Music Reviews

Silver Apples of the Moon -- Laika  --

What's the Story Morning Glory -- Oasis --

Magnosheen -- Gwen Mars --

Crayon -- 18th Dye --

by Jason Edward Becker

All reviews are based on a five star system (five being the highest rating)

LAIKA--"Silver Apples of the Moon" (Too Pure/American) recording: *** 1/2
live show: **** 1/2 (in progress)
Effective under the influence of headphones? Yes
Okay for the random button? Yes, but better from A-Z

Usually I put a disc through a headphones test and a random test after I've listened to it once in the shower, once before bed and once with a bunch of friends in the house. If it can't pass the headphones test, that tells me the effort was maybe rushed, void of the furtive droppings that make future listens formidable.

If it doesn't pass the second test, well sometimes that's for the better. Nothing new here, but an all encapsulating, cohesive album is one where the success of an individual song is contingent upon the resultant mood of its predecessor and the early feeling—of the track that follows it—maybe like a conventional novel.

It was almost sacrilege pushing Lisa Germane's "Geek the Girl" through the random meat grinder. Forcing Laika onto the plank was nearly as hard, but I pulled it off.

Mysterious, esoteric, hip, busy and sometimes sensual, Laika is one of the most undanceable dance bands I've ever danced to. When I saw them open for trip-hop guru Tricky, I think I spotted at least two percussionists and a sampler. Lead vocalist/rapper/spokeswoman, Margaret Fiedler, fiddled with a Moog among other gizmos, nodding her head to the cool of the sounds while steering the S.S. Laika effortlessly through the heat of a heavy storm.

I bought this disc after the show. No I didn't get enough that night. Some jerk delayed us because he couldn't eat his Taco Bravo to go . (Note; this penny pincher from the burbs had the money to buy a round of Taco Bravos, two cans of Pringles and a large diet coke, but came up short when it came time to pay for parking and gas. "Hey man, I'm broke." ....Asshole.)

Even though I only caught four songs, Laika's performance was one of the most hypnotic shows I've ever seen, ranking up there with Medicine, Brutal Juice, Girls Against Boys, Nick Cave and my first Pit show.

Actually, the dense bass grooves, busy percussion and web of sound outside the music remind me of early Pit albums like: Metal Box, Flowers of Romance and cuts off First Edition music, both challenging and addictive.

Vocals may show traces of the whispery side of P.J. Harvey and Medicine's almighty succubus; but Fiedler has enough confidence and enough cool to cut her own trail through this perplexing phantasmagoria.

Oasis--"What' s the Story Morning Glory?" (Epic) Recording: *** 1/2
Headphones test: thumbs up
Okay under random? To keep it fresh, shuffle once a week

The music Oasis makes is really easy stuff, Beatles pastiche that goes down like coffee with a lot of cream. They're also a bunch of English snobby snobs who probably spend more time laughing at their own jokes and working on their insouciant gait instead of creating new sounds.

When asked about Blur, their biggest competition in the rainy state, Oasis guitarist and chief songwriter Noel Gallagher sniffed, "I hope they all contract AIDS and die."

What an asshole. But what a funny asshole. Oasis are a bunch of big-ass rock stars in Great Britain who revel in their stardom—not unlike Poison and Warrant once did here. But unlike the glam monsters "Cheese America" created in the 80's, Oasis acknowleges their pomposity and plays off it.

And whereas the Bulletboys, Winger, Slaughter and Trixter (I got a million of em') produce a bunch of crap, Oasis creates excellent pop, even if much of it is borrowed.

The key is to either understand the joke or blow it off. Every melancholic cut on "[What's the Story]" is catchy and capable of sliding you into that inclusive cool that comes with being alone. Just don't take your fabricated emotions too seriously.

There are many spots where this album could've bombed, but both Gallaghers are keen enough to know when to soar instead of sit or when to jump instead of run. After a couple of listens, Oasis might get a little boring, so you might start crying "plagiarism" for lack of any more toe jam to pick. Yes, traces of 1964 and up are all over the place and sure, the intro to "Don't Look Back in Anger," mirrors "Imagine." But so what.

I hope my aunt is reading this, "Estelle, The Beatles really don't mean shit to me right now." When I'm 40, I doubt that I’ll keep nagging my nieces and nephews to pay more respect to the Sex Pistols, the Minutemen and Joy Division.

Gwen Mars--"Magnosheen" (Hollywood) recording: **
headphones test: Yes! gets better under the muffs
Okay under random? Yes, just don't touch the don't button

Word has it, LA.-based Gwen Mars was signed in a matter of weeks after its first gig. No surprise here, cool groovy metallic sound, hip name. The name Gwen Mars brings to mind some intergalactic babe who descended to earth to seduce horny men holed up in their rooms all day screwing around on the Internet.

Gwen is probably a 6"10 buxom babe with a chameleon hair dew. She is sinuous and cold to the touch, wrapped up in purple vinyl pants and blazing pink lacquer boots—with some of those little fringies streaming down the sides—hold on, no fringies, maybe blades, certainly stiletto heals. Thinking about Gwen helps transcend an otherwise accessible pool of psychedelic metal. For my fourth listen, the headphone encounter, I've got "Magnosheen" on shuffle and these dense tunes seem to bubble with a little more energy.

Gwen Mars will be big. The first five or six tunes on "Magnosheen;' are all potential great radio singles ("Cosmic Dick" already is I think); no doubt if the album was flip-flopped the last six cuts would be great radio singles.

But after five or six of these, Gwen Mars, the music loses its explosive, epic aura and Gwen Mars the babe dissipates like an almost awesome wet dream.

The whole of the album reminds me quite a bit of Smashing Pumpkins "Gish" actually, but without the brilliant guitar solos that once wowee zowweed me enough as a high schooler to sit in my friend's car all night and 'rock out" to "Bury Me" and "Windowpane." That memory is pretty lame. This album isn't lame. In fact, in the right hands, Beavis and Butthead addicts for instance, it could be very dangerous.

E. P. Outlook

18th Dye--"Crayon" (Matador)
recording: ****
Effective under the influence of headphones: Yes
Okay for the random button? Not really necessary

18th Die doesn't dick around much on "Crayon," kicking off with the spitfire dizzying guitar streaks of "Aug," ajagged cut reminiscent of the Wedding Present in its "balls out" philosophy on tempo. No less catchy are "16 Ink" and "Ray," the former laboring itself through a mucky tempo, the latter following a steady sober beat, resulting in an interesting amalgamation of two of my favorite songs by Unrest, "Cath Carroll" and "So Sick."

Like Unrest, 18th Dye rations out its vocals, about 3/4 male, 1/4 female; unlike Unrest, 18th Die dirties up the guitars leaving tasty leftover shards for a formidable second listen.

"Mystics II" is a heavier, hoarser cut, charting in at only 2.06. But we don't need anymore superfluous dabbling, and that's what makes this e.p. such a beauty. Like a good short shorty, 18th Dye strikes a mood, touches down on it once and takes off.

Biography: Jason Edward Becker is a columnist for the Eau Claire newspaper, the Leader-Telegram. His column, "Scratches" can be read every week.