Wednesday, April 29, 1998

Soundbites

Vitreous Humor "Posthumous," (Crank!) It’s a shame Vitreous
Humor’s only full-length disc has come – well – posthumously. It’s
also a shame that the three original members’ post-VH minimalist
outfit, named The Regrets (who appear on the last listed track),
has also prematurely disbanded. To VH and The Regrets, who now join
the boot hill of lost wonders victimized by major label courtship
along with Jawbreaker, Drive Like Jehu, Texas is the Reason,
Mineral … goodbye, so long, farewell.

If potential stardom brought the hammer down on these Lawrence,
Kansas, college boys, it was not before Jeff Matlow quit his day
job in order to release two seven inches and a seven song EP, which
eventually became the maiden releases on his Crank! record label.
On the cusp of a oversaturated grunge scene, yet in a highly touted
alterna-rock era, VH’s sound hinted at vintage Dinosaur Jr. and a
well known Seattle-grunge trio, but never really found a niche.
Their inception and progression was too early and fast for the time
being. Their blend of loud, post-hardcore energy and pop
sensibility has yet to supplant its indie rock dwelling even today,
though the tide seems to be definitely turning. But VH is as much
of a paramount emo-pop band as they are a solid rock ‘n’ roll band.
The best tracks from "Posthumous" are collected from previous
recordings. The produced songs stand out noticeably amongst the
live, more raw ones, which does draw from the record’s consistency
and attractiveness to non-die-hard fans. But then again, the
compilation is a perfect resemblance of VH’s shortly-recorded
stint, and is truly personified in the last two cuts, "Our Lady of
the Highway" and The Regrets’ song "Good Things Come to Those in
Small Packages." Both culminate with emphatic guitar and vocal
bursts that incite a head-shakin’, body-jerkin’
song-along-and-hit-replay kind of thing. The songs are highlights
of what VH was at times and could have been- but unfortunately they
were shrugged off with whimsical assuredness. Yeah, we wish we
could hear more, but like they say, good things come in small
packages. Brendon Vandergast B+

Pete Droge "Spacey and Shakin," (57/Epic) Long hair, blue jeans
and guitar driven songs … these are as fundamental to rock and
roll as grease is to french fries, and Pete Droge doesn’t forget
it. On "Spacey and Shakin," the third release from singer and
songwriter Droge, the fare is pretty straightforward: good,
old-fashioned rock music. In a style that borrows equally from
Michael Penn and Tom Petty, Droge turns out 11 tracks of pleasant
melodies, thumping rhythms and cryptic lyrics.

Droge’s music has talent but isn’t overly innovative. His band,
the Millionaires, provides an solid background to his capable
guitar work and evocative voice. Most impressive is the interplay
between the various instruments on tracks like the futuristic "I
Want To Go Away" and the title track. Droge displays a subtle touch
behind the keyboard console in "Eyes On The Ceiling," weaving the
soft touches of the Wurlitzer in like a guitar quietly feeding
back. "Blindly," the closing tune, features subdued slide guitar
and laid back keyboards that carry the tune away nicely. The
gritty, standout track "Motorkid" conjures up images of open roads
and empty time. Here, Droge sounds most comfortable. the songs
guitar crunch and deft bass work invites foot tapping and excessive
freeway speed. While Droge does not venture into unproven territory
too often, he does put songs together well. "Spacey and Shakin"
deserves a cursory listen at the very least. Brent Hopkins B+

Lou Reed "Perfect Night Live in London," (Reprise) Ex-Velvet
Underground leadman and critically-acclaimed solo artist Lou Reed
offers us his version of the "unplugged" album with "Perfect Night
Live in London." This non-MTV-affiliated acoustic album is taken
from a performance on July 3rd, 1997, where Reed mixed the old with
the new in an enjoyable, relaxed show. While not a hummable,
strum-along kind of acoustic live record such as 10,000 Maniacs’
"Unplugged", and not emotional and dark like Neil Young’s
"Unplugged" or Nirvana’s "Unplugged in New York", Lou Reed gives us
his own kind of the stripped-down style on stage like no one else
could. With his spoken-word type vocals and crystal-clear guitar
skills, Reed delivers a variety of tracks, including old favorites
such as "I’ll Be Your Mirror," "The Kids" and "Vicious." Only two
numbers really stand out in this hook-less effort: the satirical
yet ridiculous "Sex With Your Parents" and the haunting classic,
"Perfect Day." With the latter enjoying a new life with its
appearance in the British blockbuster, "Trainspotting" and its
re-recorded version a hit in the U.K., it almost begs to heard -
and Reed doesn’t disappoint in his delivery. Neither showy nor
passionate, "Perfect Night Live…" serves up the goods without
bowing to the usual pop conventions. Depending on who you are, this
will give you reason to ignore it or eat it up. Mike Prevatt B

The Urge "Master of Styles" (Immortal/Epic) The Urge provides
easy listening to those looking for hardcore with their latest
release, "Master of Styles." The Urge incorporates more ska and
reggae styles into their blend of power chords and driving bass
lines. The drums sound absolutely tight with drummer John Pessoni
laying down a fast and rhythmic foundation for bassist Karl
Grable.

The Urge follows in the tradition of Bad Brains, a band who
pioneered the mixing together of ska and reggae with funk, punk and
metal. The Urge’s cover of "Gene Machine" crunches with the punk
style in full effect, with the quiet moments that makes it easier
to listen to than their previous work. "My Apology" is another song
that makes The Urge seem more mature than they were in the past.
Jerry Jost’s guitar work is solid, yet sometimes reminiscent of Van
Halen – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The best aspect of "Master of Styles" is the relaxed tracks,
like the radio-friendly "Jump Right In" and "Divide and Conquer,"
whose reggae foundation keeps the melody sweet. Some of the
drawbacks of "Master of Styles" are Steve Ewing’s vocals, which
give a somewhat drab delivery of his lyrics on most of the
tracks.

The band’s overall strengths mask his weaknesses, and as a
lyricist he is fairly strong. But to get to that alt-funk crowd,
The Urge has taken on more structure to their songs. That, along
with the melodies, makes this album worth adding to your music
catalog. Michael Nazarinia B