Record Roundup

LIFE isn't too deep, though, and the Cardigans can't touch the lyrical impact of the Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, their anti-rock labelmates in Minneapolis who released their epochal debut last year. But the switches in mood and setting between the songs on LIFE do begin to suggest a story. I imagine a movie musical about a sad girl who tries nearly everything to have a little fun--a road trip to Amsterdam ("Daddy's Car"), some head-bobbing in a trip-hop tent ("Our Space"), and the inevitable cocktail party ("Gordon's Gardenparty")--before she realizes that her problem isn't where she is but who she's with. So she chills to a Black Sabbath cover in a hotel lounge ("Sabbath Bloody Sabbath"), dumps her boyfriend and gets a new one ("Happy Meal").

Swan-diving into waters tested by the Pizzicato Five and Stereolab, the Cardigans make dance music Inspector Clouseau could get down to. And if this American debut is a bit emotionally restrained, think of this as merely the first wink in a long transatlantic seduction. (Peter Scholtes)

Manfred Hubler & Siegfried Schwab

Vampyros Lesbos: Sexadelic Dance Party

Motel Records

FOR DIE-HARD FANS of low-budget cult cinema, Jess Franco is among the great directors, his style somewhere between European versions of Roger Corman's mondo sexploitation and Andy Warhol's hardcore improv. His films--Vampyros Lesbos, The Devil Came From Akasava, She Kills In Ecstasy, all starring Franco's doomed Spanish seductress Soledad Miranda--perfected "horrotica," a mélange of B-grade horror and twisted erotica. By collecting original music from the films' soundtracks, Vampyros Lesbos: Sexadelic Dance Party pays tribute to Franco, Miranda (who died in a 1971 car crash), and the films they made together.

German composers Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab, recording as Vampires' Sound Incorporation, created music sufficiently groovy and go-go to accompany Franco's freaked-out vision. Their crazy sounds (released on record in 1970 as two separate albums, Sexadelic and Dance Party) are a speedy swingers' orgy of blaring trumpet, booming trombone, slinky organ, and spacey sitar, with a beefy foundation of basic mod guitar/bass/drums. Instrumentals like "The Lions and the Cucumber," "Droge CX 9," and "The Six Wisdoms of Aspasia" manage to be psychedelic both in the way of the Doors' spooky, bad-trip rock and the Fifth Dimension's fizzy, up-up-and-away pop. Music ripe for the current cheese revival, Sexadelic Dance Party falls somewhere between the glorious lounge orchestrations of Esquivel and the cheap Casio-funk porn music championed by bands like the Beastie Boys. It's just one more interesting nugget mined from the overflowing heaps of past decades' trash culture. (Roni Sarig)

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

Rey Azucar

SDI

THE VIDEO TO Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' 1994 "El Matador," one of South America's most popular rock hits this decade, had singer Vincentico lying in a coffin in the middle of a colorful funeral procession, looking uncannily like Johnny Rotten and surrounded by shimmying Latin women. The camera jump-cut through Catholic saints, whorehouses, ghost town barrios, and slow-motion death-squad bullets spilling blood onto jail cell floors, but somehow it all came off like a carnival, a veritable fiesta. Los Cadillacs' newer "Mal Bicho" video is even more violent-cow corpses on crucifixes, whip-cracking dominatrices, steak being sliced, then a band assassination one by one, onstage. This time the singer looks more like Eric Burdon. Somebody dressed as a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Hitler shouts out "Mambo!" and people dance in the jail cell blood, splashing red everywhere.

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs are nine guys from Argentina whose best music sounds as erotic, hilarious, and destructive, as simultaneously disco and punk, as those two videos look. Last year's best-of CD, Vasos Vacios, had a percussively upgraded remake of The Clash's "Revolution Rock," a Rancid/West Side Story hybrid called "V Centenario," and a Celia Cruz salsa cameo, plus various detective-movie horns, vocals-imitating-maracas, and drunken "Yankee Doodle" parts. Rey Azucur's "Mal Bicho" is mainly just a lesser clone of Vacios's titanic "El Matador," but it's still one of 1995's most complex singles: Revolving around a hard-rocking avalanche of marching-band drums dancing in and out of tropical rhythms, horns punctuate in two different directions as Vincentico's pretty high voice alternates with a harsher low one, both laughing and chanting and speed-rapping Spanish.

Despite a few unexceptional genre exercises, the rest of Rey Azucur is loaded with surprises. Mariachi-chatter reggae bounces into skinhead moshpit pogos; Black Sabbath rumbles speed toward bongolated Eurodisco; roller-rink organ echoes old spaghetti-western soundtracks; and Vincentico winds his wail into voluptuous Arabic bellydances. Clash and Talking Heads alumni and Jamaican toaster Big Youth lend a hand, and even Debbie Harry coos sweetly along to a ska "Strawberry Fields Forever."

The noise and eclecticism seem to arise naturally from the music's core; it's not like the band's showing off. Maybe the secret is that Los Cadillacs are crossing over to loud angry rock from Afro-Caribbean rhythms, not the other way around--just like a fistfight breaking out in front of a dance club makes more sense than a dance breaking out in front of a fight. (Chuck Eddy)

Bad Religion

The Gray Race

Atlantic

IN THIS PERPETUALLY decadent civilization, hardcore punk will always feel both tragically ahead of its time and quaintly anachronistic. For its part, Bad Religion has been reeling around pointing fingers to the blunt but surprisingly tuneful cadence of three-chord thrash for more than 13 years now, spouting impossibly earnest, clunky political diatribes and rallying cries that are either blatantly obvious or poetically impenetrable, like the opening lines of The Gray Race's "Them and Us": "Despite that he saw blatant similarity/He struggled to find a distinctive moiety/All he found was vulgar superficiality/But he focused it to sharpness/And shared it with the others/It signified his anger and misery."

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