Wacko Magneto

Here're some Ednaswap "factoids" to help you come to a purchase decision: 1) The name comes from a dream lead singer Anne Preven had in which she played, ironically, in a terrible band named Ednaswap. 2) Preven attended Harvard in order to eventually become a doctor of medicine. After graduation she decided instead to move to L.A. to rock. 3) Carla (drums) is from Alabama; Scott (guitar) is from San Fran; Paul (bass) is from Ireland; and Rusty (lead guitar) is from La Habra, Calif. 4) Ednaswap was signed by Elektra before they'd even played a gig. Their manager arranged a private show in Scott's living room. They'd written four songs. 5) They were dropped by Elektra after recording their four songs. Then, before they could even play a gig, they were picked up by Island (Polygram). 6) Their new album, Wacko Magneto, was produced by Dave Jerden (Jane's Addiction, Alice in Chains) and recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas.

OK. They obviously cut in the front of the line somehow. Twice. But wait. What about their sound? You guessed it: uninspired modern rock, although there's a woman singing, which I suppose could be encouraging if you're a 14-year-old girl in Los Gatos dying to be in an altrock band. (If you are ever so inclined, or so bored, spend an hour listening to Live 105 or any modern rock station and count the ratio of girl to boy singers.)

I might point out that the first song on the album, "Stop Counting," isn't entirely offensive. A processed garage swamp boogie, a drawled-out Courtney Love-styled vocal, a reverb-laden wanker slide solo, a huge tinny sparkly production quality that reminds us of Jane's Addiction. Hmmm. This product's good to go. And so is the next song, "Clown Show," where a heavily processed Psychedelic Furs (with hints of Elastica) meets some wanker tinny sparkle metal (a la Jane's). And the next, "Chordomatic," combines a wimpy, processed full-Elastica lurch with those Perry Farrell chirps and a tinny, burbly wanker guitar solo that, in the manner of Jane's Addiction, sparkles. Then "Sideways Out the Window," where Preven does her best Courtney/Nirvana altrock mantra, screaming, "I'm not anyone," over and over as the snarling processed tinny wanker guitar solos erupt into a sparkling Jane's-styled effervescence. Then there's "All Time Low," a jerky Elastica-styled number that ends in a pounding, repetitive Nirvana riff after yet another wanker solo sparkles like tin. Then comes "More," sixth, though it might as well be last, with that Jane's-styled "scary" processed feedback mood thing, some more chirpy Farrell-sparkle-styled warbles, and -- well, you can guess about the guitar solo.

As I said, a product good to go. Now, let's pretend we're social scientists and evaluate how well the industry's top-down approach really works. Or let's not.

-- Curtis Bonney

Kinnie Starr
Tidy ...
(Violet Inch)

Congratulations are due somebody -- if only to the artist herself -- for discovering the female counterpart to Henry Rollins. Not that this bodes too badly for Canadian "public artist" Kinnie Starr, whose women's-themed album Tidy ... seeks more than providing simple singer/songwriter service. Tats and pecs are not the issue here. Instead the comparison hinges on Rollins' and Starr's 1) complete obsessions with their personal agendas, and 2) compulsory dabbling in various forms of expression -- though Starr's the one who seems to harbor some talent, instead of surplus Haagen-Dazs/'roid rage. For though her delvings into rock lyricism, spoken word, orchestration, visual art, self-publishing, and performance art are occasionally just as embarrassing as those emitted by "Iron Mind" Hank, they also more often than not convey genuine emotion. Plus, Starr can actually play an instrument (guitar) and sing, and never named a publishing company after her own date of birth.

I'll take humor over earnestness without batting a butt lash, but though there's far more piousness at work in Tidy ... -- a catechism more oppressive at times than that bleeding-handed Christian kind -- than levity, the album never quite loses punch. Maybe this is because what's going on in the instrumental department (beneath the various abstract rants) is without fail differentiated and interesting. At various junctures we hear heavy guitar riffs, creepy strums, odd time, authentic vs. programmed drums, unobtrusive scratches, piano, penny whistle, rhythm samples, and wind chimes. The scope of the orchestrations is reminiscent of latter-day Tom Waits. Not because her musical junkyard sounds similar, but simply because there's an admirable willingness to be all over the place.

Still, some of the words -- prepare to wince. From "Rime Gone Rong": "But uncle scam and his big balls semen wet slippery tracks/ They are lining and shining with integrity (or lack thereof)/ It's gritty, it's shitty & it stinks up the scenery/ Greenery the place, gold dreamery if I could taste/ THE CRUSHING OF CORPORATIONS/ FAT STUFFING FACES." Whew! Rage Against the Machine wish they could write something so cant-fatty. In "Ophelia," the protagonist says, "Nations of passion I'll give birth to long past my death." (On the record Starr seems to know several languages. Which one was that?) In "Praise," she sings the praises of Kali, the Hindu personification of destructive female force. At these moments, Tidy ... reads like a cartoon coat of arms, with menses rampant. Still, Starr's not always so chip-shouldered and marble-mouthed, and often conveys wonderfully unlikely takes on the inner world. In "Simple," which is a spoken-word interlude over wind chimes and minor-key acoustic guitar, phrases like "And we got lazy the last time that we struck the suck before nine/ His elbows gave to hand me up and his legs split and up into mine" render the sexual act creepy, simultaneously carnal-wet and out-of-body. Clumsy as Tidy ... often is, it's obviously the product of someone completely open to experiment and unafraid of coming off like a jackass while being honest. Wonderful qualities both. And that's more than you can say for the works of Rollins, whose endless reps and stresses seem like nothing more than an exercise. No pun intended.

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