Recordings

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Songs and Music From the Motion Picture "She's the One"
(Warner Bros.)

One thing can be said in praise of this soundtrack: It is indeed a soundtrack. Scads of recent movie scores are force-fed hot singles in order to increase juvie interest and shareholder value. Hole's cover of "Gold Dust Woman" (from The Crow: City of Angels) is an amusing reupholstering of a moldy old tune, but what do the lyrics have to do with undead vengeance, the movie's premise? I don't see Stevie Nicks shambling out of the crypt, dripping maggots and clawing after Courtney's throat. No glorified hit parade here. For the She's the One project, Tom Petty and crew actually sat around a studio watching segments from an unscored romantic comedy, guitars in laps, setting mood. (The overabundant liner-note pictures stridently prove it.)

But perhaps the mood is set all too well. If the soundtrack emulates the drama, She's the One (the movie) could be used to calibrate room temperature nationwide. The songs aren't bad but could have easily been written 25 years ago, and stoop lower than even Petty's relatively low ceiling for rocking out, comfortably set at a late-'70s altitude. "Climb That Hill" is a dead ringer for half the Live Rust playlist, right down to drop-D tuning and arid vocal harmonies. A cover of Beck's "Asshole," from One Foot in the Grave, is remade in the image that the anti-folk movement set out to parody. Accents turn English on "Hung Up and Overdue," which offers Beatles-esque detail as minute as George Martin orchestrations and Ringo on drums. Whether She's the One is a successful soundtrack to a merely adequate movie, or substandard background for a summer blockbuster: got me. Responsibility here stops short of seeing romantic comedies.

-- Michael Batty

Six Finger Satellite
Paranormalized
(Sub Pop)

Sebadoh
Harmacy
(Sub Pop)

Last month Sub Pop issued discs from two groups on its post-grunge roster who couldn't be more wildly dissimilar: modern Moog liberators Six Finger Satellite and lo-fi-pop stars Sebadoh. Six Finger Satellite, a collective of self-proclaimed Devo nuts, initially duped the fledgling Seattle label into signing them via a mock Mudhoney demo. After a forgettable, generic-rock debut, they let their true madness run amok on 1993's The Pigeon Is the Most Popular Bird, which catapulted them to cult status among demented kinfolk like Creedle and Mr. Bungle.

In the bitter wake of the falling out between Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis and former partner Lou Barlow, Sebadoh was founded on shaky ground. With an unstable lineup, moody performances, indifference to quality control, and unapologetic Attitude fraught with chic teen-age-angst syndrome (all of which naturally combined to induce critical fawning), Sebadoh rose to the enviable ranks of indie demigods. Christened "Most Sensitive Boy in Indie Rock" by Spin, Barlow's ego bloated to match the hype. He once explained the hiss-laden sound of early Homestead records by saying, "We would go to Radio Shack and buy the cheapest tape possible because we knew what we were laying down was fucking brilliant on any fucking tape."

But the clean and clear mix of Sebadoh's fourth Sub Pop disc, Harmacy, dispels this myth. Splitting songwriting duties for once with Jason Loewenstein, whose tunes largely rock, underscores the sappy self-absorption dripping from Barlow's pen. And despite the Sensitive Boy's professed contempt for the Dino leader, he almost sounds like a Mascis wannabe -- tickled pink for life with a bottomless bag of dope and a soporific six-string. On the other hand, Six Finger Satellite's wacky trips on Paranormalized are the stuff of antic genius. With a crushing synth arsenal, they slam into supreme disco subversions ("Coke and Mirrors") and reel in the loud and quirky ("Paralyzed by Normal Life"). Rarely has such a twisted vision engendered such fantastical beauty.

Six Finger Satellite opens for the Jesus Lizard on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary; call 346-6000. Sebadoh plays Friday, Sept. 20, at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell; call 885-0750.

-- Sam Prestianni

Sleepy LaBeef
I'll Never Lay My Guitar Down
(Rounder)

There is a kind of honor in persistence. Think of Sleepy LaBeef's relentless, dogeared career. Singing under a thick patina of road grime accumulated through 40 years of gigging little bars and clubs across the country and back, the rockabilly underdog with the Deng Xiaoping eyes continues to craft fine American music out of nothing but will. Legend has it that the old honky-tonker can play some 6,000 country, blues, and rock 'n' roll songs off the top of his head. And yet -- as his longtime friend and chronicler Peter Guralnick once wrote -- Sleepy LaBeef is a man who has yet to find his song, that one breakthrough number that comes at the right time in the right place, hurling a performer into the open arms of the mass audience, capturing for a brief moment its fickle, fickle heart.

And so LaBeef is not a pop star, but a musician. His latest record, tellingly titled I'll Never Lay My Guitar Down, still lacks that song. But the way LaBeef's hammy baritone growl kicks up out of hot little bar-band arrangements lays waste to the nagging question of fame. There are moments, such as on the gut-busting "Sick & Tired," when LaBeef hollers like the only voice in the world. And then with help from his astonishing drummer, Lisa Pankratz, he eggs on the band ("Getitgetitgetitgetit!") into a sweaty groove. He howls, "Y'all playin' so good I don't have to sing no more!" Good thing he only means it for a second.

Sleepy LaBeef plays Thursday, Sept. 12, at the DNA Lounge, 375 11th St.; call 626-1409.

-- Sarah Vowell

 
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