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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Sea Hags: A Lot of Guitar Noise but Very Little of Note to Say

June 15, 1989|MIKE BOEHM | Times Staff Writer

Like the mermaid on the cover of their debut album, the Sea Hags are a mixed species--some punk-rock thrust, some metal chugging, and a good deal of heavy riffing inspired by '70s hard rock.

What was missing Tuesday night at Goodies in Fullerton was a siren's call of melody that might have lent some dimension to the young San Francisco band's forcefully played but mostly forgettable show.

While snarling vocals, slashing, broad guitar chords and throbbing bass lines certainly are ingredients of exciting hard rock, they make for a bland recipe if forced to stand alone for an entire show. The Sea Hags generated some interesting moments when those elements were applied with peak intensity. But for the most part, the four-man band failed to channel its basic power in worthwhile directions.

The Sea Hags' songs deal mainly with those two old-standby concerns of hard rockers: the libido and the urge to rock. But it was difficult to tell just what front man Ron Yocom was singing about, since the wash of super-amplified guitars and bass usually swept his words under in the sound mix. Between Yocom's harsh, unvarying, standard-issue rasper's voice and the songs' utter lack of melodic interest, it certainly didn't seem that he had much of a story worth telling. Lead guitarist Frankie Wilsey had a Jimmy Page look but a tired-sounding assortment of solo licks that usually found him wailing and bending notes high up the guitar neck. Most of the songs that worked best featured Wilsey augmenting Yocom's rhythm-guitar work with sharp, rhythmic chording of his own.

In the high point of the show, "Back to the Grind," the band laid out stiff sheets of sound, while Yocom snarled with extra conviction and let the music fling his lanky body into some nice, leg-kicking dance steps a la Keith Richards. The song came early in the set and promised more than the Sea Hags delivered. "Someday," reminiscent of a heavy Bad Company number, clicked with the taciturn Wilsey's best guitar playing of the night, and the band also registered a good, revved-up Chuck Berry-style stomp that veered for a while into the Rolling Stones' "Respectable."

But for the most part, the substance of the songs was thin, and the Sea Hags failed to flesh it out with a grabbing, on-stage personality. The band played hard--and nothing more. Between songs Yocom and bassist Chris Schlosshardt had little to say for themselves, other than urging the crowd to buy their album and addressing the audience as "Fullerton."

One wonders whether the Sea Hags would want to be called "San Francisco." Many bands like to use the third-person geographic impersonal in addressing crowds from the stage. Funny how the ones who do it usually are the ones with precious little personality themselves.

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