Recordings

Girls Against Boys
House of GVSB
(Touch & Go)

Someone slipped a little Spanish fly into the rock critic water cooler, if the press clips for Girls Against Boys are any indication. You'd be hard-pressed to find a write-up that doesn't make reference to "sex machines," "orgasmatrons," and "groin-thrusting"; one Melody Maker scribe quit lying back and thinking of England to dub the band's black-velvet metal "the sexiest music to have sex to," as if a song like "In Like Flynn" should fall between "Let's Get It On" and "Up for the Down Stroke" on the thinking humper's mix tape. Road-test the band's fourth full-length release, House of GVSB, if you will, but the hype seems the kind of mass sexual hysteria traditionally limited to Catholic boarding schools and Menudo cults. Vaguely erotic maybe, but a mating call this ain't.

That said, the arousal is understandable at a time when schlemiels (Eddie Vedder), pretty boys (Steve Malkmus), and shag-happy louts (Oasis' Gallagher brothers) pass for alternarock sex symbols. Elegant bachelors Scott McCloud and crew strut like tomcats as cocksure and well-coiffed as Jon Spencer, promising the kind of sexual danger that doesn't lead to STDs or police reports. "I blow it all in one crazy shot," McCloud croons on "Click Click," as the double bass-lines of Eli Janney and Johnny Temple play pelvic tug of war. McCloud is definitely a man's man; there's none of the gender play or straight-boy drag of Tricky or the Chili Peppers, but lots of talk of succumbing -- to the ladies, to his obsessions, to the "vortex of sound." The last thing pop culture needs is more testosterone, but McCloud pulls off his "ooh baby"s sounding more post-PC than wolf-whistling reactionary.

In fact, everything about these Boys should seem passŽ, from their image to the fact that they're playing visceral hard rock at a time when their indie brethren are quickly turning toward the spacey realms of the avant-garde. But one listen to the cartoonishly aggro new Jesus Lizard record, Shot, and it's apparent how forward-thinking GVSB's music really is. The sound is big but skeletal -- muscular riffs, rhythmic bass lines, and almost funky drumming (Alexis Fleisig) that's perhaps the go-go ghost of the band's D.C. upbringing (they're now based in NYC). "Vera Cruz" may have drum machine beats, but they're more reminiscent of Gary Numan than Big Black; "Zodiac Love Team" plods along in a hypnotically drony trance. GVSB has more in common with so-called post-rockers like Ui than you might think: Both bands share a knack for cock-rocky riffs that build and shift with tension but no destination in sight. To paraphrase Bjsrk, it's sex without coming, but a little faking never hurts.

Girls Against Boys play Sat, May 4, at Slim's in S.F.; call 255-0333.
-- Sia Michel

The Splatter Trio
Hi-Fi Junk Note
(Rastascan)

In the liner notes for 1992's (Y)earbook compilation, producer and Splatter Trio drummer Gino Robair likens improvisational jazz recordings to "film[s] of a place where no one else may go." He alludes to skronk's inherent fleetingness, of the impossibility of re-creating the DNA that fuels a particular jam. Trouble is, skronk has always been the Bay Area group's oeuvre, along with clank and squonch and blablablort, musical curses played backward, and Robair standing, midset, to flail on the metallic detritus littering Hotel Utah's stage. Lucky for us, Hi-Fi Junk Note captures such a contradiction, highlighting an utterly arbitrary -- yet delightful -- cross-section of the Trio's music.

So cut into a slice, perhaps "Details2 (The McLaughlin Principle) Thai Horn Chair": It opens with a jagged, overtone-soaked grind and double-neck guitar-bassist Myles Boisen spinning tangled webs upon which Dave Barrett disgorges a variety of sax bugs, while Robair clanks like a lawn mower trimming a junkyard. Halfway through, Barrett's saxophonery dissolves into a David Ware-inspired blattfest; the final minute features a cacophony of harmonicas and kazoos, a sonic gridlock both funny and nightmarish. As for references, let's see ... Sun Ra, Coltrane, Ren & Stimpy, bad Mexican food, Jackson Pollock, Hubble telescope photos, Dead Kennedys, and Internet porn. Next?

Examining one cut on one disc from Splatter's nine-year history is a bit like experiencing a mosaic by scrutinizing single tiles or a computer graphic by one pixel. Not really effective, yet pull slowly away and Splatter's whole picture begins to emerge. An improv recording like Hi-Fi is "not the same as being there," Robair writes, "but it is, nonetheless, impressionable." And impressive as well.

The Splatter Trio plays a record release party Wed, May 8, at Beanbender's in Berkeley; call (510) 528-8440.

-- Colin Berry

Palace Music
Arise Therefore
(Drag City)

My line of work often leads me into the path of a particular type of yearning youth (no, I am not employed by a health clinic), the kind who insists upon the invocational powers of Palace Music's Will Oldham with a Koresh-like zeal usually reserved by soap opera fanatics and Grateful Dead fans. With the exception of that ditty about some yipping little doggie that Oldham lovingly ripped off from the Godz or Bongo Joe, however, Oldham's sot-besotted inner moonings never convinced me to embrace his suffering as anything concrete. Just because you're on a whinge, it doesn't mean you have the blues. His noodly half-tour of last year didn't help matters.

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