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Music Reviews

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June 19, 1996

Colossal Head

KAthy McCartyKathy McCarty, Sorry Entertainer (Bar None Records 1995) - Austin songstress Kathy McCarty returns with her second solo album, the 24-minute EP Sorry Entertainer. Featuring two tracks from her marvelous debut, Dead Dog's Eyeball, together with five new songs, McCarty continues down her uniquely-engaging path.

Having worked for many years with Glass Eye, Kathy went solo when the band failed to achieve mass success. Dead Dog's Eyeball was a masterful collection of songs written by fellow Texan Daniel Johnston. Johnston has suffered from mental problems for years, but has also written some entertaining and self-probing songs, which Kathy developed in rapturous detail on her self-produced and self-recorded debut.

Sorry Entertainer finds Kathy exploring the same glorious range of sounds featured on Dead Dog's Eyeball, all anchored by her lovely vocals. In addition to the two re-releases ("Sorry Entertainer" and "Rocketship," a great song for maneuvering in city traffic), Kathy covered four other Johnson songs and one number by Glass Eye ("Exodus Song").

The songs on Sorry Entertainer tend to be more experimental than those on Dead Dog's Eyeball, with longer introductions and codas, and more raw instrumental parts (rather than the glorious overlay of instruments that resulted in Dead Dog's Eyeball).

Kathy McCartyHowever, one song is a drop-dead number. "Worried Shoes" (another Daniel Johnson song) is a lovely track, with readily-apparent references to the Beatles' Abbey Road. On this cut, Kathy sings plaintively of the problems that she encountered while wearing her "worried shoes" (for instance, she "took her lucky break and broke it in two"), before achieving a great release by "learning the difference between worrying and caring."

There's one thing I don't understand about Kathy. For some reason, she refuses to put a picture of herself on the album (except for an oddly-disguised photo on the back of the album in which Kathy appears as a "bearded butt-smokin' rock dude.") Kathy needs more self-confidence; she's got a huge talent, and needs to project it.

Kathy is one of our most talented contemporary performers, and deserves widespread success. Don't miss her.

Los LobosLos Lobos, Colossal Head (Warner Bros. 1996) - Colossal Head is the first album from Los Lobos since leaving longtime label Slash. Colossal Head continues down the same experimental path braved on 1992's ground-breaking Kiko; the best band in America continues to challenge and create new sounds. And it works.

Since its inception in 1978, Los Lobos has never been content to rest on its laurels, as witnessed by the band's refusal to engage in self-parody following the wild success of 1987's La Bamba. The band members have long been recognized as stalwart musicians, as well as dignified spokesman for East Los Angeles and the Hispanic community.

The band consists of David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas on vocals and guitars, Steve Berlin on saxophone, Conrad Lozano on bass and Louis Perez on vocals and drums. Says Steve Berlin, "I think we are the only of what we do. I don't think anyone sounds like us. I am proud."

Berlin is right. There is no one else like Los Lobos. Colossal Head features a heady mix of blistering guitar, funk groove, straight-ahead rock, experimental, and traditional flavors. And if Colossal Head sounds different from anything else from the band, "Hey its go to be different," says Cesar Rosas, "Who would want to make the same record again and again!"

Los LobosThe new album (which was produced and engineered by Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake) was recorded in a break-neck six weeks while the band was on break from other projects. "We got together really fast," says Louis Perez, "We were working really fast. It would be something in the studio and it would be like, `are you ready to record?', but I think the first is always the best."

Which is to say that Froom and Blake give Los Lobos lots of room to experiment on Colossal Head. Says David Hildago, "When we record we fooled around a lot going from high-fi to low-fi. This time we were trying to combine the two. We give a lot of credit to Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake, they are almost one of us."

Though more mainstream than the Latin Playboys project, Colossal Head is still an invigorating listen. From the stomping, sax-driven "Mas Y Mas" to the ZZ Top-influenced, "Everybody Loves a Train" (which should be a great radio single) Colossal Head is ever-changing.

Also featured is "Life is Good," a heavily-retro track in which the band honestly admits that "I feel happy/because my life is good" (although the tin-drum effect created on the recording casts doubt on this sentiment).

"This Bird's Gonna Fly" is probably the closest Los Lobos comes to a traditional rock number on Colossal Head. Shifting into a more traditional mode, "Buddy Epson Loves the Nighttime" is a blues-drenched barrio number, driven by Hildago's sweet guitar.

Froom and Blake will allow Los Lobos to do anything they want in the studio, and shape their sound to create a distinctively retro sound that it is futuristic at the same time. Los Lobos will not go gently into the night. And Colossal Head continues their proud experiment.

-- Randy Krbechek

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