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The Best of Scream on Record

November 15, 1987|STEVE OCHMAN and JEFF SPURRIER

Is the world ready for the Scream?

Geffen Records thinks so. The label has released "Scream: the Compilation," a sampling of bands associated with the popular L.A. dance club, which rotates its location from the Probe on Monday and Friday to the Park Plaza Hotel on Saturday.

Previous attempts to capture the pulse of a music scene have proved iffy. "Live at CBGB's," from 1976, falls short in conveying the energy of New York's then-burgeoning underground scene. The acts you won't find on it (Talking Heads, Blondie, Television) are far more notable than the ones you will.

On the other hand, two vintage Los Angeles compilations fare much better: Rhino Records' "Saturday Night Pogo" (featuring songs by the Dils and the Motels) and Dangerhouse's "Yes L.A." (which includes seminal recordings by the Germs, the Bags and X).

While it's hard to say how vital the new 10-band, studio-recorded Scream anthology will seem a decade from now, right now it appears to be an adequate roundup of a significant part of area's current rock mood.

The creme de la scene is found on the first two and last two cuts. Jane's Addiction starts the album off and lives up to its massive word of mouth with "Pigs in Zen," matching its post-nuclear Led Zep attack with singer Perry Farrell's lost street-child wail. Phoenix-based Caterwaul follows with the frantic, Siouxsie & the Banshees-influenced "Manna and Quail."

At the end of Side 2 come the clever "They Said Tommorrow" by the Abecedarians and Kommunity FK's intriguingly moody "Something Inside Me." The tracks in between (by Human Drama, Francis X & the Bushmen, T.S.O.L., Delta Rebels, the Hangmen and Tender Fury) are less successful, but still give a pretty good summary of the varying metal alloys that Screamers prospect for.

What the album lacks is a sense of explosive spontaneity, but that's also something that's missing from L.A's current rock scene in general. The Scream itself is definitely more a commercial venture than a happening, and so is the album. (The liner notes do more to promote the club than the bands, giving no information about group histories or personnel.)

Still, for those who find it hard to hang out until 4 a.m. at the dark-hued Disneyland of dinge, the album offers entry to a scene that is as definitive as anything of the current shape of L.A. rock.

SCENE FOR SALE: Other local club promoters are exporting their wares as well. A team that includes one person who helped start the new, upscale Stock Exchange club is opening a new facility in the Denver suburb of Westminster. Called L.A., the club is described by its promoters as a $1.8 million dance club and restaurant modeled on high-tech L.A. operations and decorated with celebrity souvenirs (including Randy Newman's sheet music for "I Love L.A.") a la the Hard Rock Cafe.

Not all in Denver seem overwhelmed. "No one here thinks calling a nightclub 'L.A.' is a good idea," said Gil Asakawa, rock-music writer for the Denver weekly Westword, suggesting that Rocky Mountainers don't consider our town the epitome of civilization.

A more reasonable prospect is the launching of a San Francisco branch of Rockers!, the Saturday-night gay rock disco at the Probe that was recently named the best local underground rock club by the L.A. Weekly. The Northern franchise now operates each Wednesday at a club called End-Up.

CANNOT TELL A FIB: Revenge is sweet for the Fibonaccis. The band is sending a copy of its new album, "Civilization and Its Discotheques" to a New York producer who, according to keyboardist John Dentino, strung the group along with the promise of a possible record deal. The catch is, the band is sending him the album packed in a large box full of cornflakes--"for the flake of the year," said Dentino.

Dentino admits, though, that the producer is not entirely to blame for the long time it took the band to release its debut album. (The group made a 1982 EP and a 1983 three-song "single" and contributed five songs to the 1986 "Terrorvision" movie score.)

"The real reason is twofold," Dentino said. "We were put off by a lot of people. It's just a common, boring story you hear from L.A. musicians all the time. And the band has been in flux."

Dentino also acknowledges that the underground art-pop scene the Fibonaccis were once part of has shrunk since the early '80s. "(Back then) everybody was going to Al's Bar and seeing the Fibs and Wall of Voodoo and Nervous Gender," he recalled. "There was a lot of excitement, but then I was younger."

DATE TO CIRCLE: Some of the top names of L.A. rock will gather at the Variety Arts Center on Nov. 29 in a benefit for the anti-nuclear SANE/Freeze organization. Among the acts: Ray Manzarek, Peter Case, the Brigade, Divine Weeks, Firehose, Leaving Trains, Screamin' Sirens, Blackbird (Chip and Tony Kinman's new band), Dream Syndicate, David Baerwald (of David and David), Superheroines, Geza X and Divine Horsemen. Tickets are $10.

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