Sebadoh guiding force Lou Barlow -- who was unceremoniously canned from the J. Mascis-helmed Dinosaur Jr. shortly before that band's run at mainstream success -- has the right attitude. He's a relentlessly indie musician and an avowed enemy of indie cliquishness. Barlow was one of the first alternative "personalities" to acknowledge that the grungy milieu then testing its commercial feet grew up listening to more than Kiss and Black Sabbath. There were plenty of Joni Mitchell records packed away in that closet, too, and to Barlow, all of it constituted fair inspiration. There was an obvious punk-rock aesthetic at work on Sebadoh's early stuff, but there was also Barlow's confessional singer-songwriter bent, pegging him as a sort of James Taylor with an amp. The music -- quintessential college rock -- touched magic in fits and starts.
Bakesale, as expected, has its moments, but as a whole it's just a pleasantly sloppy disc filled with unremarkable lyrics, and strummed and sometimes banged guitars. Barlow and bandmates Jason Loewenstein and Bob Fay break formula plenty enough to keep things interesting, and their fondness for pretty if not terribly memorable pop songs carries the disc's 40-minute length. But Barlow's voice isn't a particularly distinctive instrument, and while the tunes are busy pointing every which way, they never seem to make up their collective mind just where to go. More than a few end up sounding something like Dinosaur Jr. without the guitar histrionics, and as the latest Dino CD so expressively illustrates, that doesn't leave much.
Sebadoh plays Wednesday, October 5 at The Abyss. Call 863-7173 for info.
Our Bed is Green
Historic Sixth Ward
Tom Carter left The Mike Gunn shortly after recording these two cassette releases with wife Christina and friend Jason Bill. While The Mike Gunn's hard-edged spy sound epitomizes hard-rock appeal, Charalambides' combination of simple chord progressions and various tried-and-true experiments in sound are a world away.
The music tends toward a simple rock format with three guitars and lead vocal, bolstered with tape effects (including montage, overdubbing and retrograde tape), electronics, speech and solos. Christina's haunting vocals and a surplus of imaginative guitar solos characterize both releases. The results can assume the form of strange brain-wave music, too abstract to fit into chord patterns, taking rock and repetition to their logical conclusions. Raga feelings are effected with the use of a single chord. Other times, the sound comes across as needlessly repetitive.
These "demos-at-large" are dubbed on request by Carter and have been released locally in the low dozens. A high level of creativity is countered, not surprisingly, by less-than-stellar production values.
-- Seth Davis
Charalambides plays every Sunday night at Harvey's Club Deluxe. Call 223-4705 for info.
If Bob Mould and Grant Hart were HYsker DY's Lennon and McCartney, it was Mould who emerged from the divorce wearing the Lennon-like visionary's mantle. Hart emerged as the McCartney figure, partly because nobody ever accused Mould of being the cute one, but mostly because Hart's songwriting output for HYsker tended to the guilelessly poppish side.
Several solo albums later, Hart has switched from drums to guitar and surrounded himself with bassist Tom Merkl, guitarist Chris Hesler and drummer Steve Sutherland under the name Nova Mob, and if Mould's new trio Sugar ends up sounding like a rehash of that chunk of the HYsker songbook written by Mould, Nova Mob sounds no less like the HYsker songs penned by Hart.
Problem is, while Hart wrote some real beauties, he didn't write a lot of them. Stretched over an entire CD, these songs wear thin, and the poppish side that once served as such a happy reprieve from Mould's gloomier meditations now sounds merely uninventive. Like the post-Beatles McCartney, Hart sounds best on the ballads, and "Puzzles" is the best of them here. The rockers are little more than redundant. -- Brad Tyer
Nova Mob plays Saturday, October 1 at Harvey's Club Deluxe. Call 223-4705 for info.
From gritos to jazz, La Diferenzia is smooth. And aptly named, because the sound they make -- a blend of Tejano with traditional Mexican music and touches of tropical, jazz and rock -- is unique in Tejano circles. It's that ability to mix genres without sacrificing Tejano danceability that sets La Diferenzia apart from other groups vying for the Hispanic audience. Centered around 23-year-old Ricardo Castillon's light, romantic vocals, La Diferenzia is mature and polished. Danceable and happy with simple, poetic lyrics, the album isn't overproduced. Castillon's phrasing is clean, and luckily, he isn't afraid to explore vocal dynamics.
"Si Lo Quieres" isn't the disc's strongest cut, but its heartbreak lyrics make it a safe bet for the first single. "Linda Chaparrita" and "Anoche Sone Contigo" are likely audience faves, and the former trades in a tropical flavor that's infiltrating Tejano more and more as artists seek a wider audience. There's further breadth reflected in David Caceres' straight jazz sax on "Alguien Especial" and Joe Reyes' rock and roll guitar on "Para Siempre."
-- Olivia Torre