Sixteen reasons I like Deluxe:
1. They make you want to dig out your Flaming Lips records again.
2. Guitarists Carrie Clark and Chris Smith lay claim to more than 30 effects pedals onstage. Jim Thompson and Mike Morasky, take note.
3. Fellow Austinite King Coffey (of the Butthole Surfers) liked them enough to release their debut, Backfeedmagnetbabe, on his venerable Trance Syndicate label.
4. They thank the Sweet and Victims Family bassist Larry Boothroyd in the same breath in the liner notes.
5. The introductory one-note bombast of "Now" sounds like Stereolab with balls.
6. The lipsticky pop of "Erotica" sounds like the Breeders with balls.
7. "Baby Headrush" sounds like Pavement with ovaries.
8. Every song starts with guitar, and every one ends with guitar. Maybe that should count as two reasons.
9. In fact, some tracks don't even end; they just sound like someone finally unplugged the guitar.
10. Backfeedmagnetbabe inspired me, upon first listen, to scrawl the term "fuzzwah cymbalism" on the back of my hand, which a UPS guy stared at before handing me that little fake pencil.
11. Despite their sound, Sixteen Deluxe proudly assert that they're not a "shoegazer" band -- probably because they're gazing at all those goddamned pedals.
12. They cover Brian Eno and Big Star with equal aplomb.
13. The Big Star cover, "Kangaroo," is 15 minutes long and stunningly beautiful.
14. Fifteen minutes long.
15. In the middle of said song, you can clearly hear Carrie say, "Oops!"
16. They get pissed when writers call them "16 Deluxe."
-- Colin Berry
Sixteen Deluxe plays Sat, June 24, with Trash Women and Lazy Cowgirls at the Kilowatt in S.F.; call 861-2595.
A word of advice to the members of Pell Mell: Keep your fucking mouths shut! I mean it -- I don't want to hear a word out of you.
Pell Mell, a bicoastal, quadruple-city, tape-trading quartet (whose lineup includes local engineering luminary Greg Freeman, the knob-twisting impresario behind Thinking Fellers and Flophouse, et al.), understands the concept behind compelling instrumental music: that in abdicating the use of language per se, it creates a language all its own. In Pell Mell's case, it's a kind of alterna-guitar Esperanto: a touch of Pete Buck drone and twang here, a dab of Will Sargent spacey noodling there, a pinch of Moore & Ranaldo tucked in the corners, and a whole lotta je ne sais quoi.
Song titles like "Ether," "Drift," and "The Butterfly Effect" serve as a general indicator of Pell Mell's aesthetic leanings. Likewise, one could use terms like "moody" (yes, but what mood?) and "evocative" (true, but of what -- an orgasm? a blood clot?) to fill in a few more blanks. Both descriptions are appropriate but ultimately inadequate. Mainly, Interstate is a collection of incidental music from the coolest movies never made: In "Constellation," Don Knotts reprises his Reluctant Astronaut role, a laff-riot ensuing when his oxygen supply is accidentally replaced with nitrous oxide. "Pound Cake" stars Winona Ryder as the girl from Atlantis who washes up in the New York harbor and finds love in the big city with Gavin MacLeod. "Nothing Lies Still Long" is an espionage thriller with George Burns as an ex-spy who's pulled out of retirement when his former archnemesis (played by Gary Coleman) threatens to overthrow the government with an army of trained cyberferrets.
Nonsense, you say? Listen to Interstate and think again. Or better yet, make up your own movies. In the elusive world of Pell Mell, the possibilities are endless.
-- Tim Kenneally
Pell Mell plays Mon, June 26, at the Great American Music Hall in S.F.; call 885-0750.
Parade of Losers
At any good high school party, somebody falls down and pukes his guts out. This is the sound of Parade of Losers. Perpetually adolescent, these four bombed-out stoners take punk and metal to cartoonish new heights (depths?) of excess and indulgence with a lunacy that approaches brilliance. "Stupid," the radio-friendly single off of P.O.L., is a killer anti-anthem for the dirtbags of the world; songs like the subtly titled "Sux 2 BU," "I Hate Myself," and "People Suck" give the phrase "negative attitude" new meaning. Raising those middle fingers high, the band offers a beer-soaked social anarchy that occasionally collapses under its own weight. The music dives toward the numbingly predictable. Clichs creep in like unwanted guests at a backwoods kegger. A cover of "White Punks on Dope" almost dies an ugly death. But you can't flunk these warped dudes out of the loser school of rock. Just give them a passing grade and hope they make it to welding class.
-- Bryan Bence
Tribute to a Bus
The Germans have never been known as great musicians. OK, not never -- Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, and Schopenhauer come to mind -- but good bands from the Deutschland have come few and far between in the rock era. Remember Nena and her "99 Luftbaloons"?
So it comes as a surprise that the stark sounds of 18th Dye were conceived by Germans (Piet is actually Dutch, not Deutsch, but then again, he's only the drummer). And, though the description "stark" may draw some quizzical looks from those familiar with 18th Dye's musical blasts, it's apt: The trio can make a hell of a din sometimes but limits it to what they feel is absolutely necessary. (Props to producer Steve Albini for laying off and letting the group follow its prescripted formula.) Making a minimalist noise that recalls some of Philip Glass' and Glenn Branca's compositions, 18th Dye doesn't layer songs with entire tracks of feedback (My Bloody Valentine) or indulge in 16-bar sections of screaming amps (Sonic Youth); the band just scorches your ears and then leaves them alone, falling into a simple, surprisingly pretty phrase. "No Time/11 (Spectators)" follows this formula to a point, marked by sections of just guitar and cymbal clamor with a vocal phrase riding one note, creating an almost unbearable tension until the drums drop in and lay the foundation for a lilting, anguished vocal line up the scale. With complex song structures and creative experimentation with keys, 18th Dye sets itself apart from the teeming legions of mediocre rock musicians.
Anyway, the packaging alone is worth the price. The CD cover, with its round type and song titles running down the left side of a solemn band portrait, looks like an old Judy Collins record. And if the liner notes are a joke (please, please, let them be a joke), they're the best statement about the vacuity of rock criticism that I've ever seen.
-- Paul Tullis
18th Dye opens for Yo La Tengo Wed, June 21, at the Great American Music Hall in S.F.; call 885-0750.
King Crimson's 1969 debut, In the Court of the Crimson King, literally defined the progressive-rock genre. Yet despite Crimson's influential status, the band never achieved the worldwide fame that Genesis or Emerson, Lake, & Palmer enjoyed. Instead, enigmatic leader/guitarist Robert Fripp chose to reside on the experimental fringe along with critically revered groups like Gong and Focus, exploring the outer limits of free-form improv jazz, random noize, ambient texture, and raw funk, while prog rockers like Yes rode pop sensibilities to mainstream success. Also, Fripp had a peculiar habit of abruptly disbanding Crimson at the height of its popularity, only to soon reform it with entirely different players.
Now, after a decade in limbo, King Crimson returns: Intact from the 1985 lineup are Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, and Bill Bruford, plus newcomers Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto. Thrak, for the most part, is vintage Crimson: "B'Boom" rages as a polyrhythmic enhanced instrumental, while "Vroom," the opening track, features seven minutes of blistering aural heat wrapped in cosmic symphonics. The band even mocks its prehistoric rocker status on "Dinosaur." But while moments of sonic brilliance link the release to classic Crimson fare like Lark's Tongue in Aspic and Discipline, a few songs will confound longtime fans. Lite reprieves like "Inner Garden I & II" and "One Time" are oddly out of place, embodying all the syrupy elements of Adult Contemporary that Crimson once strove to avoid. "Coda: Marine 475" and the title cut shred and wail, but as a whole, Thrak lacks that old electricity. King Crimson is caught at the crossroads, trying to reclaim the cutting edge while simultaneously appealing to its aging fans' mellowing tastes. You'd think Fripp could have avoided that trap.
-- spence d.
King Crimson plays Sat-Mon, June 24-26, at the Warfield in S.F.; call (510) 762-