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June 6th, 2001 Caryn B. Brooks, Becky Ohlsen | Sonic Reducer
 

Aural Pleasure for Today's Youth

The Pure Pop Pleasures of Weezer and The Desert Weirdness of Giant Sand's Howe Gelb.

     
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HOWE GELB: CONFLUENCE (Thrill Jockey)

"...slow and airy...random warbles, sputters, chirps..."

Howe Gelb, frontman for Arizona desert-rock weirdos Giant Sand, has a terrible croak of a voice, a low, dry-throated whine/growl that sounds like a laryngitic Jad Fair mumbling poetry from the bottom of an empty well. It suits his off-kilter, spaced-out, half-formed songs. Giant Sand has always been more Carlos Castaneda than Sergio Leone, more Sparklehorse than Dirty Three.

Gelb's solo records are essentially Giant Sand (Gelb plus Calexico's Joey Burns and John Convertino) and/or a bunch of friends (in this case Kevin Salem, John Parish and the guys in Grandaddy) hanging out and playing in their various living rooms. Though parts of Confluence were recorded in Bristol and New York, the album feels like Tucson. The songs are slow and airy, spliced together with enough random warbles, sputters, chirps and snippets of dialogue to prevent easy categorization (as well as mass appeal among typical alt-country fans--thank God).

Mostly, though, the weirdness on Confluence is muted, as in the quiet freakout of "Available Space" and the unusual choice of flatulent trumpet sounds on the otherwise serene country ballad "Pedal Steel and She'll" (where, like Gelb's voice, something that should sound awful works). In "Pontiac Slipstream," Gelb traces a line from bluegrass master Bill Monroe to Jimi Hendrix via JFK, smallpox and Jerry Springer. In the hazy "Blue Marble Girl," when he growls, "Did you ever have one of these nights/ Strung out like a string of cracked Christmas lights," it's clear he's had a few himself.

Sole complaint: The record could have used more bizarre pastiches like "Vex," a two-part shambles "recorded hither and thither by hand-held Howe" that wanders from Paris to Tucson, employing a pump organ, random chatter and cute French giggles (courtesy of Candy Prune's Saholy Diavolana and Laureline Prod'homme). (BO)

Howe Gelb plays Berbati's Pan on Sunday, June 10. 231 SW Ankeny St., 248-4579. 9:30 pm. Cover. Calexico plays the Aladdin Theater on Wednesday, June 6. 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave., 233-1994. 9 pm. $12-$14.

WEEZER: WEEZER (Uni/Geffen)

"...many pleasures..."

Subject: Re: Weezer's New Record

Date: Sat, 26 May 2001 17:17:47 GMT

From: weezer4ever@hotmail.com

Newsgroup: alt.music.weeeeezer

Don't call it a comeback: they've been here for years. True, Weezer took a bit of a break (can't lead genius Rivers Cuomo have a mental breakdown without everyone getting all huffy?), but none of that crap matters, right? We know that Weezer (really mostly Rivers) is brilliant. There are those who glommed onto their first record, Weezer--it was so easy. Who could resist the foot-stomping, I HEART AMERICA glory of jangle pop's Next Generation? The line in the sand was drawn at 1996's Pinkerton. Still foot-stomping, but kinda dark. That first record was for kids; Pinkerton, for post-kids. Not everyone was down, see? Now, Weezer 2001 (same title as their first album; some call it the Green Album), the record we've all been waiting for. And it rocks! Now, don't get me wrong, I do think Rivers has gone a little gun shy: He doesn't want a Pinkerton situation again--he wants HITS, SUCCESS and CHICKS. So, fewer rambling, churning megasaurus in-and-out odes. More verse-chorus-verse, tight pop ditties flavored for the FM dial. But guess what? They're awesome, totally. The first single, "Hash Pipe" (and yes, it IS majorly funny that MTV beeps out the "ash" part and writes it as "H*** Pipe"), owes more to Cuomo's heavy-metal roots than anything else, with chord progressions to beat out Sabbath. Then there's "Island in the Sun," which almost sounds like it was recovered from the wreckage of the plane crash that drove the Chevy to the levy. The chorus of "Hip Hip" literally enters your earholes and refuses to exit. Many more pleasures, too, in this record made just for people like us. JUST LIKE US. (CBB)


Please direct comments to zdundas@wweek.com.
 
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