Yankee Pot Roast?


Michael Fowler

This week’s column reviews new CDs by the bands Acid Raindrops, Figgy Pudding, Nitrous Oxide and Operation Freedom.

The Acid Raindrops are back after last year’s Good Humor Got Killed announced a strong new presence in music. Just released is Learn a Foreign Language While Masturbating, and it’ll put a pompadour on your palms. The lineup is the same, and if you haven’t heard them before, think Gerald Levert backed by Jimi Hendrix’s guitar with the sax of Charlie Parker thrown in, add the attitude of early Public Enemy and the sartorial sense of Flavor Flav, and you’ve got the general scheme. The tune “What Is My Name Again?” sounds like Stevie Wonder ear candy from the 1980s, while the blow-your-mind keyboard revisits vintage 60s Sly Stone. Meanwhile James Brown strikes again in the not-too-moldy techno-funk of “Did You Say Turn Left Here?” This music will have you putting on your tie-dyed robe, porkpie hat and silk leisure suit and giving a power salute while combing out your natural.

I was pleased to catch Figgy Pudding live at Sudsy’s in downtown Dayton, Ohio, last Saturday for their CD release party, and was impressed by their passion and energy. None of it is lost on the CD, aptly titled We All Want Some. Lead singer Trent Went comes on like an Elton John with a sense of restraint, and Sub Racket has the vibe of Aerosmith’s Joe Perry—or would if he tuned his instrument (and if his instrument were guitar instead of mandolin). Add the Ventures’ Nokie Edwards’s bass as played by Sod Sugarman to the mix and you have a good idea of the overall vibe. It’s like Van Halen with Brian Wilson up front, tight and unified with a loosey-goosey feel. Uh huh, the way I like it.

Nitrous Oxide has just released A Fool That’s Ill, a 12-song package of originals. With the death last year if its singer and charismatic leader, Larry ‘Cheeky Boy’ Stitts, you’d think Nitrous’s sound and sense of self would have deteriorated drastically. It hasn’t happened, we don’t think. New frontman Steve Wreck’s Steve Cropper-like guitar licks combine well with returning keyboardist Neil Puck’s Glen Gould-like comps, and the addition of Rick Petty’s oud gives the sound an Enya/Celtic flow. A bash worth attending for all you head-banging leprechauns.

The three explosive Afghani ladies who go by the name of Operation Freedom are back with their sophomore release, a collection of Muslim anthem-rockers entitled The New Now. On songs like “Where Have All the Taliban Gone?,” “We Love You, Mullah,” and “Osama, Can You Here Me?,” these gals really shake their burkas. Lead vocalist Badra Salah has the uvular chops of show-stopper Ethel Merman, and harmonizers Nouf Fadul and Minoo Shikaki, with their amplified synchronized breathing, recall mating songs of the Inuit Indians by way of Phil Spector via Lawrence of Arabia. And the ladies don’t only sing; Fadul’s guitar jangles like that of Byrds-era Roger McGuinn with a touch of distortion la Blood Ulmer, while Shikaki’s flute suggests Coltrane’s Expression filtered through Ramadan, and Salah’s zither-in-the-clouds brings home the chickpeas. At times it’s reminiscent of French impressionist music, at others it projects the dancing chromaticism of Ellington or even middle-period Eno. If you listen in the right frame of mind, the music suggests the current economic situation in Brazil. You can almost taste the couscous.

Return to these pages next week so we can tell you why The Tortureds’ new CD, Poo Pants on Betty, reminds us of a Bruchner symphony, the early surf sounds of The Mermen, and a riverboat steam calliope, all served up with a dash of Cole Porter. And much, much more! Later.