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Music Reviews

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October 27, 1993

Spare Ass Annie

Spare Ass AnnieWilliam S. Burroughs, Spare Ass Annie & Other Tales (Island 1993) -- Spare Ass Annie is a collection of short stories, poems, and soundbites set to a hip-hop background. Though it sounds peculiar, the disk is funky, literate, and musical.

Spare Ass Annie marks the second CD from the 79 year-old Burroughs, who is best known as the author of Naked Lunch and The Western Lands. Burroughs' satiric side is restrained on this disk, but don't be lulled to a sense of complacency by his grandfatherly appearance -- this old man still has most of his teeth (and his wits).

For example, Burroughs draws from his experiences in World War II (where he met beat author Jack Keorak) and makes a stinging indictment of the US military in "Mildred Pierce Reporting," while on the album's longest segment (approximately 15 minutes) entitled "The Junky's Christmas," Burroughs tells the story of a junkie trying to find happiness and a fix on the Holy Day.

Burroughs' spare, aged and raspy voice matches well with the loose musical background, and serves as an existential counterpoint to his strange view of reality. Sardonic, smug, and suggestive, Spare Ass Annie is an entertaining and offbeat introduction to the world of William S. Burroughs.

Sim DunlapSlim Dunlap, The Old New Me (Medium Cool/TwinTone Records 1993) -- Slim Dunlap, the former lead guitarist for the now-defunct The Replacements, makes his debut solo release with The Old New Me. From its opening riff, the direction of the album is clear -- lean, straightforward, guitar-oriented bar rock.

The first cut ("Rockin' Here Tonight") makes apparent that one of Dunlap's main influences is Keith Richards -- an influence that is taken to its welcome and gritty extremes on this happy slab of vinyl. Says Dunlap "It's not cutting-edge -- I wouldn't be honest if I made a record that didn't have Keith in there."

Suppose the Stones could still make a tight, jammin' disk chock full of blues/rock numbers. Look no further -- this is it. In addition, cuts like "Just for the Hell of It" display influences of Chuck Berry, the rockabilly sound, and deep delta blues.

Reportedly recorded for only $10,000, the album eliminates the overdubs and fancy loops and instead concentrates on delivering straightforward, smart-ass rock 'n roll. Frankly, this album makes me wonder whether I shouldn't seriously reevaluate The 'Mats. Slim Dunlap is no pretender and The Old New Me shows he's a worthy replacement.

Nick CaveNick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Live Seeds (Mute/Elektra 1993) -- Speaking of non-pretenders, few stand taller than the fire-and-brimstone influenced Nick Cave. If you think Iggy Pop'sthe real thing, then check out Nick Cave -- he's just as jaded, and a lot more literate (and dangerous).

Live Seeds marks the eighth release from Nick Cave, following last year's Henry's Dream (which I felt was over-recorded -- Nick spent so much time in the studio that he lost track of the whole project). Live Seeds is taken from concerts in 1992 and 1993, and contains tunes from throughout Nick's career.

The story of Nick Cave begins in the early 80s, when he emigrated from England to Australia and exposed the land down under to the grandeur and foreboding of his band, the Birthday Party. Both disquieting and compelling, the Birthday Party blasted music into the post-punk era.

After disbanding the Birthday Party, Nick assembled the Bad Seeds and went on to release disturbing, dysfunctional, and powerful albums like Kicking Against the Pricks (a far-out bunch of cover tunes) and Tender Prey. The Good Son (from 1990) is easily his most accessible disk, and makes sweeping statements about the human condition.

And Nick has a right to talk about the human condition. While in Australia, he learned how to pop a vein, and spent the next several years struggling with a heroin addiction. Clean or not, Cave is an articulate live wire -- the closest thing rock has to a Jim Morrison.

Live Seeds features the gravelly-voiced Cave in front of a strong, no-nonsense band performing versions of "From Her to Eternity" (from his first album) and "The Weeping Song" (from The Good Son), together with cuts like "Jack the Ripper" and "Brother, My Cup is Empty."

Cave takes no prisoners with his strange and dark tales -- just don't take him too seriously or he'll lead you to the slough of despair. Crank up Live Seeds and kick out the jams -- it'll take a load off your mind.

-- Randy Krbechek

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