With Quiver, Canada's duo of Ken and Roberta Carter Harrison finally come into their own as purveyors of slinky, complex, and enervating groove music. Whereas in the past the band's more ethereal musical meanderings bordering on the ho-hum, this time out, the Harrisons offer a mix of keyboards, big beats, and droning guitar crunches that meshes seamlessly into a beautifully hypnotic mix. Quiver brings to mind the most entrancing work of artists like Bel Canto and Sarah McLachlan.
Roberta Carter Harrison delivers vocals in an offhanded, smoky way that sometimes begs comparisons to the Divinyls' Christina Amphlett. At the same time, she offers poppy background "de-do-do"s in "Minions" that bring to mind Paula Cole's "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone." And Ken Harrison's restless basslines call to mind Sarah McLachlan's earlier groove-oriented albums.
The first single, "Trampoline" is a sinuous declaration of personal independence that includes a ghostly background keyboard, a dangerous guitar grind and a bevy of other sound effects. In "Pretty Lip" the band pairs its sultry ambient side with a chorus that crashes into sonic angst as biting as any modern rock Meredith Brooks or Alanis Morrisette song. The hybrid sound supports the lonely lyric well, as the character sings about being overlooked for another: "she's got pretty little lips/she's got perfect skin/I wonder why I even try/to disappoint you."
And in "Mirror Mirror" the Harrisons play off the old fairy tale image of "mirror mirror on the wal" to delve into the painful moments, not of self-image, but of relationship disintegration. Lyrically, the Strawberries craft puzzle boxes of stories about self-deprecation, broken hearts and selling oneself out, alongside anthems of personal independence. But you don't need to understand the full import of the songs to appreciate their groove. From understated swaying rhythms to out-and-out electronic funk, Quiver moves through a host of body shaking styles, never sounding the same way twice and never leaving the listener flat. This is a magically deep collection of songs.
Last week I wrote about the return of Loverboy; this week another "classic" band hits the stores with a new (un?)anticipated album. Judas Priest offers a new high speed collection of shriek-heavy hard rock with a new lead singer in Jugulator, available from CMC Records. What the world needs now ... is not another Priest CD. Speaking of Burt Bacharach references, a new Various Artists collection is out on power pop label Big Deal Records. What the World Needs Now...Big Deal Recording Artists Perform the Songs of Burt Bacharach is a promising idea, but ultimately an unfulfilling collection of songs that Bacharach turned into hits for a variety of 1960s-1970s adult contemporary artists. (And strangely enough, the title song doesn't appear here!) Shonen Knife jangles their way through "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and The Absolute Zeros add some crunch to "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me." Splittsville tone down their usual punk pop attack at the treacly outset of "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" before launching some distortion into the mix. And the normally pop savvy Gladhands deliver an unusually weak performance on "Promise Her Anything," which sounds hastily recorded. Fans of these power pop bands might get a smile out of hearing their idols handle some 25-year old schmaltz, and Bacharach fans might get a kick out of hearing these oldies carted back across the stage. But these recordings probably won't win any new fans for either camp...Windham Hill Records, the premier label for instrumental New Age recordings, has released a collection of piano instrumentals by some of the best known songwriters of the past three decades called Songs Without Words. Included are soft, stirring piano ballads by Jim Brickman, Sephen Sondheim, Carole King, David Foster, Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Walter Afanasieff (Mariah Carey), Eric Bazilian (The Hooters, Joan Osbourne), Michael Kamen (Bryan Adams) and Diane Warren (Celine Dion, Cher). It's a relaxing collection perfect for breakfast or nightcap listening.