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Mumble & Peg
The players in Mumble & Peg are a screwy lot, mutant offspring of the late '60s and early '70s, mixed up from birth with the delusions of mass media and hyperconsumption. Yet unlike so many caterwauling punk rockers who share the same distractions, the East Bay trio of singer/guitarist Erik Car-ter, bassist/keyboardist Matt Lebofsky, and drummer Chuck Squier vent their disenchantment via dark, introspective folk ballads.

Wondering in Volume, Mumble & Peg's trenchant debut, is rife with tales of self-defeat and helpless bewilderment. "It's amazing there's involuntary breathing," marvels Carter on "Breathing." Fantasy and alienation feed impatience and verbal impotence whenever Carter tries to articulate what he feels. On "Watertalk" he confesses, "You make me feel human and glad and I'm scared/ So I change the subject to talk about my feelings/ But choose all the phrases like I'm talking about chairs." The tension between Carter's voice and the spare instrumentation underscores his agonizing efforts to communicate. But his struggle yields little real connection.

In his world, even cliches have lost meaning: It's only wishful thinking when, on "Good Life," he claims, "Good life comes to those who wait." Yeah, right. Reality check? "Seconds slip by when they're ours and days only serve to remind us of the things we've done too late." Even the hope of salvation through music-making is squashed by ambivalence in actuality ("Tourism": "What is this performance thing?") and daydreams ("Major Label Hate Mail"). Stuck and confused? Well, Mumble & Peg are, too.

-- Sam Prestianni

Mumble & Peg appear on Friday, Dec. 5, at 10 p.m. at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck (at Prince), Berkeley. Tickets are $5; call 841-2082.

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