While radio programmers, music critics and music fans alike trample themselves in a rush to discover the "new Nirvana" or the "next Pearl Jam," they may have their directions mixed up.
Music magazines (as well as MTV) have swarmed all over the Seattle area in hopes of finding the next groundbreaking act, and major record labels have followed. Unfortunately, so far they've completely overlooked one of the Pacific West's best acts (Tad and the Treepeople), and both the magazines and radio stations have ignored both the East Coast and our northern neighboring country, Canada.The latter plays home to not only NoMeansNo and D.O.A but also to the Doughboys, a power-pop quartet (sometimes a trio) that's continuing the legacy of loud pop begun by the now-defunct Husker Du and the Replacements. Boston, on the other hand, is home to the Pixies, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dinosaur Jr. and others, including the Lemonheads and Buffalo Tom.
Here are comments on three of these bands the music media and the public might want to check out.
BUFFALO TOM; "Let Me Come Over" (Beggars Banquet-BMG Records). * * 1/2.
Long called a mere shadow of Boston's Dinosaur Jr. (and rightly so), this sometimes-promising trio has finally found a sound to call its own.
They've wisely enlisted veteran East Coast producers Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie to find the missing pieces. What they've discovered is that band leader Bill Janovitz actually doesn't sound so much like Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis and, in fact, has a decent voice more equipped for a pop sound.
At times, with the bright "Staples," "Frozen Lake" and "Darl," the band recalls Minneapolis' brilliant Soul Asylum in its loudness and performance excellence. At other times, such as the dull single "Taillights Fade," the band leans towards blandness. A word to the band: Don't overcompensate to shake the Dinosaur Jr. tag.
However, the band's third effort does bode well for its future.
THE DOUGHBOYS; "When Up Turns to Down" (Restless Records). * * *
Though the band's lineup had changed considerably from its early days in the "emo-core" scene (the pop-charged punk style popularized by All and Dag Nasty), one thing has remained the same: sometimes truly inspired pop/rock.
Again bidding a fond farewell to a founding member (this time, bassist John "Bondhead" Ascensio), the Doughboys rely on the strength of lead singer John Kastner's emotional roars.
Best on the minicassette are the title track, a crisp remix of "Deep End," from their "Happy Accidents" album, and the wacked-out cover of the B-52s' "Private Idaho," the latter played so loud you may not even recognize it.
Also, guitarist John Widdalee Cummings is turning into a good tunesmith in his own right and may someday adequately replace Brock Pytel, the band's founder.
THE LEMONHEADS; "It's a Shame About Ray" (Atlantic Records). * * * *
It's a cliche, but here is the world's most aptly titled band.
Like the Doughboys, the Lemonheads have seen quite a few lineup changes throughout their career but remain dedicated to sweet-and-sour songs about life and more.
Prime Lemonhead Evan Dando is the band's sole focus now, with the brief-but-biting numbers on this winner revolving around experiences Dando had during an Australian tour. While most of the numbers are more acoustic and folkier than before, Dando says he hasn't lost the bite or crunch to his pop, especially on "Alison's Starting to Happen," a real rouser, or "Rockin' Stroll," which opens the year's best album so far.
Helping out on bass is former Blake Babies singer Juliana Hatfield, who also lends the opening shrieks to "Bit Part," which exhumes that hoariest of all cliches, the comparison of life to cinema, but adds new life to it. That song could be the year's surprise hit if radio programmers would open their ears.