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* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : AMERICANA NOIR

May 10, 1987|DON WALLER

* * "THE KILLER INSIDE ME." Green on Red. Mercury. Any album that takes its title from such an authentic example of Americana noir as Jim Thompson's classic first-person novel of schizophrenia and murder is almost doomed to fall on its aspirations. To Green on Red's credit, the title track manages to capture all the terror and the pathos of Thompson's tale without resorting to a simple plot summary.

At next best, as on the angry, anti-gentrification "Clarksville," the unrelentingly grim "We Ain't Free" and the ominous, swirling "Ghost Hand," this fourth offering from the once-L.A., now-Austin-based quintet benefits from the gen-u-whine craziness in Dan Stuart's voice that seems to burst the seams of bluesrockcountrygospel formalism in which these scenes are musically set.

At worst, as on the would-be anthem "Born to Fight" and, especially, the obligatory I-need-to-believe number "Jamie"--the latter so shamelessly derivative of Neil Young it could pass for a National Lampoon parody--the band winds up in the same position as the proverbial one-legged entrant in a butt-kicking contest.

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