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Page 4 DTH Omnibus
Thursday October 26, 1989
College Music Journal
1. Red Hot Chili Peppers
2. Camper Van Beethoven
Key Ume Pie
3. Hoodoo Gurus
Magnum Cum Louder
Peace and Love
5. Big Audio Dynamite
7. Stone Roses
9. Various Artists
10. The Cure
1. My Dad is Dead
The Taller You Are ...
2. Bad Brains
3. Snatches of Pink
4. Meat Puppets
5. Neil Young
6. Camper Van Beethoven
Key Ume Pie
Louder Than Love
8. Beat Happening
9. Lenny Kravitz
Let Love Rule
10. Gavin Friday
Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves
Joel frustrates with clashing styles
After listening to Billy Joel's new
album release, Storm Front,
many people will wonder:
"What happened to the 'Innocent
Man'?" or better yet "What
happened to the Piano Man?"
Storm Front is a 10-song collec
tion that indicates Joel is in some
kind of void obviously stuck be
tween the toils of being a family man
and a musician. His previous studio
album release (before the USSR stuff),
The Bridge was supposed to be the
lifestyle-crosser, but obviously Joel's
effort didn't succeed because he's still
lost and struggling.
Like The Bridge, this album em
phasizes guitar work, but unlike the
smooth strokes exemplified in songs
such as "This Is The Time," there's a
roughness that gives an image of the
Joel on the Glass Houses cover get
ting ready to heave a rock into a
glass building. Only now he's destroy
ing the craftwork that made him
famous; there are no soft melodies,
no classic Joel vocal harmonies and
definitely no piano man.
Although music critics probably
should not expect the piano man on
every album, they should expect good
music. Front is frustrating; just when
the music seems like it's going to
form something great, it comes off as
only so-so. There lies the main
problem: Front is a disappointingly
decent album by a great musician.
Part of the problem is that Joel
There are no soft
classic Joel vocal
switched from the usual co-production
care of Phil Ramone to Mick
Jones, guitarist of Foreigner. Jones
also plays and sings vocals, all of which
results in a clash of styles. The lead
track, "That's Not Her Style," is as
suredly not Joel's style and is a per
fect example of Jones' over-production.
"When In Rome" is another
example of harsh music; it sounds
like it could have joined "Modern
Woman" on the Ruthless People sound
track. Joel also gets the "help" of Rich
ard Marx's vocals on the album. Lis
teners have to ask why. Surprisingly,
the student influences the master's
work. The title track and a few other
songs sound as if Joel had been lis
tening to Repeat Offender for three
But something good can almost
always be found in the worst of situ
ations and luckily the same applies
to Front. "Shameless" is a bluesy
masterpiece in which Joel's harpsi
chord performance is the main high
light. Although it probably could have
been sung better by Don Henley, Joel
does a wonderful job using his Ray
Charles-influenced vocals to bring
out feeling in the music: "You know
it should be so easy for a man who's
strong To say he's sorry or admit
when he's wrong I've never lost
anything I ever missed But I've never
been in love like this."
"I Go To Extremes" is also closer
to vintage Joel, with the piano fi
nally standing out in the music. The
album's up-tempo tunes are delights
that give relief from the dreary mood
set in songs like "Leningrad" and
"State Of Grace." These few good
points only tease the listener and
create hopes for more to come.
Even the album's first single re
lease, "We Didn't Start The Fire,"
which Joel lists figures and events of
the last 40 years from Eisenhower
and James Dean to homeless vets and
PFCT """"J w
AIDS, has a "Pressure'Mike sound
that is only a weak facsimile of his
The best song, "And So It Goes,"
soars with Joel's vocals and keyboard
work as the only sounds on the track.
The song comes in a plain, brown
wrapper which simply outclasses the
rest of the dead, overdone weight on
the album. Unfortunately for Joel,
one great song can't make this de
cent album good.
Joel would have definitely fared
better with more "New York State
Of Mind" style and less Christie Brin
kley glamour. Storm Front leaves the
listener wishing Joel had followed the
basic writing rule of William Zinsser:
"Simplicity is always in good taste."
twists jangly pop
Through the Canyon
The Textones' Through the Canyon is yet
another superb compilation by Rhino Records.
This album documents the years 1980-86,
marking different stages of the Textones' de
velopment through alternate takes and previ
ously unreleased tunes.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Carta Olson was
the main creative force in the now-defunct
Textones. She started the band with guitarist
Kathy Valentine in Los Angeles in 1978. Af
ter seven years of playing clubs with an ever
changing lineup, Valentine joined the Go-Go's.
Olson released only two Textones albums, the
critically acclaimed Midnight Mission and Ce
dar Creek. In 1986, Olson officially went solo.
The songs on Through the Canyon, marking
different stages in the band's development, are
mostly jangly pop. Olson has great taste in
cover material, with catchy renditions of the
Searchers' "Silver," the Motors' "Dancing the
Night Away," and Bobby Darin's "Keep A
Olson's own songs are intelligent and tune
ful. The title cut finds a striking love meta
phor. The driving "What Do You Want With
Me?" finds Olson complaining "It's deja vu
againThis is getting old." "Number One is to
Survive" first appeared on Midnight Mission,
but this alternate version features George Callins
on slide guitar instead of Ry Cooder.
Kathy Valentine handles the vocals on her
own "Can't Stop the World," a song later cov
ered by the Go-Go's, though never before on a
Textones album. Phil Seymour (an ex-member
of the Dwight Twilley Band) sings lead on
two cuts, the straight rocker "Just a Matter of
Time" and the slower "Stay With Me."
Every tune sounds familiar, firmly rooted in
the basic college radio sound. But Carla Olson
always manages to find some new lyrical or
musical twist, avoiding the too-frequent cli
ches in much of college radio music. With the
aid of the liner notes (since the songs are not
arranged chronologically), the dramatic stylis
tic progress of the band becomes apparent.
From the Plimsouls-rock of "Reason to
Leave," to the country twang of "Drifter," to
the early Blondie-ish "Through the Canyon,"
Olson constantly calls up, re-invents, and spits
out a variety of rock approaches. The only
common links between the cuts are Carla
Olson's voice and 12-string guitar.
Through the Canyon is solid, a rare accom
plishment for a compilation. This retrospec
tive captures the essence of the Textones
melodic, Byrdsy rock in a variety of styles.
Perhaps now the mass audience long denied
access to them will finally catch up.
INXS singer fades
After the 16-month Kick world tour, INXS
lead singer Michael Hutchence decided that a
side project was in order. So he gathered up
several of Australia's most talented musicians
and formed the band Max Q. The name refers
to the fictional character, a composite of the
band's members, depicted on the album cover.
The resulting album is certainly destined for
cut-out bins everywhere.
The project looks promising on paper. Hutch
ence, as the teenage heart throb of INXS, has
been guaranteed platinum lately. Ollie Olsen,
Hutchence's friend, is a songwriter and pro
ducer of such Aussie acts as Hugo Kiang and
Whirlywirld. Augmenting this nucleus is an
assortment of diverse members, including vio
linist Phillip Hard, John Murphy on the Ti
betan thigh bone trumpet and guitarists Arnie
Hanna and Michael Sheridan.
Hutchence and Olsen fail because they al
low trite synthesizer patterns to dominate al
most every song. The album is competent, but
like all calculated bands (such as Bad English),
Max Q is ultimately dull. Almost everything is
Some songs do manage to shine through,
though. Perhaps the album's best groove is the
short instrumental "Zero-2-0." The song has a
frantic drum beat and jagged guitar. "Tight" is
the most solid cut, with clever background
vocals, biting guitar and an exciting beat. It is
the one track that can sustain excitement.
"Ghost of the Year" makes good use of the
interplay of acoustic guitar and synthesizers.
Lyrics are Olsen's (the chief songwriter)
strength. On "Way of the World," the first
single, Hutchence sings "Whether it's God or
the bombIt's only fear under another name."
Most of the album's lyrics are similarly intrigu
ing. The music and arrangements, however,
are another story.
Max Q has several cuts that probably sound
fine on a dance floor but are easily forgotten.
The album lacks the spark of INXS records
and most of Ollie Olsen's projects. Songs such
as "Everything," "Ot-Ven-Rot" and "Monday
Night by Satellite" are generic. The only truly
interesting part of this cassette came when my
tape deck tried to eat it. Saving it was not
really worth the effort. Brian Springer
What the Ratings Mean
CO -just O.K.
OOOO quite good
OO OOO excellent