(Five Foot Two)
Former that dog ingenue has bones to pick.
Had the sprawling, incendiary feature that this CD review was supposed to have been had actually come to fruition, the first thing I would've asked Ms. Waronker is, "So, the cover of your record's a joke, right?" I mean, we all knew Anna was a cutie from her days fronting the quirky (in a good way, not a Barenaked Ladies way), strings-bolstered Los Angeles alt-rock quartet, that dog. But what's with the black-and-white, Janet Jackson, imagine-yonder-boobies approach? Gotta be ironic, no? I'd assume as much, because Anna isn't another grotesque, adult-alternative makeover from a once hard-rocking independent woman, ࠬa Nina Gordon's heartbreaking atrocity Tonight and the Rest of My Life. Although her solo constructions miss the infectious, angelic harmonizing of that dog's Haden sisters, Waronker's plainspoken spunk and sharp pop sensibility persist. "I Wish You Well" is a civil breakup anthem in which, sure, she bequeaths fortune, love, and other benign sentiments to an ex, but most importantly she asserts that "I wish myself all of the above." Want a more terse, controlling frontwoman? Try the gnashing, unpolished "Nothing Personal" or "How Do You Sleep?" (not a Lennon cover). On the flip side, we get a sweet recollection of a youthful lesbian crush, "Fortunes of Misfortune." Ah, maybe that explains the cover: Could it be a visual aid? ANDREW BONAZELLI
Anna Waronker plays the Crocodile Cafe at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18. $10
THE SOFT BOYS
Third album from Cambridge's quirkiest combo—22 years "in the making."
Arriving on the heels of last year's expanded two-CD reissue of the groundbreaking 1980 album Underwater Moonlight and a subsequent Soft Boys reunion tour, Nextdoorland is a 2002 rock 'n' roll tour de force. Reassuringly, for old-time fans, it also finds all the familiar Softs trademarks in place. There are plenty of sinewy Robyn Hitchcock-Kimberley Rew guitar duels, particularly on the mostly-instrumental opening track, "I Love Lucy" (which sounds like the Twilight Zone theme turned into, believe it or not, a Grateful Dead jam), and a pair of six-minute groove-fests, the luminous "Mr. Kennedy" and the hot 'n' nasty "Strings." Subtle sonic touches abound, maintaining the group's psychedelic reputation; listen for the numerous Beatles-esque backing vocals, for example, or the sneaky synth and wobbly sitar that crop up in "Mr. Kennedy." And of course Hitchcock's vaunted oddball-yet-emotionally-pungent lyrics remain the headiest stuff to come out of the U.K. since Syd Barrett wrestled vegetable men for tips. Just check out this, ah, sharp-edged metaphor from the bouncy, Tom Petty-ish "Unprotected Love": "You were as hard as a diamond/You could be used as a cutting tool/Right at the forefront of industry/ Nobody wants to be vulnerable/Everyone wants to be horrible. . . . " (Guys, don't try those lines in a singles bar.)
So even though it would be slightly misleading to suggest that the third Soft Boys album was 22 years in the making—"gestation," maybe; "procrastination," definitely—if taking an enforced exile yields such a start-to-finish pleasure, perhaps more bands should consider a similar trajectory. FRED MILLS
Persepolis Plus Remixes Vol. I
Experimental noise punk is ancient history.
Born in Romania and trained in Greece as a civil engineer and architect, Iannis Xenakis was one of the first classical composers to twist mathematical, statistical logic around the rushing, spiraling noise of '50s/'60s avant-garde abstractions. He buried the prevailing definition of performance structure and set the classical world on its classically trained ear by radically repositioning his orchestra members in accordance with kinetic principles. Xenakis knew that music exists outside of music; he found it in complex equations and along the balance of steel girders. In short, Iannis Xenakis was pretty damn punk. Like other art punks of his time—and like good punks of any era—much of Xenakis' work had a political bent, the material released here being a prime example. Persepolis, 56 minutes of dead-end waves and pulsing movements, was commissioned by former Iranian monarch Muhammad Reza Shah in 1971 for the controversial celebration of the county's 2,500th anniversary. The ordered experimentation, determined rebellion, and chaotic-yet-systematic noise design of contemporary industrial and electronic music are all found here, in their earliest and most organic form. Like being stranded on the wing of a 747 while all the world is swallowed up in an apocalyptic gargle, Persepolis could easily be played alongside Throbbing Gristle, Kraftwerk, Einsturzende Neubauten, or Cabaret Voltaire—as well as any number of modern noise artists, from Bulb Records' Wolf Eyes to England's Add N to (X). The second CD in this two-disc set features remixes of Persepolis by classical, electronic, and experimental artists from around the world. LAURA CASSIDY