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From Techno Sheen to Garage Grunge : Menu Offers Sweet Anything, Elroy Overdone, Plain Polloi and the Basic Fare of the Clints and Grabbers

November 25, 1993|MIKE BOEHM

From then on, Fly's versification is as dead as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as he falls to fabricating songs out of nostrums, watchwords and vague urgings and threats.

"His Boy Elroy" has some utilitarian virtues and surface pleasures: It's reasonably catchy (notably the effervescent "Chains," which was a dance-chart hit) and readily danceable. But instead of introducing himself, Fly allowed whatever self he is to be hidden by borrowed sounds and studio overkill.

- His Boy Elroy, Nine Days Wonder and Flood play Friday at 8 p.m. at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. $8. (714) 496-8930.

** 1/2 Hoi Polloi "Sign of Our Time" Bamboo Records

Here's a case where a record could have benefited from some extra time and experimentation in the studio. But that costs money--something typically in short supply for grass-roots bands operating without a record company bankroll.

The studio sound here tends to be plain and monolithic. But it's because of the basic appeal of Hoi Polloi's playing and song arrangements that one even bothers to note where a bit more atmosphere could have improved tracks on the band's debut album.

Sameness is the bane of the reggae album, and Hoi Polloi avoids it by shifting styles frequently.

On "Final Report," the apocalyptic vision that opens the record, a laboring, tense, reggae rhythm on the verses gives way to lighter pop-rock passages.

The album unfolds with nimble, quick-stepping ska ("Learn to Forget") and reggae done relaxed and sunny ("I've Got You Out of My Mind," which echoes the Wailers' "Stir It Up"). "Deeper and Deeper" introduces a Caribbean lilt to carry its message of spiritual aspiration.

There are brooding numbers about romantic betrayal, an elegiac pure-pop ballad, "Sometimes," and a stormy, straight-ahead rocker. All modes showcase the deft and tasteful guitar work of Don Solo.

The lyrics are prosaic and sometimes awkward and diffuse. "Envision a rainbow of risk breathing new life once again," exhorts singer Vinson Talo Lui in the title track, leaving us to puzzle over what's risky about a rainbow, not to mention how a rainbow can draw breath. But the song's overall urgency gives you the basic emotional drift.

An exceptional singer with a voice capable of risky stretching and surprising turns could have breathed some special life into what is a pretty fair collection of songs.

As it is, Lui is a competent yeoman who is attuned to the feelings in the songs but too limited to make them uncommonly vivid. He does color lyrics with occasional falsetto passages and chesty growls and with raspy-nasal intonations that oddly recall Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.

These are effective partly because it's such a surprise that a reggae-based band could have anything in common with Tull. That's one of the nice results of Hoi Polloi's ability to deftly mix styles without sounding stilted or scatterbrained.

(Available from Bamboo Records, 301 Tangerine Lane, Santa Ana, Calif., 92704. (714) 285-0277).

- Hoi Polloi plays Saturday at 8 p.m. and again on Dec. 4 at the Studio Cafe, 100 Main St., Balboa. No cover. (714) 675-7760.

** 1/2 The Clints "Home Grown Jam" Pie

The Clints have now lost both singer-songwriters who dominated the band's solid 1989 debut album, "No Place Like Home." But holdovers Harrison and Villalobos (yeah, the band in which everybody used the first name Clint has a new policy: surnames only), carry on with new recruit Pitagorsky, serving up a less idiosyncratic but effective brand of melodic, punk-based garage rock.

On this home-recorded, self-issued vinyl EP (cassettes will be released later), you get earnest, emotive, reasonably catchy fare.

Songs include the Clash-like anthem "Don't Mind," "Life Surrounds You," in which Messr. Villalobos sings in a Petty-esque voice about the value of not giving in to fashionable alienation, and "Out of Tune," which uses simple musical and lyrical means to get across some of the sad complexities of breaking up.

Nothing here is going to move rock as a whole forward, but the Clints should do something for those who appreciate the simplicity of a decent garage band that puts heart into those three chords.

(Available from Pie Records, P.O. Box 290, 2316 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, Calif. 92802. (714) 543-6115.)

- The Clints play Sunday at 10 p.m. at FM Station "Live," 11702 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood. $3. (818) 769-2221.

*** The Grabbers "Huntington Beach vs. the World" Doctor Dream (45-r.p.m. single)

Most of what goes for the Clints applies to the Grabbers, whose debut 45 is part of Doctor Dream's "Your Town vs. the World" series of vinyl singles by punk-based bands. The approach, captured here by producer Wade Wilkinson (of the late, lamented Lost Souls) involves producing a maximum of passion with a minimum of moving parts and not forgetting to work in a melody and a thought along the way.

"The Way I Am," a throwback to the mid-'60s garage-band style, offers a resonant scenario. Guy is scared of drugs, so dulling pain is out. Guy also is scared of showing emotion, therefore venting pain is out, too. Result: Guy has a problem. For two minutes or so, they make you care.

The flip side, "Three," is dark and thrashy, but also catchy, in the tradition of early O.C.-punk godfathers the Crowd and Agent Orange.

An entire album following this approach would lapse into sameness, but given the wham-bam demands of a single, these kids do all right.

(Doctor Dream, 841 W. Collins Ave., Orange, Calif. 92667)

- The Grabbers play at Bogart's in Long Beach on Dec. 8, with Monomen and Naked Soul. (310) 594-8975. They also are one of 12 bands playing the Britt Reeves memorial benefit Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to midnight at Club Mesa, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa. (714) 642-8448.

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