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Salt Lake City Weekly Yet More Rotations

Stackin' 'em deep and reviewin' 'em cheap for Christmas.

By Bill Frost

DECEMBER 22, 1997: 

ALANA DAVIS Blame It On Me (Elektra). It's a gutsy move to open your debut album with an Ani DiFranco cover, but that's what sets Alana Davis apart from the rest of the young female singers afloat out there on the Sea of Alanis: The girl's got soul, and an old soul at that. Avoid looking at the pictures of Davis on the sleeve while listening to Blame It On Me — the deep, rich voice does not seem to match the diminutive young woman and you'll be too distracted to fully enjoy it. Throughout the CD, Davis sounds like Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Joni Mitchell and other classic female vocalists, but she's fresh and original at the same time. Now all she needs to do is make a series of sleazy underwear videos and start copping Maya Angelou, because Blame It On Me is easily as good, if not better, than Fiona Apple's million-seller. Rate it: A


photo: Fred Hayes
Alana Davis views Fiona Apple's latest underwear ad/video: "Man, get this girl a sandwich."


HOLLY MacNARLAND Stuff (Universal). And now here's freaky rocker-chick , with a van full of noisy, clattering guitars and ex-boyfriends to burn — literally. Sound familiar? Holly MacNarland is big in Canada. So is Cory Hart — still. Canadians are stupid. We should nuke Canada this weekend and turn it into a parking lot. If you're one of the 11 people who bought an album by Patti Rothberg, Tracy Bonham, Leah Andreone or any of those messed-up label casualties, you've already heard Stuff. In case anyone from the crack A&R staff of Universal Records is reading this, thanks for cutting off MacNarland's tour support before she reached Utah and then sending the press kit. Rate it: D


MAGGIE ESTEP Love Is a Dog from Hell (Mouth Almighty/Mercury). Maggie Estep is your psychotic ex-girlfriend — in a good way, if that's possible. It's been three years since her debut album, No More Mr. Nice Girl, helped push Imago Records into bankruptcy with its hilariously anti-commercial mix of noise-rock, beat poetry and flat-out ranting against the machine. She hasn't changed a bit. Just imagine Janaene Garafolo, Patti Smith and P.J. Harvey all in the same room with the most extreme case of PMS (Poetic Musical Sarcasm) ever. Along with new stuff, like "Stalk Me," "Scab Maids On Speed" and "How To Get Free Hamburgers," is Estep's old favorite "(Writer Guy) I Want Mangos," which most writers believe is dedicated to them, but it's really just for me. Rate it: B


SHANIA TWAIN Come On Over (Mercury). Welcome to the new country — Def Leppard with fiddle samples. Come On Over, Shania Twain's third album, is more plastic and superficial than, well, her last one, but at least she's progressing: 25-plus musicians (including drum programmers) vs. a lean team of five hair stylists and make-up artists. "Mutt" Lange's oven-mitted, one-mix-fits-all approach to production gives Twain the same sheen as any of those metal bands he did in the '80s — "Honey, I'm Home" sounds like a cover of Warrant's "Cherry Pie," with even dumber lyrics: "The car won't start, it's falling apart/I was late for work and the boss got smart/My pantyline shows, got a run in my hose/My hair went flat — man, I hate that." And you thought the Spice Girls were commiting gendercide. Not suprisingly, Twain's a Canadian — yet another reason to flatten the back-bacon country. Rate it: D


THE PIERSONS Appleberry Wine (Epiphany). Heard from Soul Asylum lately? This Phoenix trio staves off the cravings for Mr. Winona Ryder & crew like a Snackwells bar in the afternoon stretch: Not as filling as the Goo Goo Dolls, but more substantial than the Refreshments. Then again, whatever's lurking in your dryer's lint trap is more substantial than the Refreshments. The Piersons talk a good fight, but this claim of "Arizona's premier rock/pop group" has to be questioned: What about the Meat Puppets? Or even the Gin Blossoms? Bassist Scott Moore is closer to the point when he says the Piersons are "too punk for pussies and too pussy for punks." Just like Winona Ryder. Rate it: B-


YOU AM I Hourly, Daily (Sire). Last week, I think I said that Snout are the coolest Australian power pop band alive. Even though the Australian press have practically lacerated themselves over You Am I, I'm sticking by Snout. Rate it: C


KISS Carnival of Souls (Mercury). Kiss' reunion with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss didn't come a moment too soon: Carnival of Souls is the final recording by the prosthetic Kiss, featuring guitarist Bruce Kulick and drummer Eric Singer, who were handed pink slips when Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons gave in to nostalgia and massive Kiss Army dollars. Like practically every other Kiss album since the '70s, it's a mixed bag of doom metal vs. pop metal that betrays the original Kiss ethic: Keep It Simple, Stupid. The original Kiss were great because they kept the songs short and actually included a hook or two. The Kiss of the '80s and '90s grabbed onto every trend they could get their stubby fingers on, usually causing just slightly less embarrassment than Simmons' acting career. On Carnival of Souls, they were finally noticing grunge — as bad as you're thinking that might be, you're not even close: We're much better off with their '70s replication. Rate it: F


photo: Fred Hayes
Talking to Animals: too damned happy for their own good.

TALKING TO ANIMALS Manhole (Velvel). Smart, American rock bands fronted by gutsy women with huge voices are few and far between anymore since Seattle's Hammerbox went away. Talking to Animals has been kicking around the Boston-New York scene since 1990 with lead wailer Juliana Nash's leather-lunged delivery winning over critics and real people alike. Their debut, Manhole, is nothing but wall-to-wall, reckless rock with just enough polish to let you in on the secret that they're not young punks anymore. Oh yeah, they actually write songs, also — another forgotten component in the late '90s. Have I mentioned how cool the Velvel label is? Rate it: A


SNOW The Greatest Hits of Snow (Interscope). OK, aside from "Informer," what other "hits" has Snow had? And did he actually record more than one album? Is he from Canada? The finger's on the button ... Rate it: Incomplete


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