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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Disquieting L.A. Debut for Silverfish

June 05, 1993|RICHARD CROMELIN

Lesley Rankine, the singer of the group Silverfish, introduced herself to the Whisky audience on Thursday by pushing her microphone against her nose and inhaling (or exhaling, it was hard to tell) with a mighty, clotted roar. Rankine looked like Go-Go Belinda Carlisle in a Johnny Rotten impersonators' contest, all snarls and glares and Quasimodo grimaces.

Also conspiratorial smiles and funny repartee with the fans--the Scotswoman is a punk charmer of the first order. She's also an incongruously adept singer, with a clear tone, powerful dynamics, agile phrasing, expressive range and dramatic nuance. It's an odd fit with the raw attack of her three English bandmates, but for the most part it worked surprisingly well at the group's debut L.A. show.

Unlike many of the new bands that constantly parade through town, Silverfish is anything but innocuous, instead reflecting some of the sense of danger that marks such uncompromising explorers of the tormented psyche as Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Ministry.

Silverfish's harsh clamor ranges from extended psychedelic drones to deranged rockabilly mutations, and the rhythm section makes a lot of the music stagger rather than soar. That's the perfect framing for disquieting lyrics of obsession, desire and defiance. If some of the songs seem half-formed, the emotional directness carries them through.

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