Thursday, August 29, 2002
THE MOONEY SUZUKI Electric Sweat (Gammon)
Who are the Mooney Suzuki? Four New Yorkers who love Detroit, starry-eyed acolytes of Grand Funk cover art and hyperdriven Mitch Ryder roots R&B who espouse, most of all, a near-slavish devotion to the MC5. So crazy over the sons o'' Sinclair are these lads that they tracked this disc, their second, in Michigan. That''s dedication to form.
As is the music. Not only do Suzuki co-opt the 5''s rev-it-up-and-go, Electric Sweat is even engineered like the founding fathers'' discs, with the vocals harsh and buried like St. Robin Tyner''s and the guitars scraping and overdriven and the cymbals splashing madly. TMS are enormously adept at monster choruses and rippling hooks: These are generally appropriated from either the source itself ("In a Young Man''s Mind" is built upon the "Kick Out the Jams" lick) or similar ones, but the guys are learning and earning points along the way, for the chipper Southern-rock intro on the amped-out hoedown "Oh Sweet Susanna" and for the CD''s pinnacle, a loony instrumental titled "It''s Showtime Pt II," which is either "Wooly Bully" on speed or a Jimmy-Smith-smacking-his-forehead-against-a-B-3-keyboard thing -either way, it demands endless replay.
Barricades & Brickwalls (Warner Bros.)
It''s no news flash that Australia is exporting another wave of movie stars (Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett). Like Canada, it''s always been a great place for America to mine for deep veins of the "authentic" talent. Low population density leads to honesty, a need for public affirmation, and a hearty gene pool, and unlike the USA, these countries have frontier to spare. Perhaps that''s why we find ourselves looking to Australia for the next wave: Kasey Chambers is being hyped as a crossover-ready, intelligentsia-approved country-music songwriter with the good taste of the C&W-as-literature crowd (Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, Steve Earle, Wilco).
Sorry, but her sophomore effort, Barricades & Brickwalls, sounds more like AAA pop. Chambers'' voice is a birdie chirp. She''s sexy, but has less edge than the tiniest bleached-blond in the Dixie Chicks and half the sass of Dolly Parton. Her songs suggest the rootless anomie of Lilith Fair pap more than roadhouse jukeboxes or Grand Ole Opry traditions. The album makes me wonder if the hype has less to do with her talent than with her lip ring and cute black bobbed haircut. (She also has nice shoulders.)
Maybe harsh reviews could help her acquire the haggard aura most alt-country acts earn through harsh living. (Williams'' career didn''t break until she was in her mid-40s, Adams is a drunk, and Earle''s a former heroin addict.) I hope Chambers roughs things up a little more on the next go-round. But maybe she should ignore folks like me. In that case, Jewel-who hails from Alaska-should watch her back.