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Turbos Tunes | review | indie | compilation | Lollipop
(Kill Rock Stars)
by Jamie Kiffel
Bubble gum laced with MDMA, bottle glass and gravel, kicked-up old strats with sprung strings, feedback and lip gloss is how I've always seen Kill Rock Stars. This sampler of the label's most recent licks at the driveways of garage rock delivers all this - but also a good helping of the unexpected. The disc might do well under the title, "Some Other Stuff We Kill."
Two Ton Boa, for instance, is a band that produces a snarling, she-lion sound raked with torn-back howls. But the selection here, "Bleeding Heart," opens with something like a remainder from the early Rasputina bin: Scratchy, powder-voiced, and cobwebby as a shrouded gramophone. And what of Slumber Party's sweet, echoey ballad, "Any Other Day," which sounds like the Indigo Girls and Kelley Deal trying to play "Radio Song" after sharing a handful of 'ludes? Jean Smith, with soft, gentle piano key raindrops, a jazz clarinet (bassoon?) buzzing an occasional, lonely note and harp fingerings like water rolling over glass? Sleater Kinney's "Ballad of a Ladyman," fraught with edge-of-the breakdown lane quivers into upper octavial strato-stretches, a funky clapped beat and a catchy hook? All this, and Bangs still kitten-call, "I wanna put myself into you!"
Then on the list of typical, brand-name Kill Rock Stars stuff, there's Kleenex shouting and woofing, a triad of chords with girl yells and "la la la"s on "Eisiger Wind." Frumpies na-na-na their way through the little girl pant, "we were frumpies now, we were frumpies then" over clangy, rough and belabored drums in "Frumpies Forever." Cadallaca's "The Trouble" gives us girl voices, too, well-muffled, but far more vocally accessible, paired with an anxious guitar beat like something Lili Taylor might have been aiming for as a jilted lover in Say Anything.
But what's Holly Golightly doing here with "Rain Down Rain," a dim, cigarette-smoked, bluesy shuffle that sounds like it could've come out of a 1930s detective movie? And Lois Maffeo & Brendan Canty's "Being Blind," an acoustic poetic stream that could easily be placed on Rounder Records? Danielle Howle picks up a similar string with her slightly haunted, minor key guitar meandering, "In Your House," which reverberates like the coffeehouse poet's interpretation of a suspense novel.
The Breakdowns bright pop tune, "Trying to Live," gleams like a flashing mirror shard next to Howle's marked-up streak plate of sound. Sweet, light vocals about buying a Johnny Cash album bob easily along, begging to be placed on a road mix.
Bonfire Madigan's "Lesson in Ride" sounds like Jean Smith collided with Two Ton Boa, one drunk evening. Slightly Ani DiFranco-edged vocals seethe over placid snare and cello. Unwound starts as a light alter-not-tive sound that grinds into grungy screams over electric bleeps and tones, like Ozzy risen through a haze of techno, with "Mkultra." Jim Carroll's selection, "Hairshirt Fracture," smells like Neil Young wrapped in Robert Smith's arms: Smoky, tinged with sleepless hair gel and caked lipstick. Sport Murphy's "Autumn" moves along the same lines with mellow, low male vox, but an Irish riff and smirking lyrics like "Sodom" rhyming with "bought 'em." Sue P. Fox does something tuneless and repulsive like a drunk trying to jam with an insect. Har Mar Superstar is definitely the most shocking: their "Brand New Day" is an R&B entry that recalls Beck at his silliest. "I've even got a love for Canada," the band sings brightly.
This is not the Kill Rock Stars up to its bra straps in smoking powder cartridges and glitter-gloss. It's a mixed bag of what a sampler should be: Strange, surprising stuff, much of which you'd never buy and some of which you probably will. Kudos to Kill Rock Stars for realizing that when the so-called underground becomes predictable, it's time to self-deconstruct.
(120 NE State Ave. PMB 418 Olympia, WA 98501)