Recordings

-- Eric K. Arnold

Ron Anderson
Pack Small Are Half Inch
(Rastascan)

As we know from his loud and noisy local trio the Molecules, Ron Anderson is punk to the core. Yet his unique (he calls it "expressionistic") approach toward studio craftsmanship on his solo debut, Pack Small Are Half Inch, finds him on the other side of the street of the average Gilman rocker. Anderson lays his already-recorded tunes on the chopping block and hacks away, then pastes the salvaged phrases beside, inside, and on top of one another. This aggressive engineering warps tempos and strangles riffs, but the din is propelled forward by multijointed rhythms and a supercharged vision.

Realizing that the sounds of a live band are inevitably altered through the actual recording process, Anderson sets out to further exploit and degrade these changes ("[I] reserve the right to sound like shit," he writes in the liner notes.) Not quite fecal matter, though presumably just as unpalatable for the fair of ear, Anderson's 19 "compositions" are as loud and crazed as his clamorous soundtracks with the Molecules, but his production wizardry and collaborations with the local improv/jazz scene's most savage players (including Gino Robair, Dan Plonsey, 99 Hooker, and William Winant) give the project a roguish elegance lacking on Molecules records. The whimsical zaniness throughout echoes Japanese noisemongers Boredoms or Ruins, while the off-kilter but catchy grooves on tunes like "Static Picnic Time" recall the Minutemen or Victim's Family in -- would you believe? -- overdrive.

A continuous 35 minutes of sculptured cacophony, Pack Small is a salute to the brash and obnoxious. In other words, punk -- minus the bar chord fixation.

Ron Anderson plays a record release party Tues, Feb. 6, at the Hotel Utah in S.F.; call 421-8308.

-- Sam Prestianni

The Mommyheads
Bingham's Hole
(Dot-Dot-Dash Music)

San Francisco's Mommyheads take tried-and-true musical building blocks and stack them into an original shape: quirky, harmonic pop that avoids the cloying and precious. On Bingham's Hole, their latest disc, the songwriting is stronger than ever, characterized by herky-jerky syncopations, a real appreciation for dynamics, and chord progressions that willingly flirt with tradition but are more inclined to traipse into less familiar territory. The instrumentation is first-rate, with involved bass lines, cool keyboard voices, understated guitar, and skillful drumming. As for their lyrics, vocalist/songwriter Adam Cohen can sing, "I try to respect your space/ I keep it in my pants/ If you don't want me hanging around" on "Fast Enough for You" without sounding boorish, stupid, or klutzy. "Needmore, Pennsylvania" draws the listener in with sneakily seductive guitar noodling, then finishes off with a splendid blast of noise. If "Broken and Glazed" is just too "white boy funky," "Tension" wins the prize for best lyrics: "Tension makes the flowers grow/ They have to push themselves from the ground/ When you pick flowers you should know/ Tension makes the world go round." That said, the Mommyheads walk a thin blue line: If they ever lose the edgy, offbeat humor and brains that currently inform their music, they'd be just another eccentric soft-pop band, a low-key They Might Be Giants. But Bingham's Hole shows no signs of degeneration.

The Mommyheads play a Hairy Records showcase Sat, Feb. 3, at the Kilowatt in S.F.; call 861-2595.

-- Josh Wilson

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