BABE THE BLUE OX, MOTORHOME 10/18, DOUBLE DOOR Tim Thomas uses 12 guitars and 12 tunings on Babe the Blue Ox’s ambitious major-label debut, People (RCA), but if he could just write songs that flow more than they sputter, he could harness his rhythm section’s serious funk potential to get this lumberingly eclectic New York-based three piece off the ground. Chicago’s Motorhome achieves liftoff on its new Brad Wood-produced single, “My Spaceman”/ “Little Bird” (Zero Hour), but guitarist Josiah Mazzaschi needs to jettison a few of his effects pedals–and bassist-singer Kristen Thiele to get over her fear of flying–before the band can really soar. Chokebore, Love 666 10/18, Fireside Bowl On A Taste for Bitters (Amphetamine Reptile), Hawaiian quartet Chokebore’s third album, a crawling four-four throb nudges Troy B. Bal-thazar’s bleary voice through enough intriguing twists and turns to elicit sweet vertigo. No such luck on labelmate Love 666’s Please Kill Yourself So I Can Rock. Dave Unger free-associates ambivalent discourses on the hedonistic life (“Get love, forget love, forsake love / Take death, fake death…”) as twin fuzzed-out guitars riff minimal over the big beat. The album title seems a rather tall request attached to such insubstantial stuff, but hey, whatever it takes. Marshall Crenshaw 10/21, Park West After nearly a decade of never quite making it big on a major, the pressure’s mostly off this marvel, who’s managed to keep writing memorable, genuinely touching pop songs without resorting to retro. This year’s Miracle of Science (Razor & Tie), his first studio set on an independent label, comes chock-full of material that holds up against his previous best. Ween 10/21, Metro Ribald lyrics aside, this goofball duo’s recent 12 Golden Country Greats (Elektra) shines as a lovingly conceived tribute to the veteran Nashville session pickers it showcases. With a steel guitarist, a fiddler, and Nashville pianist Bobby Ogdin, the touring band should have no trouble re-creating Charlie McCoy’s expert arrangements onstage. Diane Izzo 10/24, Lunar Cabaret Chicagoan Izzo has a few things in common with Polly Harvey–she slides and wails like a crazed blues harmonica (on “Imprisoned”) and daringly improvises choruses right at her voice’s breaking point (on “Wicked”)–but her convincing rural accent and wicked yodel give the acoustic ballads on her self-produced demo a frightening intensity all her own. Phono-Comb 10/24, Lounge Ax Two ex-Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet make up half of this Canadian instrumental combo, originally formed to tour and record with Half Japanese’s Jad Fair. Less outright surf than spaghetti western, the short, evocative pieces on the Steve Albini-recorded Fresh Gasoline (Touch and Go) balance fairly sober orchestration with the drollery to call a track “Burnt Down With Feedback” when it doesn’t have any.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Diane Izzo.