearly, think Sonic Youth and Helmet playing a Kentucky Derby party. “If a band has elements of being really hard,” explains Noble, “you don’t have to immediately hit people in the face with it just to get the point across.”
Rodan do, indeed, take their time getting their point across. The six songs on Rusty, their debut, clock in at over 42 minutes; the album’s standout, “The Everyday World of Bodies,” is a formidable 11:52. “The response has been so patient and giving,” says Noble. “It was more than we expected.”
It is also what the band deserves. And now that things are paying off for this collective of early-twentysomethings, there’s even a moment or two for the kids to spend with family. “In the photo I’m wearing a shirt that says I Love Jerry,” says Noble. “That’s my mom. And I like my mom.”
Type A personalities they’re not, those gals in Freakwater. Take touring. “Usually, a band that tours keeps getting better,” says singer Janet Bean. “I think we just keep losing our minds.”
For the most part, fans must content themselves with CDs, which will do just fine. This Chicago quintet — Bean (drummer and singer for Eleventh Dream Day), singer Catherine Erwin, bassist Dave Gay, guitarist Brian Dunn and fiddler Lisa Marsicek — puts out straight-ahead old-time country: Think the Carter Family.
Bean, who lives in Chicago, actually grew up making fun of country music. “It just represented something I didn’t want to be around,” she says. “I wanted to get to the big city.” Erwin, by day a house painter in Louisville, Ky. (“It’s a solitary job being stationed at a blank wall”), remembers meeting Bean “and falling down laughing when she told me her name.”
Freakwater have since released three albums, the latest being Feels Like the Third Time, another helping of shit-kickin’ tunes set to arresting, often bleak lyrics. Like something Hank would write. “I’m sure there’s probably some people in country music that are doing something that’s pretty OK,” says Erwin. “I just never hear from them.”
Guided by Voices
Listening to Guided by Voices is a little like hearing a shitty AM radio that only plays lost treasures from the British Invasion: alarmingly low-fi production; two-minute, honey-drenched pop tunes; a wistful English accent. It’s not exactly the land of noise you would expect from a band from Dayton, Ohio, whose front-man is a 36-year-old fourth-grade teacher and a father of two.
Well, tough. Such has been the GBV modus operandi ever since 1986’s Forever Since Breakfast (the first of eight LPs and countless singles), and things aren’t likely to change. The band — formerly a loose extended family of musicians — is now down to an average of six studio members (five live), and they’re finally getting noticed. The Breeders are recording a GBV tune as their next single. And as perhaps the truest gauge of fame, frontman Robert Pollard’s fourth-grade class is making his life a living hell.
“The kids think it’s an opportunity to take advantage of me,” says Pollard. “‘Hey, Mr. Rocker’; all that stuff. I’m kind of a nice guy. Discipline isn’t my strong point.”
Pollard’s strong point, it turns out, is writing Kinks tunes. And that’s a compliment. The songs are pure melody, and the voice — let’s just say it doesn’t exactly have a farm-belt twang. “I’ve always sung with a British accent,” says Pollard. “Except when I was really into R.E.M., and I sang with a Southern accent. That was a little embarrassing.” And then there are the song titles. Bee Thousand, the band’s latest, sports names like “Gold Star for Robot Boy” and “You’re Not an Airplane.”
“When I get enough cool titles, I go downstairs and write the songs right in a row,” says Pollard. “If I come up with a really strange, far-out title, it can’t help but be a strange, far-out song.”
Over the past eight years, Jack Logan has repaired countless small motors that have touched the lives of folks in Winder, Ga. He has also written more than 700 songs that you’ve never heard. “If you have a lot to choose from,” says the 35-year-old Logan, “chances are you’ll come up with something good.”
And while the theory never worked for, say, Journey, it serves Logan quite well. His tunes are boozy and sloppy and beautiful.
The process is simple. Logan gathers with partner Kelly Keneipp and friends (Athens, Ga.-area musicians) and beer (domestic) and lets his stream of consciousness pour over whatever musical whim — tough bluesy rock, whispered folk — that happens to grip the room. And despite the fact that Logan isn’t exactly a household name (“I’m so far in the woodwork that nobody would be able to find me,” he says), he was nonetheless unearthed by Peter Jesperson — the man who discovered the Replacements. The result is Bulk, a 42-song debut that rivals career outputs by any songwriter you care to conjure and serves as the first glimpse of a man who may well touch the lives of more than just the unmechanically inclined.
“These songs have belonged to me for so long,” says Logan. “It’s time to kick the kids out and let them get their own place.”