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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Codeine Gives Mood Music the Punk Treatment at Whisky

July 23, 1994|RICHARD CROMELIN

Well, what would you expect from a band called Codeine?

Even in the mood-rock wing of alternative rock, few groups are as doggedly devoted to the slow-down game as Codeine. At the Whisky on Thursday, the New York trio emitted an ooze of narcoleptic trance music.

Bassist Stephen Immerwahr alternately muttered and crooned the lyrics, while drummer Douglas Scharin did a lot of his timekeeping in the air, crashing down sparingly and strategically at the treacherously slow tempos.

John Engle's guitar tone is too hard-edged to make the music dreamy. The impression is more stark and pensive, suggesting an isolation that's absolute but not altogether unpleasant. The titles of the band's two albums on Sub Pop Records--"Frigid Stars" and "The White Birch"--sum it up.

Codeine didn't really elaborate on its powerful atmospheres. Instead of the extended explorations you might expect, the group simply made a statement, drove it home with mounting intensity, dropped it and moved on to the next one. It's a sort of punk approach to mood music.

Most of the Whisky audience seemed absorbed, while the unconverted filled some of the many silences with wisecracks. None of it broke Immerwahr's grim concentration.

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