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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

September 1, 1993

Rotund Rocker

Frank BlackFrank Black, Frank Black (4AD/Elektra 1993) -- Slightly rotund rocker Frank Black (known as Black Francis with his old band, The Pixies) is developing one of the biggest voices in rock. On his self-titled debut, Frank shows that he hasn't lost his chops.

It was a shame when the Pixies folded after their last release (the excellent Trompe la Monde), just as they were really developing a presence. The new album, which continues in a Pixiesmode, is the product of trio Frank Black (guitar and vocals), Eric Drew Feldman (bass and keyboards) and Nick Vincent (pounding -- quite literally -- the skins).

The strongest single on the album is "Los Angeles," with its semi-sardonic view of southern California, although the sweeping "I Heard Ramona Sing" comes in a close second.

Black's a talented fellow, but needs to restrain (or refine) his sense of humor. This stuff works best in traffic jams and other stressful situations (just save some room for headbanging).

CranberriesThe Cranberries, Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We? (Island 1993) -- While U2 may be Island Record's biggest draw (and U2's new album, Zooropa, is among the year's finest, an estimable follow-up to 1992's monumental Achtung Baby), The Cranberrys are showing that there's still more tunes on tap on the Emerald Isle.

Fronted by lead singer Dolores O'Riordan, the Cranberries have a great single in "Dreams," with its Moroccan-influenced vocal track proving that there's life after the Cocteau Twins.

The quartet displays its Gaelic roots on "Waltzing Back," before returning to a club-oriented groove on "Still Can't." By the end of the CD, it may get a little repetitive. But the hit single makes it worth the price of admission.

FuzzyGrant Lee Buffalo, Fuzzy (Slash 1993) -- Three-man band Grant Lee Buffalo, whose playing transcends the post-punk apocalypse, have released a new album that some critics have termed "the best release of the year."

Generous praise, indeed. I can't go that far. However, imagine a much straighter (albeit less happy) John Lennon fronting a revved-up Doors, and you have a general idea.

While lead singer Grant Lee Phillips is not afraid to belt his way through the feedback and grunge-filled wasteland on cuts like "Jupiter and Teardrop," the centerpiece of the disk is the melodic "Dixie Drug Store." "Dixie Drug Store," driven by a barrelhouse piano, is a trippy, image-filled midnight tour through the voodoo-laden underbelly of New Orleans that smacks of the Rolling Stone's "Elevator Blues."

If a punked-up version of Robbie Robertson appeals to you, then Grant Lee Buffalo will be your bag. But be warned -- this baby might be a killer.

Garth Brooks -- The recent statements by Garth Brooks in opposition to the sale of used CDs have been somewhat surprising, inasmuch as Garth has always presented himself as a performer who cared first for his fans.

Given Garth's relatively ineffectual stand and rapid retreat therefrom (Wherehouse will now be allowed to sell his new release, despite its continued and rightful sale of used CDs), one can question whether the incident was part of a planned longevity campaign.

Mr. Brooks appears to be digging in for the long haul. So far, he has escaped without becoming entangled in any major controversies. A few (pre-planned?) rash quotes may lend color to his career, while also endearing him to his fans. Or maybe it was all a big misunderstanding.

-- Randy Krbechek

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