The American Girls demonstrate how one element can change the entire dynamic of music. For AG, that element is a trumpet, added into standard rock instrumentation. Without the trumpet, AG sound like fairly standard alt-rock. But as soon as the horn comes in, they suddenly veer into Burt Bacharach territory. In some places, this creates some very interesting musical contrasts; other parts of LIKE THE MOVIES… only sound schizophrenic. Actually, the trumpet is very well integrated into the AG sound, so well that at times the distorted guitar solos sound out of place. But for much of this CD the elements do blend rather than clash, creating a unique new synthesis of crafted pop and wild rock. The American Girls are definitely exploring, and creating, new musical territory.
The American Girls are aided in this quest by strong songwriting. They have obviously studied the structures of mid-60s pop, and recreate the style quite well. Like The Movies… abounds in catchy, bouncy melodies and hooks. Many of these songs will stick with you. If you, like myself, enjoy musicians who try to do something new with the same old forms, you will enjoy LIKE THE MOVIES, ONLY SLOWER.
G. Murray Thomas
30th Anniversay Collection, 2-CDs
One of the great things about having a memory is using it. The latest in a series of celebratory collections from Dr. Demento (the alter ego of musicologist Barry Hansen) serves as a reminder of this fact for me. I grew up listening to K-Tel Funky Favorites and Wacky Classics my parents had brought home from some car wash near whatever Shakey”s Pizza Parlor they were picking up dinner at. I first stumbled across the good Doctor”s radio show back in the 70’s, and recognized immediately a kinship between his own mindset and that of my household — a position best summarized by Reader’s Digest: laughter is the best medicine.
This collection marks the third such two-disc extravaganza which Dr. Demento has offered. These compilations have all proven much more interesting and satisfying than the several single-disc forays which Rhino and the Doctor have released together. This collection, like both the 20th and 25th Anniversary Collections before it, approximates the carefully controlled mayhem of the weekly syndicated radio show which it celebrates. There is a strange focus which organizes the songs in the show, and likewise this widespread conglomeration of tunes and comedic routines. Songs spanning nearly 50 years of recording weave together well and make listening to this collection from start to finish a very enjoyable experience.
The 42 songs and routines include some previously unreleased gems, as well as familiar classics and hard to find fare. National Lampoon”s “Deteriorata”, which manages to poke fun at late sixties hippie philosophy and utilize Melissa Manchester on background vocals, rests alongside The Coaster”s 50″s hit “Charlie Brown”. Leonard Nimoy sings about his favorite Hobbit in “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”, followed by the hard rock stylings of Ozzy Fudd on the previously unreleased “Kill The Wabbit”. Bowser & Blue poke fun at Bob Dylan with the double-entendre-laden “Polka Dot Undies”, and then Brian Hyland offers up the 1960 beach classic “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini”. Chuck Berry, “Weird Al” Yankovic and Mad Magazine”s Alfred E. Neuman all contribute material as well. And that”s just the first disc.
The second disc features the philosophical ranting of The Frantics on “You Were Speeding”, and the refrigeratorial musings of George Carlin on the Dr. Demento staple “Ice Box Man”. The Toyes chime in with perennial reggae chuckler “Smoke Two Joints,” and Travesty, Ltd. explains what a “Rock and Roll Doctor” does. Monty Python, Billy Crystal, Loudon Wainwright III and C.W. McCall all join in. And while the first disc is a bit stronger than the second, overall the collection boasts an amazing variety of truly funny material. Dr. Demento has, through changing climates, managed to stay on the radio for 30 years; as he celebrates another milestone, here”s hoping he”s on for at least 5 more years so we can look forward to the 35th Anniversary Collection.