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Tina Alvarez On Music
Phresh Phaces

Super 8
Penelope Houston

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Super 8's vocalist, Bronx Style Bob, started out as an East coast rapper, hanging out with the Cold Krush Brothers and Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu Nation in New York's hip hop subculture. Ingrained to the style, he also made appearances on Ice-T's Rhyme Syndicate compilation "Coming' Through" and his "The Iceberg composition as well as working with H.R. of Bad Brains.

Upon moving to the West Coast in '90, he changed direction, joining the funk group Trulin Disgracias as their singer, whose members included musicians from Fishbone, Parliament/Funkadelic, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Brand New Heavies. In '92 Paleface released a solo album, Grandma's Ghost," was was voted "Best New Artist" by Rolling Stone. By 1993, together with guitarist John O'Brien, they were persuaded by friends in the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ministry to begin looking for other musicians to complete Super 8.

The lineup grew to include bassist Heming Borthoe, guitarist Joel Shearer and drummer John Steward. They soon built a substantial fan base in Los Angeles and were signed to Hollywood Records in 1995. "Super 8" is their debut and shows the band to be a rocking outfit in full force.

The Cd's opener, "Pain," starts off as an slow, dark number punctuated by intense bursts of power, reverting back into a slow pace, eventually culminating in a heavy auditory scene.. Bob's vocals are exceptional, whether it be hitting a high or low note, screeching or taking on a sensitive ballad ("Heavens Don' Cry"). Dealing with the sadness of reality, "April 19th" is a song that deals with the issue of child abuse. "The advancement of a culture is measured by how we treat each other," Bob observed. "It's unfortunate that children have no chance of surviving our shortcomings, and on this day our children become our casualties." "Natural," for example, centers on a relationship in the process of breaking up.

"Our songs reflect who we are - our love, anger, happiness, sorrow, intelligence, stupidity, morality, lust," summarized Bob. "We would like to reach those who might be a bit desensitized from reality and bring them back home to the human spirit."

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For New York singer/songwriter Paleface, being signed to Polydor Records in 1991 was more of a nightmare than a dream come true. When his self titled debut did not meet the expectations of those in charge, he was dropped from the label.

"At first I was pissed," said this punk rocker. "They were trying to pigeonhole me in this Neil Young/Bob Dylan thing. But after awhile I got over my own ego and said 'fuck it.' I can sill write, and I can still perform." Following his termination, Paleface worked in a bar, while his manager approached record companies in search of a contract for the singer. In the meantime, Paleface put out a second LP, "Raw," on Shimmy-Disc, which had a harder edged sound than his previous album. Now signed with Elektra Entertainment, Paleface's latest is "Get Off," which he recorded with a band, a first time venture for a person used to a lone guitar and microphone for pals.

With his new ensemble, Paleface confronts his music in a way that extends beyond the usual punk genres, utilizing ballsy harmonica on "G.G.F.U." and "Oh the Pain, Ouch," and piano in the intro of "I'll Be Right Back." Produced by Andy Paley (Jerry Lee Lewis, Brian Wilson), "Get Off" took nine days to record and mix. Paleface also views recording in a much different light than most. "All my songs are basically first-takes," described Paleface. "I don't go back and edit or cross out. Once you start doing that , the song loses its force. Of course, I do have a drawer full of first-starts where a song just wasn't happening for me. About all can say about it, is all the songs are about things that really happened."

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Penelope Houston has a mesmerizing voice, one that can be sweetly soft ("Secret Sign"), have that soulful rock wail found on a slow ballad ("Sweetheart"), or the fervor that belies punk ("Scratch"). All these facets can be found on Penelope Houston's Reprise Records debut "Cut You." While you may not have heard of Houston, she and her band have toured extensively overseas. Originally she was born in LA and raised in Seattle but after high school moved to San Francisco to attend art school. Rather, she formed a punk rock group called The Avengers, which only stayed together two years, but had received a solid amount of critical acclaim -- writer Greil Marcus dubbed them "San Francisco's best punk band," and Robert Chistgau chose one of their songs as "the finest indie single" of the year. The group had three official releases and over a dozen bootlegs.

Upon the demise of The Avengers, Houston moved to LA for a while and then relocated to England. Upon returning to San Francisco, she began exploring with acoustic instruments -- guitar, mandolin, stand-up bass, accordion and percussion. She released an independent single on her own label in 1986 and five solo albums between 1987 and 1994 with different recording companies. In Europe most of the time, she and her band returned to the Sates to begin work on "Cut You" in May of 1995. In addition to Houston (vocals, autoharp, melodica), band members are Meletins Peppas(electric/acoustic guitars, mandolin), Eliot Nemzer (electric/acoustic guitar), Steven Strauss (bass, vocals) and Kevin Mummey (drums, percussion). Having a bigger budget gave them a luxury they were not normally accustomed to -- more recording time.

"Yes, we stayed in the studio much longer," related Houston. "We went for a bigger sound. We used a lot more electric guitar." On "Cut You" Houston and her band grab a sound that is diverse yet inseparable. The musical feel on "Locket" is reminiscent of tropic sounds of Brazil '66 ('77, etc.), while a sassy attitude emerges on "Glad I'm A Girl," while there's deep, simple hypnotic richness on "Fuzzy Throne." Like I said, Houston has been around for a while, but mainly has been touring and marketed across the Atlantic. The single "Sweetheart" is slated as the U.S. release. Listen for it.

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