Tanya Donelly Tanya Donelly
Lovesongs for Underdogs
(Reprise)


It's about time Tanya Donelly stepped out from behind the cloistering wall of band names. From her days as a sidewoman in Throwing Muses and The Breeders through a pair of albums with her own Belly, Donelly's offbeat style has always shone through the veil of band names. And with each new band she played in, that style grew more focussed. So it's no suprise that Lovesongs For Underdogs sounds like a perfect followup to Belly's last, King. The waifish but powerful vocals are trademark, the warmly anthemic, bashfully chiming guitars also easily familiar and the songs — as always, catchy and elliptical. Gone are most of the players who backed her up in Belly and other past projects (Throwing Muses drummer David Narcizo lends a hand), but the sound remains the same. In addition to Narcizo, Donelly is backed by other fellow Boston music scene veterans from Pixies, Letters to Cleo, Zulus and her own husband, former Juliana Hatfield Three bassist Dean Fisher.

As the title suggests, atop a mix of galloping drums and occasionally contemplative guitars Donelly tackles the vagaries of love on this album. But not in the way most artists approach it. Don't look for ooh baby's in Donelly's overflowing imagery. Hers is an onion of verse that even well-peeled sometimes fails to yield an easily described kernel of meaning (remember trying to decipher Belly's hit "Feed The Tree"?)

But occasionally, she can be direct. In "The Bright Light" she lays love out cold with a very practical approach: "I've sunk it all into this venture/I expect returns." And the chorus of "Lantern," while not exactly common love parlance, is certainly comprehensible to the uninitiated: "be my lantern," she begs in the chorus. The rockin' opening track "Pretty Deep" (complete with a falsetto aided chorus) finds Donelly wistfully wishing and threatening a lover at the same time as she sings:

"I sink pretty deep
I wish I carried a camera
I'd have proof that you're never where you say
I wish I could fly up in a helicopter
I'd shine a blinding light on your escape"

With "Goat Girl" Donelly touches on the insecurities everyone feels in relationships. With a country twang in her guitar she sings, "I ended up with a man who wanted a gazelle/but I am a goat girl and I do my brutish best."

In "Mysteries of the Unexplained," she offers a melancholy waltz in the pattern of King's "Silverfish" and "Judas" as she calls foul on the entertainment business ("all of your heroes are whores"). Despite it being a "tinkertoy world," she admits that the unexpected miracle sometimes happens:

"'cause sometimes it rains fish from the sky
and the statues all start to cry
and someone writes another beautiful song."

Ironically, this is one of Donelly's own most beautiful songs. An even more magical moment, however, comes towards the album's end. It's one of Donelly's more obscure lyrical outings, but her vocals are pure - tightly drawn in familiar, yet indescribable emotion. "Manna" opens with a slowly strumming acoustic guitar that graduates to a marshall drum chorus that begs tears as she offers a stirringly harmonized adult nursery rhyme:

"And so to bed to bed, my soul to share
an island of the brave
my soul to save
in hopes that god's awake
my soul to take."

Eventually, she pledges a firm, if unexplained commitment: "I am staying put/ for reasons my heart knows."

This is Donelly's strongest work yet, and hopefully, her heart will continue to spin us more reasons to listen for a long time to come.

 

Texas Chainsaw Orchestra
Texas Chainsaw Orchestra
Texas Chainsaw Orchestra
(Rhino)


Ah, there's nothing like the sound of chainsaws performing the Whitney Houston vehicle "I Will Always Love You."

No really.

There's nothing like it.

Likewise, there's nothing like the sound of chainsaws and other mechanical implements careening through the classical runs of "Sabre Dance" or the rock classics "American Woman" and "Chain Gang." Not to mention Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know." And what record collection would be complete without a hardware store band's rendition of The Beatles' "Birthday?"

Actually, these instrumental performances using instruments that "can be purchased at any well-stocked hardware store" are a bit less obnoxiously loud than you might think. It's probably a measure of how warped your sense of humor is on how much you'll enjoy this odd little six-song novelty CD.

Miscellaneous

Music From The Big Screen: The soundtrack to David Duchovny's new movie Playing God opens with an electronic "Mission Impossible" style theme called "Spybreak" from The Propellerheads that could prove a solid dancehall hit. Frente's Angie Hart lends her waifish vocals to The Angel's unexceptional moody electronic jazz hybrid "Anything" and Family of God turn the same electronic turn on "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" that Kon Kan did a few years back. Much of the rest of the soundtrack is made up of ambient techno grooves, along with a Willie Dixon blues cut, a bossa nova sax-augmented instrumental from Joey Altruda & The Cocktail Crew and a rap track from Ganjah K...The soundtrack to U Turn includes oldies from Johnny Cash, Peggy Lee, Patsy Cline, Ricky Nelson and more, as well as a good slice of the orchestral soundtrack from Ennio Morricone...MGM and Rykodisc have teamed up to release a series of old movie soundtracks. The MGM Sneak Preview Compilation features a collection of songs from those albums, including tracks taken from the movies The Magnificent Seven, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Octopussy, Carrie, and more.

Compilations: LV Records and Epic have compiled One Night With You - The Best of Love Vol. 2 from Luther Vandross. Included are Vandross' duets with Janet Jackson ("The Best Things In Life Are Free") and Mariah Carey "Endless Love" as well as tracks like "My Favorite Things," "One Night With You (Everyday of Your Life)" "When You Call On Me/Baby That's When I Come Runnin'" and more...The Right Stuff label offers a life hits package from Nils Lofgren. Code of the Road: Greatest Hits Live begs the question: when did Lofgren - a respected but not exactly chart-friendly artist - ever have a hit? The answer is never, but this set does include 17 of his fans' favorites, from "Secrets in the Streets" to "I Came To Dance." It doesn't, however, include liner notes about this recording or Lofgren's career, which seems a glaring omission.