Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Carletta Sue Kay, Fresh & Onlys, Die!

* * * *
There’s something inherently goofy about Carletta Sue Kay.  Randy Walker, whose band shares a name with his female persona, sings songs about liking her lover’s sloppy kisses more than the Moldy Peaches or competing with a Joy Division record for a man’s heart, often while wearing a dress and a wig but no makeup and all hair intact.  But on Carletta Sue Kay’s debut, Incongruent, the silliness only adds flavor to the genuine passion that drives this record.  Walker’s gender-bending voice packs the power of a genuine soul diva, no matter what vocal personality he takes on--an arena-rock howl on “Joy Division,” a witchy Macy Gray rasp on “Bonnie Parker or Eleanor Roosevelt,” a sing-song trill on “Sloppy Kisses.”  Yet while Walker’s voice is a central part of what makes this record so engaging, the lyrics are also excellent, merging sharp witticisms with theatrical melodrama and raw soul emotion.
“Yes Or No”
* * 1/2
It’s been over a year since the last Fresh & Onlys release, 2011’s Secret Walls EP, which is a remarkably long hiatus for these dudes.  So here’s the first single from the Fresh & Onlys’ upcoming Long Slow Dance (L.S.D.), which nicely distills the Fresh & Onlys’ sound into a clean, attractive single.  The problem is it may be a bit too clean--not in the studio-shine sense but in the middle-of-the-road sense.  The best work by the Fresh & Onlys succeeds through adding a little extra spice to basic garage-rock structure, whether that spice be a mean hook, a nice coating of grime, or a heartfelt vocal delivery by Tim Cohen.  But “Yes or No” is mostly skeleton, and the meat on its bones is bland and sparse.  If L.S.D. is like this for its entire duration, it could be a pleasant, decent Fresh & Onlys record, but not one that sees the band capitalizing on their potential to evolve and expand their sound.
Du Willst Action
Du Willst Action, the debut release by George Rosenthal-produced duo Die!, features a number of covers of ‘70s and ‘80s record-store-clerk classics, including T. Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer” (here reworked as “Cosmic Drinker”) and David Bowie’s “Modern Love.”  Out of context, they sound like harmless novelties, but on this relentlessly and deliberately banal party album, these songs sound almost like cries for Die! to be somehow taken seriously, either in terms of their knowledge of revered classic pop or their merit as musicians.  Given that this is a band whose sole purpose seems to be to make music you can listen to while butt-chugging, it hardly behooves them.  Furthermore, the album’s novelty might be more successful if there was anything on this album a million bands couldn’t do better.  If you’re looking for a good, raw rock n’ roll record, it’s more advisable to check out any of the millions of garage bands the Bay Area has to offer.  And if you’re just looking for party music, you might as well just go with LMFAO--they’re a lot more fun to spend half an hour with than these guys.

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