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Picks by Sullivan Bianco (SB).

100 Watt Smile

100 Watt Smile
and reason flew
Thirsty Ear

Alright, so it's indies worth their whiskers ape the Velvets. 100 Watt Smile are wilier, twistier to succumb, though the violated-violin shrieking against its own distortion wall is inescapably indebted to John Cale's work on The Velvet Underground and Nico. This new record pits the violinist/lead singer-songwriter against a very thunky drum sound (read: prefessional) and a fairly decent jangle-guitar-web. 100 Watt Smile stir the sort of indie pop that abounds in thorny simile, and they are (likeably) like a lot of bands, particularly the Throwing Muses. (SB)

Medeski, Martin and Wood

Medeski, Martin and Wood
Last Chance to Dance Trance (perhaps): Best Of (1991-1996)

Is it fair to call MMW a supergroup? They've lasted longer than most specialty projects like Blind Faith or Cream, and they beat these giantist fatuosi musicians by having taste and knowing when not to play the history of one's instrument for a solo. Medeski, Martin and Wood are a jazz rhythm section--piano, bass and drums--that showcases a wit that has been missing from instrumental players (though not from groups like, say, NRBQ). Last Chance is a top-notch introduction to them and a studio growth chart, with literally thousands of examples of melodic invention spread wide throughout. (SB)

Lee Hazlewood

Lee Hazlewood
Requiem For An Almost Lady
Smells Like Records

Long out of print stateside, Requiem is far more than an album-length "To All The Girls I've Loved Before". The songs stay on an intimate I-you level, never naming his female heartbreakers, never merely cataloguing them or his experiences into an essentialized package or set of resolves. Hazlewood marshalls his emotions in a higher singing register (countering his velvet-coal treatment that's about an octave lower than Johnny Cash). "If it's Monday Morning" has a full-bodied sense of displacement that makes a case for Hazlewood as a surrealist on par with Roy Orbison and the latter's dream-paranoia-death scenarios. This album--reissued by Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and his Smells Like Records label--restores a sensualized folk album by one of America's most bewildering loons. (SB)

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From the January 3, 2000 issue of the Metropolitan.

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