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Pop Music Review : Droge Rough and Ready at Viper Room

October 20, 1994|RICHARD CROMELIN

"If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)," a rollicking, mid-tempo ditty sung by a relentlessly desperate suitor, marks Pete Droge as a singer-songwriter with wit and bite, if not overwhelming originality.

On Tuesday at the Viper Room, Droge changed the title's first verb, in part to make specific the real nature of the obsession, and maybe in part to be a little bratty. The Portland-based artist is a sort of grunge folk-rocker (Pearl Jam's Mike McReady helped him get his record deal), and at 25 he's out to prove you're never too young to be world-weary and emotionally bruised.

In the Viper show--one in a series of weekly appearances that concludes there on Tuesday--Droge flashed a spacey, not-quite-formed persona, a rough drawl and a derivative musical vision to go along with some intriguing lyrics and admirable instincts.

The blend of Neil Young, Dylan and the Stones' mournful country strains has been adapted by successive generations of performers. One way to reclaim and revitalize it is to send it into overdrive, and that's what Droge and his four musicians did.

The ragtag bunch, who looked as if they'd piled off a VW bus and plugged in, massed behind Jeff Trott's soaring, intense lead guitar to drive home Droge's expressions of aching uncertainty and sweet redemption. If he can keep blasting away at his limitations like that, Droge just might find his own voice in the rubble.

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