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Recent Faves from the WFMU Record Library
May 2003

Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

CARNIVAL IN COAL / Fear Not (Season of Mist)
SPARKS / Li'l Beethoven (Palm)
This French duo may very well be the black metal equivalent to Wham! Their last disc, French Cancan, was full of crushing metal alternating with slick, MOR-radio-vibed pop. I mean REAL pop. They did an extremely bizarre version of Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street", Michael Sembello's "Maniac" and quite faithful Pantera and Ozzy covers complete with turntable breaks, electronic bleeps, smooth voiceovers, and yes, wretched, violent trashing. It was an ultra-produced, much labored-over (and sounding quite expensive in proudction) affair, which made it even more puzzling. This time around, there are no "covers" per se (unless you count their sort-of homage to "Yes We Have No Bananas" (!), but CIC approach their craft with a derangement and perfection that needs to be heard to be believed (nevermind understood). This time, they flirt with Latin flares amidst tortured blasts, even "Ray of Light"-ish gloss on the techno-leaning "Gang Bang" (yeesh).

Like CIC, the glorious duo of Sparks also have a method to their madness that can only be transmitted in code to their most ardent fans, who are clearly speaking their language (for almost 3 decades now). Their latest, finally getting a US release, is brilliant, computer-assembled pop (you can almost see the layout screen and where overlays and flourishes start and stop), done in such an obvious and heavy-handed way, with simple concepts ("I Married Myself", "How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall") spelled out ad infinitum in surging, booming choruses amidst baroque-yet-synthetic music. Only Sparks can take an idea like a woman on the phone putting them on hold, and inflate it to a Wagnerian experience. The ode to the "Suburban Homeboy" is hilarious, as well. Carnival In Coal and Sparks seem to share the common bond of being able to perfectly meld grand musical influences into a preposterous, yet wonderful musical statement while avoiding the wink or say Zappa or They Might Be Giants; instead, steadfastly adhering to a true vision shared amongst its members, though it may indeed be bizarro. And uncategorizable.

LES GEORGES LENINGRAD / Deux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou (Les Georges Leningrad)
This quartet of French Canadians blew into town with Erase Errata last week and brought to life the wonderful dada squeak of Inflatable Boy Clams. Bizarrely costumed, two ladies and two gents whomped away at two note basslines over herky-jerky guitar, gargled samples, dancing madly and attacking each other through their short but totally fun set. At one point, one of the members played the organ with her stomach, flailing over the side of it with arms dangling in front, and languages heard included French, German, English, and what seemed like a totally made up tongue to boot. Rumors are flying: they toured with a Genesis cover band, and they're signing to Troubleman. Right now this lovely self-released LP/CD does just the trick for everyone who needs that special spot scratched.

SOUNDTRACK / City of God (Milan)
The awesome Fernando Meirelles film City of God traces the development of characters related to gangs of a Brazilian favela (slum) near Rio through the 1960's to 1980's, inspired by the true story of a boy who struggled to get out and become a news photographer (and the film apparently utilizes real gangster kids who were put through acting workshops). It's a hairy, violent ride, much like Goodfellas in the sense that it moves along through decades with great skill on the filmmaker/writer's end. One thing that ties together a lot of the film is the music, and on this soundtrack scored by Antonio Pinto and Ed Cortez, the American afro-funk flavor that trickled into Brazilian sounds of various eras is well recreated with punchy, raw, tunes and great instrumentation. Add in some other artists of the various periods represented in the film (Raul Seixas, Carlos Imperial to name a few) and you get a very cool, diverse and rounded sountrack with many flavors.

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