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Punks Rock, Geeks Rule

This week: This Week: The same old hardcore, some new old-fangled pop

by John Sewell

A Place Called Home (TVT Records)

File this one under "hardcore band goes major—sort of." On A Place Called Home, Ignite delivers the requisite explosive riffs, scream-along sloganeering and empty rhetoric that has caused untold thousands of teenage skater types to shave their heads and "unite," at least until something cooler comes down the pike.

Ignite fits the old-school hardcore mold to a tee, and the inherent contradictions of hardcore are the fatal flaws of what could have been a valid release. Sure, Ignite's music kicks ass, maximizing the adrenaline as heavy, guitar-dominated music should. But the lyrics are just a little too implausible to stomach.

Ignite tries to appear as a band with a cause, pontificating on a variety of subjects such as animal rights, homelessness and (what else?) unity in the hardcore scene. But it's about as predictable for a hardcore band to sing about these subjects as it is for a death metal band to sing about Satan. And I suspect that Ignite's real goal is to attain rock stardom, not to subvert society and topple the government.

I can't help it. I have a hard time listening to lead singer Zoli Teglas (who appeared in the rock/porn flick Backstage Sluts and later excused his comments about having a "pussy sandwich" threesome with two Dutch groupies as a misrepresentation because he was drunk at the time of the filming) as he points a finger at all the injustices of the world.

A Place Called Home comes off preachy, falling in the cliché ridden thesaurus-core rut that Bad Religion has already worn out. Actually, the grand statements of the songs end up sounding amusingly like Styx' "Blue Collar Man" or Kansas' "Dust In the Wind." Honestly, I hope Ignite makes it big because their songs would make excellent FM radio fodder for fist-banging maniacs everywhere, including myself. But Ignite sure ain't the next Minor Threat. Meet the new boss—same as the old boss.

Ultimate Fakebook
This Will Be Laughing Week (Epic/550 Music)

Kansas City geek rockers Ultimate Fakebook have served up a winner with This Will Be Laughing Week. Imagine a mix of Elvis Costello, Weezer and Green Day coupled with the soaring falsetto vocal stylings of Franki Valli and the Beach Boys and you'll have a general idea of Ultimate Fakebook's approach. The album is a postmodern pastiche of several styles (punk, emo, powerpop, new wave, bubblegum) that work surprisingly well together and actually sound different—yet still fall within the easily digestible three-minute pop format. Laughing Week is pure pop for now people: instantly likeable caffienated confection that goes down smooth with no aftertaste.

The only grating thing about this release is the flagrant attempt to create an image for the band on the packaging. It's clear that Fakebook is being groomed to be the next Weezer, and I'm sure there will be some kind of cutesy videos on the horizon for the group as well. The cover's faux high school yearbook motif is an attempt to turn the band into a caricature that will surely become an albatross, assuming the band makes it past square one.

Sound Bites

Royal Fingerbowl
Greyhound Afternoons (TVT)

The obvious reference points—Tom Waits, Randy Newman, a dash of Dr. John—are obvious for a reason. But if this Big Easy trio never quite transcends its influences, it does more than pay homage. Singer Alex McMurray has a warm gruffness of his own, and the gutbucket arrangements are charming despite themselves. They growl a lot, but they don't bite.

Animals, Suns & Atoms (Mute)

German bleep-bloop duo is in more or less the same retro-futurist camp as To Rococo Rot, Mouse On Mars, etc. Which, in layman's terms, means dreamy electronic music with occasional subdued vocals. Too melodic to qualify as ambient and warmer than krautrock has any right to be. Kind of like early '80s synth-pop reconstituted as a barbituate. Very pleasant.

Los Amigos Invisibles
Arepa 3000 (Luaka Bop)

It's subtitled A Venezuelan Journey Into Space, and that may be all you need to know. Los Amigos channel the spirits of '70s discotheques through a salsafied filter of congas and Latino sing-along melodies. It never sounds forced, though; their funk comes as naturally as their hip-shakin' rhumbas. Groovy in all the best ways.

Songs From an American Movie Vol. One Learning How to Smile (Capitol)

Resident Everclear enthusiast Adrienne Martini sez, "They need to get out of therapy and get angry again. This one's all about, 'We need to all love each other and be happy.' Oh, shut up!" I say (without actually listening to it) that it should be disqualified on its title alone.

Various Artists
'til we outnumber 'em (Righteous Babe)

Energetic if predictable document of the 1996 Woody Guthrie tribute concert at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame (courtesy of Ani DiFranco's indie label, which makes it the coolest thing she's done in a good couple years). There are the expected highlights—Springsteen, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie—and a few nice surprises, including Billy Bragg's pre-Mermaid Avenue "Against the Law" and Ani's own tense reworking of "Do Re Mi."

Giant Robot (CyberOctave)

Buckethead wears a KFC bucket and white face paint. He loves Japanese monster movies. He's also apparently the new lead guitarist for Guns 'n' Roses, if that actually means anything. More to the point, he offers pyrotechnic guitar heroics in their only honest context: as oversized comic-book fun. This is his 1994 debut, in its first American release (fittingly, it originally came out in Japan). Produced by Bill Laswell (!) with Bootsy Collins slappin' bass on most of the cuts and assorted other P-funkers making appearances, it's equally silly and inspired, the grooves and dazzling licks chunking along with hair-shaking abandon. There's even a storyline in there somewhere, pitting Buckethead against something called Aquabot. Rock on, dude.

—Jesse Fox Mayshark

September 14, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 37
© 2000 Metro Pulse