CORDELIA’S DAD “Jane”/”Promise”/“Closing Year”
Last year, in “Camile’s Not Afraid of the Barn,” these indie-rock-moonlighting Massachusetts folk festival standbys set mysterious words about beached sharks, pellet guns, Chinatown firecrackers, and the smell of dirtbikes to a riff from “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction. Their new three-inch CD EP leads, coincidentally, with a traditional upstate-NY ballad called “Jane”: a beautifully morose eight-minute Sandy Denny-style droner about the king’s horse-riding eldest son raping his youngest sister, who he’d last seen when she was a baby, in the merry green woods. The second song clangs through, then the third builds 19th-century words into a thick, feedback-quivering war march. (Full disclosure: Voice writer Douglas Wolk runs the label. And my daughter’s named Cordelia.)
A THOUSAND TIMES YES, Michigan
Two boys and a better-voiced girl, just like the other two bands here. The untrustworthy legend on their website says their name comes from a lost 1933 epic folk ballad recorded in “Rhythm, South Dakota,” which is also a song title. Other place-names: “Yes, Michigan” (their true home), “My Heart Was in Atlanta” (which says they’ve never been there), “Doom River” (their most comprehensible lyric, and not all that doomy), “Desert of Law Abiding Souls” (an X-like faux Tex-Mex hoedown). The CD begins and ends with their most lysergically droned Great Society harmonies; more often, their airway zooming and recurrent crescendos are 1987 Sonic Youth, but with a cappella parts, whistling, disco handclaps, surf twang, and melodies they fortunately never quite manage to subvert.
SULLEN, Paint the Moon
“Lower middle-class suburban white kids” getting frantic in “the outskirts of St. Louis, Misery,” Sullen sort of do for Hole what Local H did for Nirvana (i.e., keep it copacetic and know they’re so pathetic, which also might be what Nirvana and Hole did for 1987 Sonic Youth), at least in part by using Local H’s producer and banging guitars through bass amps. In the second-catchiest song, a pretty-in-pink ’80s mod-rock tune keeps slowing into trudging grrrl-sludge, then picking back up again. In the catchiest, a little boy and a little girl have a little kiss/fight/wine/band/pot, and they all fall down. Track four of promo CD (supposedly three songs shorter than the real version, but 10 is enough): “Girls are Gross.” Track nine: “Boys Are Worse.”
Village Voice, 7 October 2003