February 9, 1994
Fury in the Slaughterhouse, Mono (RCA 1994) -- Fury is a six-person band from Germany that has a kick-ass American rock 'n roll sound. On Mono, their fifth album and first State-side release, the band shows that it's ready to trample all over any wimpy alternative contenders.
Now, don't be fooled by the lame artwork on the cover (which looks like something only rapper Ice T would love). There's no rap on this album, and no drum machines either. Just regular rock 'n roll dealing with its traditional themes -- anxiety, disenfranchisement, and confusion (i.e., the universal themes of modern life).
Frankly, you'd never guess that this band was German, as lead singer Kal Uwe Wingenfelder has no discernable accent. Formed in Hanover in 1987, the group has been paying its dues and steadily working its way up through the ranks. Fury is now big on the Continent, having toured with the Pogues and Jesus & Mary Chain (whose 1989 album, Automatic, is a must-own).
From the finger pickin' guitar lead on "Every Generation Got Its Own Disease" to the Led Zeppelin-influenced "When I'm Dead and Gone" (with an opening drum riff that's lifted straight off Houses of the Holy's "D'yer M'ker"), Mono has a solid feel to it -- deeply recorded, and with just enough reverb to fill your speakers to their brim.
Mono is an auspicious debut, and deserves to be taken seriously. Watch for Fury when their tour hits North America -- they might cause a big buzz.
Martina McBride, The Way That I Am (RCA 1993) -- The Way That I Am is the second album from country singer Martina McBride. With her strong voice and unpretentious style, this 26 year-old Kansas native delivers a consistently pleasing package.
The Way That I Am avoids most of the traditional Nashville excesses, and instead has a clean, contemporary feel. Like Carlene Carter's delightful Little Love Letters, The Way That I Am is generally playful and upbeat, and avoids wallowing in the trough of country despair or trying to make a Big Statement.
Having opened up Garth Brook's 1992 tour, Martina's had a taste of the big time. The quotation from Martina in the liner notes ("Thanks to you for listening. Hope you like it!") summarizes Martina's attitude -- she's an entertainer, not a world-weary corn pone philosopher. Backed by a strong band, Martina belts out a winner number in "Life #9," and the optimistic "My Baby Loves Me" (with its chorus, "My baby loves me/Just the way that I am") has been receiving considerable airplay.
Like most country CDs, The Way That I Am clocks in a little on the short side (at 34 minutes). In an inexplicable move, the last track is chopped off the cassette, thus making the tape version only 31 minutes long. There should be some kind of discount for these discs -- they should retail at $12.99 instead of $15.99. Despite its brevity, The Way That I Am is a fine album, and deserves a listen.
Steve Taylor, Squint (Warner Alliance 1993) -- Former gospel crooner and Chagall Guevara frontman Steve Taylor has released his first solo album in five years. On Squint, Taylor mixes an alternative rock 'n roll sound with experimental/intellectual lyrics to produce a funky, if inconsistent, disc.
Taylor is a man of many influences -- though his lyrics have occasional religious overtones, his closest comparison might be the ambitious wordplay of They Might Be Giants. Taylor, who wrote all songs on this album, is joined on Squint by Wade Jaynes on bass, Jerry McPherson on guitars, Mike Mead on drums, and Phil Madeira on keyboards.
Squint can be described as a pastiche of styles and influences. For example, Squint was recorded in Nashville, but Taylor's management is headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia (home of religious rightwinger and wannabe politico Pat Robertson). As Taylor notes, "I was originally going to call this album The Kitchen Sink, since I was ready to try anything in the studio that didn't involve doing dishes afterwards."
Though Taylor's adventurous spirit is to be appreciated, the result is mixed. But there's one real peak on this album. "Jesus is for Losers" is a damned good rock song -- filled with echoey vocals and overlayed guitar tracks, the song is uncompromising and should receive a bunch of radio airplay.
While I can't endorse the cutsier aspects of Squint, the ambiguity of "Jesus is for Losers" is terrific -- it's hard to tell whether Taylor is serious or just joshing. In a similar vein is "Banner Man," a semi-tribute to the people who bear banners (religious and otherwise) at sporting events and other public affairs.
A dabbler in multi-media presentations, Taylor is now making a 35mm film that features six videos from Squint. With his ambitious vision, Steve Taylor may soon reclaim his seat as "evangelical rock's court jester."
-- Randy Krbechek
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