Record Roundup

McAlmont and Butler

The Sound of McAlmont and Butler

Caroline/Gyroscope

FULL-ON STRING sections were once a rocker's worst nightmare. But in the wake of alternarock's current beer-commercial profile and this summer's proposed money-grabbing Sex Pistols reunion concerts, orchestral overkill seems like the perfect tonic. "Yes," from The Sound of McAlmont and Butler is this duo's call-to-arms to all the smooth Philly soul and glam rock kids denied a voice in the grunge era. Lyrically, climbing out of a failed relationship never sounded more liberating. And yes, "Yes" has a glorious string section to boot.

Scrappy guitar whiz Bernard Butler once played the Brit press as Keith Richards to flamboyant vocalist Brett Anderson's Jagger in the U.K.'s flash-in-the-pan Suede. Opting out of Anderson's controlling vision, Butler has teamed up with vocalist David McAlmont and his dizzying falsetto for this fine, apparently one-off venture. White boy guitar indie rock meets black boy soul. The result: a genre-jumping collection that sounds dateless.

"What's the Excuse This Time?" is the sort of stripped-down funk that one wishes (the artist formerly known as) Prince were pursuing, while the quieter "The Right Thing" is a twangy, echoing blues. McAlmont's clear tone bears resemblance to Seal, but with more range and flavor. Butler layers acoustic strumming over lap steel, and distortion track on top of crystal-clear guitar hooks. Trading his former band's simpler charms for a richer, more complex mix, Butler has pulled McAlmont out of obscurity and made The Sound of... not a Suede spinoff but a whole new thang. Some may use the adjective "overblown," but these boys don't seem to mind. They've got 50 string players watching their backs. (Matt Keppel)

Various Artists

Home Alive: The Art of Self Defense

Epic

IT'S NOT ALL that uncommon for the artists, writers, and musicians of a community to band together for a worthy local cause. Thankfully, it happens regularly in cities across the country. But when the community is the fabled '90s rock mecca of Seattle, a local benefit is bound to assume national interest. Such is the case with Home Alive: The Art of Self Defense, a double CD of music and spoken-word poetry whose proceeds go to Home Alive, a Seattle area nonprofit organization dedicated to providing self-defense training and resources to combat violence.

Home Alive's primary inspiration is Mia Zapata, singer of the Seattle band the Gits who was raped and murdered in 1993. Memories of Zapata run throughout the set--her music (with the Gits and solo), her former bandmates (as Evil Stig and Dancing French Liberals of '48), and her tragedy (violence and abuse). Brutal words from Lydia Lunch ("Why We Murder"), Natalie Jacobson ("Got What Was Coming"), and Bobby Miller ("Keep You Mouth Off My Sisters") make it clear Home Alive's response is not one of anti-violence but rather counter-violence--and that often requires fighting back forcefully.

With a few honorable exceptions (Jello Biafra, Jim Carroll, Joan Jett), Home Alive draws its talent pool entirely from the Seattle music scene, including the big guys (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Heart), the mid-sized (7 Year Bitch, Presidents of the U.S.A., Fastbacks, Supersuckers), and the little ones (Los Hornets, North American Bison, Catfood, Christdriver). The range of emotions and responses presented sends a tremendous message of solidarity to victims everywhere. And given all the grunge hype thrown Seattle's way, it's both disarming and touching to find real substance and community actually still exists there. (Sarig)

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