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Tucson Weekly Soundbites

By Lisa Weeks

SEPTEMBER 8, 1997:  COMPILATIONS: Lord knows there are enough of them wedged onto record store shelves. In keeping with the '90s marketing theme of rehashing and remaking the truly pedestrian and often downright awful into a slick, "modern" image, it seems as though every possible theme has been exhausted. Every esoteric whim has been catered to, every bad '70s TV theme, Saturday morning cartoon jingle, under-appreciated band with "seminal influence"-- every anything with the least bit of Gen X sentimental value, real or supposed--has been covered and repackaged for mass consumption.

Admittedly, some of the collections really are so damned bad they're kitsch--I know my copy of K-Tel's Star Power, with the original Star Wars theme, tracks by the Little River Band, Heaven 17, K.C. & the Sunshine Band, and KISS, holds a special place in my record collection. The next thing you know, though, we'll be seeing re-releases of these compilations with songs covered by today's legion of alternarockers; Collective Soul could handle Foreigner's "Cold As Ice," Ben Folds Five could pay an amiable tribute to "Heaven on the Seventh Floor," and I can almost hear Gwen Stefani singing a ska version of "Angel in the Morning." Certainly, though, none could hope to match Dinosaur Jr.'s wonderful rendition of Peter Frampton's "Show Me the Way." Let's face it, nostalgia sells. It's the only explanation for the stifling retro craze, and the fact that not only Madness, but Madness covers actually make it simultaneously onto radio playlists.

So why, in the face of all this, would I urge you on to purchase a compilation? Well, because there are compilations and then there are compilations. The best of the genre usually feature a smattering of relatively unknown bands with little in common except their label or their hometown, or they document live performances. A true grab bag filled with unexpected surprises.

Tucson label Gouramie Records offers just such a new release in Brine Storm: A Popular Music Compilation, a comprehensive, 24-song slice of the Old Pueblo music scene, which also includes a few tracks from bands based in Yuma, Albuquerque and San Diego. On first listen, the overriding feel is that desert rock has given way to a scene predominately inspired by punk, pop and '60s surf and rock-- all with individually quirky embellishments, of course. Automatically one assumes that bands contribute tracks most representative of their sound, and for the most part such seems to be the case on Brine Storm. The songs sound like the bands in their Sunday best, thanks to the superb job engineer Jim Pavett does in pulling it all together. The compilation is a local effort from start to finish, with some of the contributors showing off their day job skills: The graphics and design are the work of Weird Lovemaker Jason Willis, and the art production work comes care of Shoebomb's Melissa Manas.

Brine Storm highlights include Bargain Town's medley "Vibro World/Just North of Edgewater/Eric Blair Was Right/Witch Hazel," particularly enigmatic and brilliant, absolutely original yet recalling the dexterity of Ween and the craftsmanship of Zappa; The Simpletons, "The Wrong Day" is cavernous, eerily stripped down with breathy, strung out vocals artfully delivered by Brett Beuckman; the final track, The Pork Torta's "Cafe Express," features guest vocals by Serge strangely reminiscent of the original theme to the TV series "Star Trek." "Brilliant," by Albuquerque quartet the Shambles, is a masterpiece of vintage '60s rock, standing out bright and shiny like a new penny, and complemented nicely by The Resonar's like-minded "Six Daisy Neckchain," with its savvy three-part harmonies. Scott Moody's "Ho-Daddy-Ho" is surf with all the tricks and trimmings, right down to the requisite keen tremolo strumming.

The Weird Lovemakers throw in "Milton Bradley," a tidy, lighthearted punk/pop romp through the game of Life, and Super Monkey's "The Last Song" finds them sounding a little like REM meets the Byrds--if there's a desert rock tune on the disc, this is it. Helldriver's "Ignition Addicted" sounds squeaky clean, as though scrubbed down with Lava soap, compared to their notoriously gritty live shows. On the pop end of the spectrum, Wise Folk Malcontent tips its hat to Pavement and Super Chunk with "In The Way"; and Shovel and Shoebomb's common roots are plainly apparent in their respective offerings. Perhaps the most bizarre track is Spillblanket's arcane "Nun en Masse," easily the most self-indulgent, least approachable rollercoaster ride, clocking in at a hefty 5:07.

Brine Storm, well worth the $10 and tax, is a superbly economical means of supporting the best of local music. And it's a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. Look for it at CD Depot, Sound Addict, Toxic Ranch, and PDQ, as well as Borders and Zia Records.

LAST NOTES: Social Distortion--can it possibly be that they've been around since 1983?--and No Depression graduates the Old 97's team up for a big double bill at The Cage, 5851 E. Speedway, starting at 9 p.m. Friday, September 5.

In addition to their regular Wednesday Open Mike nights, The Airport Lounge, underground at 20 E. Pennington St., features one of Giant Sandman Howe Gelbe's side projects, Ton, on Saturday, September 6. Opening acts, if there are any, have yet to be announced. Call 882-0400 for more information.

One week from today, on Thursday, September 11, Monsoon Madness at the Winsett Park Stage plays host to The Tucson High School Steel Drum Band, performing with Flãm Chen. As usual, the free, all ages event begins at 7 p.m. and finishes around 10:30 p.m.

A little advance warning: The Wooden Ball is upon us once again, so break out the big red marker and circle Friday, September 12, as a date to converge on the Club Congress for an "acoustic fandango" of locals only. Details about the show and performers will be available in next week's Soundbites.

Finally, here's some last-minute notice on an early, all ages show at 8 p.m. Thursday, September 4, at the Luna Loca, 546 N. Stone Ave.: check out Albuquerque's amazing punk rockers Scared of Chaka. Lovemaker Greg Petix cautiously refers to this group's product as "infectious, pop-infused punk rock"--if he thinks they kick ass, then indeed they must. The Fells open the show, with The Weird Lovemakers filling the middle spot. Cover is $4 at the door. Call 882-8848 for more information.

--Lisa Weeks

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