Tina Alvarez On Music
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
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
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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
"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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