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Super Appealing Alternative : Supernovice: "Inescapable" Onset Records ***

February 14, 1996|MIKE BOEHM

Without fuss or fanfare, Supernovice has emerged as one of the most consistently rewarding true-alternative bands on the local rock scene.

Band auteur David Turbow has completely reshuffled the lineup that last year emerged on "Well-Fed," Supernovice's first full-length CD.

Dave Williams, who also plays in the semiretired Swamp Zombies, continues a Supernovice tradition of strong, kinetic, roll-and-tumble drumming. Bassist Alma Pardo lends occasional airy, Pixies-ish vocals behind Turbow's lead singing, which often has the hangdog, now-muted, now-assertive tone of an introvert compelled by the need to get something off his chest.

With the help of producer Greg Hetson, a Bad Religion guitarist, Turbow's multitracked guitars are arrayed to achieve textures thick yet not murky, giving him a platform to show his knack for the catchy riff or lead decoration.

The Supernovice sound isn't groundbreaking, but it is anchored firmly in an appealing '80s college-rock tradition that emphasizes melody and song craft over blunt force.

Coming off at times as a more aggressive Luna, at others recalling the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Turbow and company assert some grungy authority but reject the blatant arena-rock moves of a lot of what has come to be called "alternative."

Instead, there is an engaging modesty at play, an insistence that the confusion and alienation that are Turbow's thematic near-constants can be made vivid without histrionics.

It's a matter of taste, and the mass public clearly has spoken its love for the overwrought, but I'll take the regular-guy stance of a Turbow, Sebadoh's Lou Barlow or Luna's Dean Wareham over the operatics of a Corgan nine times out of 10.

Thematically, "Inescapable" finds Turbow facing post-adolescent drift, that point when it becomes apparent that romantic relationships are rough, youth isn't forever and settled adulthood isn't all that attractive an option, either. The chorus of "When We're Gone" gives a pithy summation of those intimations of mortality and futility:

Moving pieces of the world

How they come to be alive.

But when we're gone

The pieces will fall back in place.

There's no terminal mopery here, however. Supernovice knows how to surge and chime and create a sense of purposeful energy and transcendent liftoff to balance and contradict the glumness and disaffection.

Turbow's prevailing blahs are not inescapable, but his band's merit is.

(Available from Onset Records, P.O. Box 1918, Garden Grove, CA 92642.)

* Supernovice, Atomic Boy, Crash Kills Four and Boxcar Winos play tonight at the Lava Room, 1945 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa. 8 p.m. $5. (714) 631-0526. Supernovice plays a free, all-ages concert Thursday outside Argyros Forum at Chapman University, 333 N. Glassell St., Orange. Noon. (714) 997-6815.

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