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Lone Pigeon Balances Loopiness With True Song Craft

June 30, 2002|Steve Hochman; Robert Hilburn; Richard Cromelin; Kevin Bronson; Randy Lewis

****

LONE PIGEON

"Concubine Rice"

Domino Recording Co.

The album that Syd Barrett and Paul McCartney never got together to make in 1969? That's the first impression of this debut from Lone Pigeon--a.k.a. Scottish musician Gordon Anderson, an original member of the Beta Band who left the group because of health issues. There's a certain loopiness here puts him in the British pop-eccentrics lineage running from the Pink Floyd founder through Badly Drawn Boy.

But he also shows McCartney-esque song craft and melodic polish, with the balance of his two sides threading through such mini-suites of song fragments as the affectionate vignette "Melonbeard" sandwiched between two introspective acoustic meditations of late-night despair.

Throughout, his sketches of depression are buoyed by moments of upbeat whimsy, and the eccentricities are grounded by musical focus. Conversely, the pop craft is deepened by naked emotion and, significantly, a tone of healthy self-awareness.

"If you don't look back, it will be all right now," he sings in "The Rainking." But then he looks back anyway with a reprise of "Concubine Rice" and a bonus song, "I Am the Unknown," in a '60s Brit-psychedelia mode--a knowing wink to wrap up a collection as enjoyable as it is affecting.

--Steve Hochman

**

OASIS

"Heathen Chemistry"

Epic

"The Hindu Times," the album's opening track, echoes everything that once made the Gallagher brothers' music so joyful: the blazing guitars, the cocky, defiant vocals and the soaring melodies that filled your spirits. "I get so high I just can't feel it," Liam Gallagher sings in the song, which could be a teasing drug reference but, given the doubts surrounding the band in recent years, is more likely a statement about trying to overcome insecurities and fears.

The trouble with "The Hindu Times" is that it's merely an echo. It's as if Noel Gallagher, the English group's chief musical architect, has carefully stitched together everything that was once wonderful about Oasis.

There's no evidence anywhere on "Heathen Chemistry" (due in stores Tuesday) that he has regained the confidence and direction that abandoned him after the critical and commercial disappointment of 1997's "Be Here Now" album.

Whether upbeat or ballad, Oasis' music feels mostly lumbering and vacant. There's some vitality in the hyper-blues undercurrents of "Better Man" and the anthem-like "Probably All in the Mind," but they seem just random moments of faded glory in an album that rarely rises above average.

-- Robert Hilburn

In Brief

** Truth Hurts, "Truthfully Speaking," Aftermath. When teamed with producers DJ Quik (as on the Middle East-inspired single "Addictive"), R. Kelly and Dr. Dre, this strong-voiced singer captures the pleasure and pain of love and life with piercing emotion. However, the rest of her debut album contains a surprisingly bland batch of tracks from the normally reliable Timbaland and Organized Noize.

--Soren Baker

** 1/2 Original Sinners, "Original Sinners," Nitro. There's plenty of Chemical X left in L.A.'s prototype Powerpunk Girl. Exene Cervenka's new band delivers lean, sinewy punk with a roots-rock touch, and she sets aside the social commentary of her last incarnation, Auntie Christ, to spin a punkabilly-fed whirlwind of romantic screwball comedy and messy tragedy. Her wordplay is sharp and her twang tart, but the music lacks the old force and new surprises.

--Richard Cromelin

** 1/2 The Kennedys, "Get It Right," Jiffyjam. Are lovely, folky records so taken for granted these days that Pete and Maura Kennedy--Mr. and Mrs. Jangle--are relegated to Jiffyjam Records? It's criminal. While their fifth album of new material lacks the breadth of 1998's "Angel Fire" and doesn't exactly strike out in new directions, it's still as comfortable as a smooth, winding stretch of country road. Nanci Griffith contributes backing vocals on "Ride, Angel, Ride," and if the harmonies don't leave you smiling, there's a missive to an actress, "Why, Winona, Why?"

--Kevin Bronson

*** Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, "Way Out West," Back Porch. These country rock veterans apply the word "west" pretty liberally in this rootsy outing. Yes, they revel in the California honky-tonk of Buck Owens and Wynn Stewart, as well as the Bob Wills Texas swing tradition. But they also veer south and east through San Antonio Tex-Mex, Appalachian bluegrass and Louisiana Cajun country. It's all served up with a breezily confident, no-borders attitude that shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with this duo's Byrds-Burrito Brothers-Desert Rose Band pedigree.

--Randy Lewis

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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