Towa Tei
Sound Museum
(Elektra)
½


A melange of soulful techno funk, futuristic cyber sounds, rap and jazzy electronic dance fare, former Deee-Lite member and Japanese DJ Towa Tei's second solo CD is mildly interesting in its diversity and revolving team of vocalists, but mostly forgettable in its actual melodies.

There are some interesting vocal effects and samples strewn throughout the disc, and some selections that, with their sterile Kraftwerk-ian staccato synthesizer lines sound like computer music.

There is also a near-musack smooth cover of Hall & Oates' "Private Eyes" that is of mild curiousity — it sounds like a female fronted performance recorded by a Japanese jazz band in a Holiday Inn lobby. But the only real catchy moment comes in the album's single, the oddball "GBI (German Bold Italic)." Featuring Kylie Minogue and the same sample that opened Deee-Lite's "Groove Is In The Heart," this is probably the only song ever written about a font! Kylie sing-speaks in a seductive tone of the typeface's attributes: "My name is German Bold Italic/I am a typeface which you have never heard before/which you have never seen before/I can compliment you well, especially in red...you will like my sense of style."

The CD even includes the font for installation on your computer and offers a screen saver for both Macs and IBMs (it wouldn't load properly on my Power Mac). The screensaver is a visual disappointment and monstrous waste of space — the over 20 megabyte file only yields (at least on the IBM I loaded it on) some scrolling text promoting the record company, album song lyrics and a too-brief glimpse of Japanese anime cubes. You would have thought the programmers could have compacted this weak display into a 20th of the file size. I deleted the screensaver and filed the album away quickly.

 

Feeder
Polythene
(Elektra)


Polythene opens with the kind of instantly grooving modern guitar phrasing that made That Petrol Emotion an alternative rock force in the late '80s. But they quickly slide into a guitar overdrive that shows they've been listening — a lot — to Smashing Pumpkins. Every song here is driven along by a strong rhythm grind and guitar and vocal wails that rock hard, but not too hard. The drum bashing and guitar crunches of the single "Cement" are mod headbanging fare perfectly suited for the likes of Q101-FM and Chicago's Metro.

But it's not all bash and crash. "High" starts out with a solemn, mildly funky acoustic guitar strum before launching into a power chorus with whispery Pumpkins-like background vocals about going out with friends. It's one of the album's strongest tracks, mixing melancholy and melody in a modern rock blender. Look for Feeder to make some strong radio dents in 1998 — this is an album hungry for airplay.

 

Foam
Big Windshield
(Epic)
½


Mixing the desert guitars of Sand Rubies with the power of Live and the occasional pop rock touch of Gin Blossoms, Foam crafts a head-nodding rock feast on its powerful debut.

Produced by Michael Beinhorn, who has worked with Social Distortion and Soundgarden, the band centers around the perfect rock voice and crunching, stomping songs of Jason Teach, who claims both James Taylor and Nirvana as influences.

It's the Live comparisons that probably show through these songs the most, however, with the falsetto-power ballad "Venus" and eerie strings, phased guitar and dark lyrical poetry of "Hands of You" ("if I give you love/would you still take your life?") showing the influence of that band, whose guitarist produced Foam's early demos. This is a strong, affecting, rocking debut that goes deeper than a riff and a yell.

Listen for more from these guys.

 

Fluorescein
High Contrast Comedown
(DGC)


Fluorescein starts out on the right track with the layered guitars and harmonies of the odd-but-hooky "Slaughterhouse With A Bed." Unfortunately, no other track on the disc, including its first single, the guitar and drum grind "Cathy's On Crank!" live up to the full-tilt promise of that first track. Fluorescein rock with promising distortion groove throughout the disc, but need some defter songwriting to stand above the crunch-rock crowd. While they strive to be "quirky" and catchy at the same time (much like the band Self), most of their material disappears into the floorboards with a background pound and an innocuous amplifier buzz.

Maybe next time.