By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Track 10, "Red Carpet and Rebellion," has the lyric "colossally mistaken," which is a great lyric to have, though I don't know what it's about. Bloodshed, puritanic shit, ain't no money ain't no time, I'm out of my mind. St. Petersburg 1905Yeah yeah yeah, and after that a shock of pogroms and my great-grandparents and their children fleeing for their lives. (The Distillers' actual lyrics seem not to coalesce into anything colossal, or even understandable. "Oh Serena, I know what they're saying about you. It's not true." But what are they saying about her? That she's a ditz, a frivolous airhead? Whereas we know that she's really Sailor Moon, the girl who will protect humankind from the evil forces of the Negaverse? But the song says nothing of the sort. The song says, "night irreverential, the time, carneleby is a bit of you." I'm not making this up.) "Gypsy Rose Lee": A pretty song. Brody Armstrong is scratching at the cracks in her voice, like Patti Smith, like Joe Strummer. She's not as brilliant as Joe, but like him she finds beauty amidst the ruin of her vocal cords. The joy of anguish.
Leatherface's Horsebox is yet another roar of beauty. Or beauty of roar, except it's a barely implied beauty of a would-be roar. I'm not sure how much I like it, but I keep listening out of curious fascination. The singing (by Frankie Stubbs) has scratch and ruin all right, but when you dig into it for a voice you get nothing. It's like listening to someone with laryngitis. Yet somehow it lifts itselflifts its nothinginto melody, into a kind of sketchy transcendence. Two or three of the songs, anyway, could rank with "Suspect Device" and "Alternative Ulster," by Stiff Little Fingers. Which is pretty damn good, though with phlegm in place of the Stiffies' little screech. So I do like this album. "This is the spilt milk stench of wretch, an average cold walk home, avoiding sunspots, soundbites like snowstorms." That's telling 'em.
The Self-Starter Foundation, PO Box 422, New York, NY 10276; BYO Records, byorecords.com.