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Trenchmouth
Trenchmouth vs. the Light of the Sun
(East/West)

Trenchmouth means to test just how far the millions of freshly minted "alternative" fans are willing to go: Are they drawn to new music simply because it's fashionable, or are they genuinely committed to searching out innovative sounds? You and I can already guess the answer to that question, and so can these four Chicagoans. Nevertheless, their bracing work stands as noisy testimony that compromise isn't part of their formula. The steaming soup of musical elements that bubble up from songs such as "Washington! Washington!" often seem incompatible--they include punk/funk riffing, dub-inspired sound effects and martial percussion. Nonetheless, the resultant mess hangs together, due largely to the group's exuberant, careening performances and its paranoiac, dadaist lyrics, delivered (by vocalist Damon Locks) in a style that draws equally from Pere Ubu's David Thomas and Captain Beefheart. In short, Light is a jumpy and surprising hunk of plastic that doesn't sound anything like, say, Stone Temple Pilots. This failing will no doubt doom it to commercial Hades, but that's the very reason it should sound as good in ten years as it does today.--Michael Roberts

The Cult
The Cult
(Sire/Reprise)

Even the Cult's best work suffers from a lack of identity--and the material on this disc is a far cry from such Cult classics as "Love Removal Machine" and "Edie (Ciao Baby)." For example, the highly serviceable single "Coming Down (Drug Tongue)" is too reminiscent of Achtung, Baby-era U2, while the swooning swagger of "Gone" suggests that vocalist Ian Astbury, onetime Morrissey guitarist Billy Duffy and their rhythm section du jour have been spinning a few Tom Waits discs lately. The performers also have been waiting for Astbury's reportedly ravaged vocal chords to heal--and except for the occasional hoarse, airy passage, they sound in top grizzly-in-a-trap form here. However, when the singer bares his soul on the album's kinder, gentler numbers (of which there are way too many), it's Katie, bar the incense burner. Other lowpoints include the cheesy ? and the Mysterians organ lick on "Joy," which carries about as much underground credibility as former Cosby kid Lisa Bonet, and "Sacred Life," a slice of anti-drug pedagogy every bit as subtle as a Nancy Reagan rally. And when Astbury ends the eminently forgettable "Real Grrrl" by repeating the line "I'm lost," one senses that--artistically speaking--truer words were never bellowed.--John Jesitus

 
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