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Pop Music Reviews : Martha Davis Registers Under Assumed Grunge

October 25, 1994|CHRIS WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Martha Davis has been absent from the music scene for seven years. Not surprisingly, to recapture some of the long-dim fire of the early Motels, she has picked a band of upstarts who look as if they could be younger than her kids. So could it have been terribly surprising that, when she resurrected the Motels favorite "So L.A." on Sunday at the Coach House, the newly reinterpreted oldie sounded so, well, Seattle?

To those familiar only with the slickly inconsequential latter-day Motels, it might have seemed a bit incongruous to see Davis--last viewed as a glamour puss of major proportions--wearing a baggy, gas-jockey jacket, fronting what could actually be described as a rock 'n' roll band.

But to those who remember her as the most captivating female singer on the thriving L.A. new-wave club scene, her return to a psycho-ragamuffin staredown vibe and ragged hooks was nostalgic at least, hopeful at best.

The crowd liked the new songs, if they weren't crazy about the abundance of them. Davis invested more in debuts such as the frantic "Mother's Blood" than in the utterly perfunctory "Take the L Out of Lover" show-closer--not a bad sign. Her band provided many useful assists by going for a Pearl Jam feel on occasion, but lacked the reckless personality the old Motel-dwellers had to offset her sense of melodrama; she needs character around her at least as much as youth.

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