A MINOR FOREST 10/9, EMPTY BOTTLE This Bay Area trio's complex, intricate power rock is more sophisticated than the usual stop-and-start stuff--the quiet parts often exist for a better reason than to show off a rudimentary understanding of dynamics or familiarity with Slint. On the new Inindependence (Thrill Jockey) this intelligence sometimes backfires, and the abrupt twitches sometimes cheat songs out of an intensity they ought to maintain, especially given the band's talent for melodramatic sweeps that would make a Bad Seed blush. But the power surges are a more accurate harbinger of the electric storm AMF conjures onstage.
ELLIS PAUL 10/9, FITZGERALD'S Listening to Bostonian Ellis Paul's fourth album, Translucent Soul (Philo), I can't help but zoom in on the pop cliches--the catch in the throat, the descent into a whisper and subsequent rise in pitch and volume to drive home a key line, the arrangements as skillful as on any Michael McDonald record. The radio machine has hardened these conventions into law and audience emotional response has developed accordingly, such that one can now think with a straight face, "Here comes the passionate part of the song." So if Paul's trying--and in this age of irony the possibility can't be discounted--to make us long for a glimpse of the man behind the mask of predictability, he needs to be a little less subtle about it.
QUINTRON & MISS PUSSYCAT 10/10, EMPTY BOTTLE New Orleans designer, writer, performance artist, and puppeteer Miss Pussycat finally has committed her brainchildren--the puppet band Flossie & the Unicorns--to CD with the combination sound-track album, story record, and manifesto LMNOP (Skin Graft). It certainly has its brilliant moments (cartoon animal voice: "That mean witch Christy Cornpop has cast a spell on the forest. That's why we can't find a drummer!" Pause. "We could use a drum machine. Or we could find the witch and kill her." Pause. "Here witchy witchy witchy!"), and its silent-movie organ fills and sound effects are pretty vivid in their own right. But undeniably the act loses a lot in the translation, which makes this rare opportunity to catch it live in 3-D especially promising. Miss Pussycat is touring with her frequent partner in high crimes against aesthetics, Quintron, a sort of cyborg Jerry Lee Lewis whose psychedelic carnival music can turn a crowded indie-rock venue into a theater of the absurd faster than you can say "Lonesome Organist." The former Chicagoan's forthcoming album, These Hands of Mine, is due on CD in February, but Skin Graft says the vinyl is "sneaking out" in November.
CATHIE RYAN 10/10, UNITARIAN CHURCH OF HINSDALE Cathie Ryan, formerly with the much-beloved all-female Irish ensemble Cherish the Ladies, has stepped out on her own; her solo debut, The Music of What Happens (Shanachie), shows off her voice in an uncluttered setting of traditionals, originals, and songs learned from other Irish singers in the course of her long career. At times Ryan's evocations of oak groves, cairns, and dead lovers mix dangerously with her coffee-table feminist philosophy and overly delicate guitar backing, approaching neopagan adult-contemporary goo--but the veteran Ryan is also a bodhran player, and she knows how to pick up the pace in a pinch.
GIL SCOTT-HERON & AMNESIA EXPRESS 10/11, METRO As his most famous catch phrase--"The revolution will not be televised"--has accumulated layers of irony and sinister resonance, as the muso-literary genre he helped create has gone through almost two decades of development, decadence, and resurgence, and as the label he helped establish, Arista, has sought out third-
generation successors like Goodie Mob and Brand Nubian, Gil Scott-Heron himself has sort of gotten lost in the crowd. His first three albums have just been reissued; his latest, 1994's Spirits (TVT), was his first recording of new material in 12 years and finds him treading familiar--if worthy--ground, mixing love stories and jazz homages with biting commentary on politics and race. In his not-infrequent live shows these days he's reported to be charismatic and even jocular, investing new and old work alike with fire and charm--but the word "revolutionary" rarely rears its head.
LEE ROCKER 10/15, DOUBLE DOOR While his old Stray Cats band mate Brian Setzer continues to plumb pop history in pursuit of the 90s answer to that brief 80s poodle-skirt revival, bassist Lee Rocker stays true to the means by which he first accidentally struck gold: rockabilly. But despite a few good ideas--the 'billified cover of Blondie's "One Way or Another" in particular--Rocker doesn't have Setzer's vocal flair, and his recent No Cats (Upright) sounds like it was recorded in a glass box--thin, flat, and utterly devoid of that high-school-gym authenticity. --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Quintron & Miss Pussycat uncredited photo.