Her Highness (American), the third album from LA's Medicine, finds bandleader Brad Laner easing off his My Bloody Valentine fixation just a bit, matching wispy pop melodies, mostly sung by chanteuse Beth Thompson, with a sturdy rhythmic wallop and an almost gentle pastel swirl of guitar feedback and clanging noise. The band's basic MO isn't perceptibly altered, but the result is a bit more distinctive. A tune like "Farther Down," for example, employs a vaguely twangy riff at its core, and glosses it over with a catchy but hushed male-female vocal twine. As with 1993's The Buried Life, fluffy hooks abound and the occasional chunk of feedback manipulation is effective, but despite Laner's promising obsession with his noise/melody nexus, Medicine merely produce pleasant music. On the other hand, based on their stunning debut album, Houdini (Too Pure/American), Scotland's Long Fin Killie, who open the show, sculpt a truly odd and compelling sound world in which the pop song is turned inside out. Suggesting little in the way of precedents, they flank skeletal but focused melodic and rhythmic ideas with ever-shifting textures, including judiciously employed saxophone, violin, bouzouki, and mandolin. The band by and large eschews linear development in favor of unpredictable zigzagging patterns. Eccentric vocals--at once unbearably precious and emotionally potent--reside at the core. While an exhilarating tune like "The Heads of Dead Surfers," with terrific assistance on vocals from the Fall's Mark E. Smith, proves they can rock out in a skewed manner, they're just as interesting when they layer hypnotic, swirling drones over weird non-4/4 rhythms, as on "How I Blew It With Houdini." Their consistently provocative lyrical concerns, while openly gay, are imbued with a universal sort of lust. Austin's terrific Sixteen Deluxe also perform. Friday, 9:30 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 489-3160.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/American Recordings.