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MUSIC: Ventura County | LOCAL ANGLE

Recent Releases

Albums go to extremes--from noisy punk to mellow Lyle Lovett.

October 08, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Here are capsule reviews of CDs by groups that frequently play in the area.

The Suicide Machines, "Live! Live! Live!" (Hollywood)

Imagine an electric guillotine or Warp 13 punk rock cranked up to the max. If these guys played any faster, they'd disappear just like the extra crewmen that beam down to the uncharted planet with Kirk and Spock. Entirely too much screaming doesn't help much either. The mosh pit will be sweaty, nonetheless.

GRADE: C

Next gig: Tonight at the Living Room in Goleta.

*

Lyle Lovett, "Step Inside This House" (MCA)

This eclectic Texas singer, who must share Don King's barber, has enough clout to pull off a two-CD collection of covers of his favorite songs by Texas songwriters. The tunes are low-key country folk, much like Lovett's own stuff. Best is "More Pretty Girls Than One."

GRADE: A-

Next gig: Friday at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara.

*

Far, "Water & Solutions," (Epic)

This is a thrashing, noisy band that creates a wall of sound as singer Jonah Matranga whines about How Unfair It All Is. Poetic lyrics meet musicianship about as subtly as that guy with the big hammer in "Braveheart." Right.

GRADE: C

Next gig: Friday at the Living Room in Goleta.

*

Bob Norman, "To the Core" (Night Owl)

Here's a New Jersey folkie who tours California every October. He's harmless enough, just a simple guy singing simple PG-rated songs. Imagine Ward Cleaver 40 years later. The drawback is his voice--Norman can't sing a lick, so this is almost a spoken-word album. But his relentless gentleness almost overcomes that problem.

GRADE: B-

Next gig: Saturday at Local Hero in Ojai.

*

The Murmurs, "Blender" (MCA)

This is a two-girl pop-rock operation featuring the stellar vocals of Heather Grody and Leisha Hailey. It's poppy and sweet--something like the Bangles. The tunes seem mindless and wimpy until you listen to the lyrics. Cat-fight scenarios abound--check out "Big Talker," "Smash" and "Sucker Upper." The Murmurs are like a thumbtack in a bonbon.

GRADE: A-

Next gig: Saturday at NYM in Santa Barbara.

*

Smokin' Joe Kubek, "Take Your Best Shot" (Bullseye)

Someone named "Smokin' Joe" better be hot. Rest assured, he is. Kubek is the guitar shredder and B'Nois King is the smooth crooner. There are lots of rockin' heartache songs, inspiration for the blues. Best, however, is "Damn Traffic," a song that has worked at some time or another for everyone.

GRADE: A-

Next gig: Saturday at Victoria Hall in Santa Barbara.

*

Ani DiFranco, "Little Plastic Castle" (Righteous Babe)

Ani Inc. is the poster girl for DIY (Do-It-Yourself) dreamers. Not only does she have a million albums on her own label, but she plays her supercharged folk tunes to full houses during a relentless touring schedule. An energetic, eclectic talent, DiFranco is so into it, you can't help but be moved by her personal slice-of-life observations.

GRADE: A-

Next gig: Oct. 15 at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara.

*

The Muses, "Penny" (Walking Records)

This is a cool country rock band out of San Luis Obispo. Imagine the Old 97s and Rank and File from up the road. It's the usual scenario--two guitars, bass and drums, but Greg Olin writes catchy songs, especially "Friday Morning 9:30" and "Michael Franks." They're even better live.

GRADE: A-

Next gig: Oct. 18 at Cafe Voltaire.

*

Red Archibald & the Internationals, "West Coast Soul Stew" (Blue-Tone)

With their savvy, dance-floor-friendly concoctions of R&B, blues and swing, these guys will be like gods on that swing circuit. Also, Red plays a mean harmonica.

GRADE: B+

Next gig: Oct. 19 at Cafe Voltaire in Ventura.

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