The Bomboras 
Head Shrinkin' Fun
   ½

The Ghastly Ones
A-Haunting We Will Go-Go
(DGC/Zombie A Go-Go)
    ½


The debut releases on White Zombie leader Rob Zombie's new Zombie A Go-Go label (how many times can you fit zombie into a sentence?) are fairly similar — and a lot of fun. Packaged to look like promo ads for 1950s-60s B-movie horror flicks, both bands specialize in the music often associated with those cinematic excurisions — instrumental surf music. Song titles range from "Mystery Planet" and Adventures Through Inner Space" to "Ghastly Stomp" and "Surfin' Spooks." Both albums also are introduced with "creature feature" style voiceovers. A Phantom of the Opera organ rotates in the background of the Ghastly One's opening as a low voice proclaims: "The Ghastly Ones invite you to be horrified to the point of sheer panic as they transport you to the darkest depths of the bone-chilling night."

Well, there's actually nothing to make you afraid on either disc. Rather, you will quickly find yourself pounding out a beat on the table top and thinking of "Wipeout" or "Tequila" as you listen to these upbeat whammy bar guitar jams. This is music  that never got to guest star on "The Munsters."
The Bomboras have the slightly larger surf sound, as with a five-piece they include organ throughout, and occasionally even vocals. The Ghastly Ones are a three-piece, so they stick to the classic bass-drums-guitar format (and the occasional werewolf howl in the background).
If you're a fan of surf music (and the B-grade horror flicks that often featured it) you should check both of these discs out.

 

Pure Sugar
Pure Sugar
(Geffen)
  ½


Miss disco?
So does singer Jennifer Starr and producers Pete Lorimer and Richard "Humpty" Vission. Shock blonde Starr favors the color pink and sexy dance grind teases like the chorus of Pure Sugar's first track, "Delicious" : "Everybody's wonderful, everybody's beautiful/but you're delicious."
A couple years ago, as Sugar, the trio scored a dance hit with "The Feeling.' That song turns up on their new project Pure Sugar as "The Feelin' '98." Since the original creation of "The Feeling,"  Lorimer and Vission have scored dance hits with Crystal Waters, Ace of Base and Taylor Dayne, among others. Starr finally exited the band she was with when she guested on "The Feeling" and now Pure Sugar is a full time project for the trio.

If you wish there were tracks to dance to with the sonic attack of modern house/dance music and the beat and attitude and vocal strengths of 1978 disco a la Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," Andrea True Connection's "More, More, More (Pt. 1)" and Alicia Bridges' "I Love the Nightlife,"  this one's for you.

 

Esthero
Breath From Another
(Work)
  ½


Esthero is a Canadian chanteuse who works with a guy named Doc to create music that shares a lot in common artistically with groups like Swing Out Sister and Everything But the Girl. Like both of those bands, the duo writes gentle, flowing melodies that are often merged with jazzy and dancey backbeats to create a genre-hpping hybrid that, depending on the listener's mood, can serve as  both mellow background music and exciting, turn-it-up foreground listening.

Where this duo departs from those other adult contemporary acts is in their inclusion of triphop/hip hop  elements. The title track could have been a Swing Out Sister track except for the rap that turns up in the middle of it. But that's not their only musical melting pot graft. There are elements of bossa nova and Burt Bacharach hidding in here and vocal slides that might remind one of Sade. It's a promising debut that perhaps features mood over melody a touch too often.

 

The Spinanes
Arches and Aisles
(SubPop)
  


The Spinanes are led by Chicago singer-songwriter Rebecca Gates, who comes across as a dreamy voiced laidback Sheryl Crow type on many of these tracks. Her best moment is the opening song, "Kid In Candy" that pairs a breathy Cowboy Junkies type vocal with a Love Tractor-esque always-on-the-go bassline. Much of the album has a gentle, twangy acoustic and light electric guitar sound with warm, classic organ underpinnings. It all gets a little ponderous by the end, but it provides a nice easy background.

 

Ronna
Day 14
(River North)
   


Ronna turns up on the same small label that gave us an album from Kansas with the London Symphony a couple weeks back. There's a classic rock artist involved in this album as well, but he's behind the scenes this time: Chicago's Peter Cetera produced this album after hearing one of Ronna's four country records and then using her on his own solo album. Cetera heard in her country stylings a pop artist struggling to emerge from the constrictions of country and on this album, he helps her step out of the narrow confines of Nashville and into the genre-straddling freedom of pure pop. Day 14 consequently features twangy pop-rock songs about heartache and heartbreak.
 

Ronna has the type of voice that made Australia's Kylie Minogue and Olivia Newton-John so attractive to listeners — she's both alluring and sassy, yet soft and vulnerable. But she also has a solid modern flair; "Waiting For You" is a bouncy gem that could play easily alongside Natalie Imbruglia and Jewel.
 

You can tell this album was produced in Nashville; despite the fact that these are straight up easy going rock songs, there's a country rawness to some of the guitar lines, which helps break the usual studio sheen of a solo female pop singer-songwriter album. Instead, despite layers of gorgeous harmonies, Ronna turns up with an album that sounds warm; produced but still organic. On "So Romantic" she crafts the kind of track that launched Olivia to fame; this is a "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" or "Let Me Be There" for the '90s — sweet country-influenced pop. But much of this album wouldn't yell country at you at all if you didn't know better. The opener, "Heartshaped World" is a rich rockin' declaration of roadbound freedom:

"sure as angels fly
at the speed of life
gonna leave this wilderness for paradise
gonna fly so high
just like Supergirl
put the pieces of my life back together
in a heart shaped world."

The album's centerpiece is the dark guitar riff and airy synthesizer backed "13 Days of Daisy," about a woman who lives with the knowledge that her lover is cheating.
Apparently on Day 14, she cut a great little album...

 

Collections:



Rhino Records has just released two new discs in its continuing collections of '80s metal and power ballads, both of which include tracks from Blue Island's own Enuff Z'nuff. Heavy Metal Hits of the '80s Vol. 4 offers Enuff Z'nuff's "New Thing," as well as Warrant's "Down Boys," Danger Danger's "Naughty Naughty," Slaughter's "Up All Night," Stryper's "To Hell With The Devil" and songs from TNT, Tora Tora, Every Mother's Nightmare, Autograph and more. Love Bites: More Romantic Power Ballads includes Enuff Z'nuff's picture perfect power ballad "Goodbye" as well as Styx's breakthrough hit "Lady," Mr. Big's huge hit "To Be With You," Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," Meat Loaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," Pat Benatar's "Fire and Ice" and Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." There are also songs from Corey Hart, Starship, Toto, Firehouse,  Kingdom Come and more....

If you need "ballads" without the "power," check out Columbia's treacly new collection Modern Bride. It includes all the basics for a modern wedding — Mary MacGregor's "The Wedding Song (There Is Love)," Dan Fogelberg's "Longer," Peaches & Herb's "I Pledge My Love," Diana Ross & Lionel Richie's "Endless Love," and Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle's Aladdin's theme "A Whole New World. There are also those aisle walkers: "Bridal Chorus" from Lohengrin and "Wedding March from a Midsummer Night's Dream Op. 61." There are also songs from Loggins & Messina, Taylor Dayne and  Neil Diamond.