Staff Reports
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 20, 1997

Music Meltdown


Ween, The Mollusk (Elektra)


When Ween started out, the songs were just plain silly. Anyone who remembers "Push The Little Daisies," can vouch for that. However, as the their careers progressed, it became obvious that Gene and Dean Ween actually did have musical talent and that their particular milieu of greatness was the musical pastiche. To date, the boys have taken on everything from classic and alternative rock to country music (their last album was made up entirely of "Country Greats").

The Mollusk contains many of what the Weens call "songs inspired by the sea," and was actually recorded in part in a seaside studio. Until the studio was flooded and destroyed, at least. Actually, because of setbacks, both major and minor, this album has been close to 3 years in the making. Much of its material predates their last album's release. But it's been worth the wait.

"The Blarney Stone," the most ridiculous Irish sea chanty you'll ever hear is just one of the masterpieces you'll find here, along with the more laid-back Celticism of "She Wanted To Leave," and the '70s psychedelia of the title track.

There's also a couple of great, very obvious Black Sabbath pastiches, "The Golden Eel" and "Buckingham Green" and a ZZ-Top-ish track, "I'll Be Your Johnny On The Spot."

All songs were written by Ween, except, as it says in the liner notes, the very bizarre "I'm Dancing In The Show Tonight" which "was stolen outright" from a '50s song called "Are My Ears On Straight," and the traditional Chinese spiritual track (!) "Cold Blows The Wind."

"The Mollusk" is like nothing else you're likely to hear anytime soon, so if you miss out on it, there's nothing that can take its place.

-Doug Levy


Modest Mouse, The Lonesome Crowded West

(Up Records)

Modest Mouse is three guys from Issaquah, Wash., which is just outside of Seattle. Surrounding Issaquah are lots of farms, steep windy roads, shopping centers made from wood siding and hidden forest paths that lead to hidden ponds. Not exactly the place where one would imagine a noisy emo-core band to come from. But Modest Mouse flat-out rocks.

The bandmembers use swear words melodically, they get their guitars to make high-pitched noises like a drunken Moog synthesizer (or maybe a wheezing donkey) and they write songs with lyrics like, "Let's all have another Orange Julius."

Modest Mouse recorded The Lonesome Crowded West, the group's second full-length album, with Calvin Johnson of K Records fame and Phil Eck of Built to Spill, so the music is nothing short of insane.

Get funky with "Convenient Parking" and "Doin' the Cockroach." "Heart Cooks Brain" jumps along with record-scratching. "Shit Luck" is pure adrenaline, while singer/guitarist Isaac Brock screams out warnings of impending destruction ("This building's totally burning down!")

The Lonesome Crowded West is populated with songs that will pick you up, turn you upside down and shake you out until your brain is reduced to the consistency of frozen concentrate. Remember the great feeling you'd get from jumping really high on a trampoline with lots of people jumping on it, all out of breath and uncontrollable? Turn up the volume really loud and open all your windows so your neighbors can get in on the fun.

-Annie Holub



Treble Charger, Maybe It's Me (RCA)

Musically, America has lost it. Hip-hop has been on a downward spiral ever since 1993. Puffy is on the scene and polluting the airwaves with his minimalist bollocks. Rock is further down the slope, with America losing its grip after grunge was deemed passéeacute;. The Smashing Pumpkins have told us "Rock Is Dead" and techno is the new music.

Treble Charger is one of those few remaining rock bands in the U.S. who haven't followed Mr. Corgan in his views and who know what they're doing instrumentally.

The guitar skills on Maybe It's Me are extremely refreshing. In some parts, there's a punky guitar influence, whereas others borrow from the classic stencil of guitar music. The first track, "Friend of Mine," hones in on these skills with a burst of glorious guitar power. Not power as in Megadeth or other poodle-headed metal bands though.

The rest of the album follows the same tone, with grooving melodies and catchy riffs. Sounds good? A little too good to be true. The main fault lies in the band's tendency to sound like scrawny punk rockers pumped full of bad drugs. This style seems to be rubbing off on many American bands and just gets a little too overused.

All in all, Treble Charger had a good shot at being a new and great band but, sadly, punk music killed their chances. Lose the voices fellas, they don't sound so cool no more.

-James Casey


Curve, Chinese Burn (Universal)

Chinese Burn, while not a proper album release, is the first new material available domestically from Curve in almost four years. After an apparent break-up in 1994, it seemed unlikely that there would be anything more from this great-before-their-time group, made up primarily of experimental-wizard Dean Garcia and vocal soundscapetress Toni Halliday.

With the release of the import-only single "Pink Girl With The Blues," earlier this year, the band's triumphant, unexpected return was confirmed. It contained all the trademark elements that made Curve so transcendentally satisfying in the past and promised much for the future.

Essentially a re-mix project, Chinese Burn contains only three new songs from the band. The title track is the one that gets the scramble treatment, with a total of six mixes, including the album version (from the new album due out early next year).

"Chinese Burn," the song, is a bit atypical for Curve, driven by a sort of industrial techno beat, with vocals that growl along like Shirley Manson only wishes she could.

The coolest remix is the "Headcase Medipac" one, which distorts Toni's vocals into a robotic blur, slipping in some trippy-cool beats and turns along the way. Other remixes include ones by Witchman and Paul Van Dyk.

"Robbing Charity" is a cool experimental song, more indicative of Curve's current direction, which segues into Toni reciting her always-enchanting lyrics poetry-style over a wash of electronic sound.

The final track "Come Clean" (the rumored album title) takes some getting used to, with a beat similar to Blur's "Song 2" behind the ripped-up vocals. Curve go indie-rock.

Don't worry, though, I have it on good authority that the forthcoming album will rival the greatness of the band's masterpiece, Cuckoo.

This one's just a welcome teaser.

- Doug Levy


Retro Review - 1994

The Charlatans, Up to Our Hips (Atlantic)

With five full albums to their name and a multitude of singles and EPs, the Charlatans (now with a "UK" tagged on to the name) are part of British history. Their debut album, Some Friendly, earned them critical acclaim and to this day remains a tiny masterpiece. Up to Our Hips, their third release, is arguably their best one so far.

The first track, "Come in Number 21," is a perfect opener, with haunting guitars and an upbeat indie feel, perfectly backed by the masterful keyboard wizardry of the late Rob Collins.

Classics such as, "I Never Want an Easy Life if Me and He Were Ever to Get There," "Jesus Hairdo" and "Can't Get Out of Bed" can also be found in between the sleeves.

The Charlatans' definitive super-fly guitars and forceful organ sound is further refined on this album and it can be seen as the turning point from their being a smallish indie band to their becoming a major element of British music in the early to mid-'90s.

It would truly take a great man to decide which Charlatans UK album is the best one, but on reflection, it seems that Up to Our Hips is almost definitely their ultimate offering to date, and that anything better would be an nearly impossible feat for them to achieve.

-James Casey


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