Regular perusers of Westword's Letters column may have noticed that I occasionally come in for criticism from a percentage of this publication's readers, each of whom I love and admire in a sincere and personal way. But I've never received abuse as eccentric as the kind dished out by Cindy Wonderful. This singer, songwriter and performer has gotten her share of ink from yours truly: She was the subject of the January 2 edition of this very column and received a Best of Denver award for a cassette by one of her loopiest projects, which she dubbed Shitbox. But despite this attention, she's spent a considerable portion of 1997 ranking me for neglecting to review a vinyl collection she put out on her own Stupid Tiny label (I told her that it reached me too long after its original appearance) and has included with subsequent mailings long letters questioning everything from my integrity to my taste.
In the first of these missives, attached to a seven-inch called Another Stupid Tiny Compilation, Wonderful stated, "Please review it, and please review the first one, too. If you don't like it, that's okay; I won't be hurt. Hate it, but just put it into writing!!!" (Her closing remark was "Don't disappoint me.") Her second note, taped to a piece of wax dubbed #3 Stupid Records, was considerably more aggressive. "This is a sneak preview of my new release," she scribbled. "I'm sending it to you early so you won't give me any bullshit reason why you haven't reviewed it." She added, "I don't understand why you only like to give props to has-beens or never-will-bes when here I am, someone new, doing something different--someone who plans to break out of the scene and is offering you an opportunity to talk to me." She closed with, "Soon I will be moving to the West Coast. If I don't see a review soon, I'm gonna come down there and kick your ass!!!"
Explaining to Wonderful that critiques of her assorted salvos had been delayed by a tremendous backlog of local LPs, CDs and cassettes fell on deaf ears. Silence ensued--but then a week or so ago, a brand-new Stupid Records endeavor (called, I think, Stupid Records Presents) arrived at my door along with the expected diatribe. "Even though you've completely neglected my first, second and third compilations, I'm sending you my fourth," she wrote before divulging information about the reasons behind her decision to relocate not to the West Coast, but to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "I have found God... and I've kinda decided to change my life. I'm still a weirdo, but I've decided to try to save the world. Well, not save it, but make it a better place. I help build houses for Habitat for Humanity now, and I'm searching for other spiritually rooted weirdos to start a band with. I've been working out, and I want to be a singer and get naked on stage."
Worthy pursuits all, Cindy--and because of your persistence, I've at long last gotten around to listening to all of the vinyl that I've received from you and others over the past several months. So take a look, and once you've finished reading, send me a letter telling me what a loser I am. Don't disappoint me.
Another Stupid Tiny Compilation contains six cuts by six Denver area acts, and half of them are entertainingly odd. I wasn't all that knocked out by Space Kitchen's "Corner Store" (fuzzy, draggy, poorly recorded) or Wryeteous Pybayk Jammbory's "Waving Goodbye" (a jittery march/nursery rhyme). Fea's "With," which mates acoustic guitar with moderately atonal violin, left me rather cold as well. But Fox Force Five's "Teen Love Spree," which also appears on the Superstars of the Cricket on the Hill CD, is amusingly exploitative; Chipmunk of Death's "You Are My Clutch" is an enjoyably satirical postmodern cocktail; and Wonderful's solo turn, "Donuts in the Morning," is a bizarre, quasi-folk ditty filled with excellent non sequiturs and vocals that seem to have been recorded underwater. #3 Stupid Records sports six more tracks that manage a slightly higher batting average than its predecessor. Neither Fea's contribution, "Flutewheel," nor Constellation 88's "Sweet Ceremony" rose above the curio level for me. But Half Burnt Match's "Detours" is a dreamy, mid-tempo air that gets better as it goes along; Star Hustler's "Here She Comes" and S-Fro-7's "Number" are dark and suitably creepy; and Wonderful's "She Was Left Handed" is a charming conglomeration that finds the singer treating the title phrase like a voodoo curse. As for Stupid Records Presents, it is, predictably, a mixed bag. Insurrection's "Fight" is stereotypical punk with death-metal vocals, and Mary Margarine's "Marked" is pleasant but a tad dull. However, Smirk's "Roller-Coaster" benefits from sloppy guitar playing, faux harmonies and inspired amateurism, and Shitbox's "Sesspool of Sound," which Wonderful now denounces, is a fairly amusing mock rap. Overall, these projects are strong showcases for a screwball talent (Stupid Records, 410 Wiltz Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70806).
Also vinyl-happy are the blokes from Denver's 360 Twist! Records, who have put out half a dozen relatively new 45s that should appeal to garage-rock fanciers everywhere. "Everything Around Me"/"Pre-Teen Love," by Frigg A-Go-Go, a Lafayette, Louisiana, combo that also has a CD out on 360 Twist!, are chaotic pounders that get the gritty feel of Sixties pre-punk just right. Groovy. The Quadrajets, another combo from the South, check in with The Real Fucked Up Blues, a scattershot but swell three-song effort. "Ain't Red No More" is sparked by Chetley Weise's hysterical yelping, while "Hidden Charms" (a Willie Dixon cover) and the Slim Harpo-like "Crawl" do a good job of tweaking blues rock. The self-titled blast from the Others is vintage stuff, not an incredible simulation; the act, which hails from Italy, cut these four finger-snappers in 1966. "You'll Never Know" is comparatively forgettable, and "Do You Believe What I Say?" practically recapitulates "Dirty Water," but "Can't Help but Cry" and "Elevator Operator" are nasal guitar pop that's utterly infectious and surprisingly sweet. "Atlanta"/"Flash & Crash," by California's Let Downs, goes where a lot of groups have gone before: The single is characterized by Roger Daltrey-esque vocals, a loping Farfisa and a general sense of mayhem. But the boys in the band have so much fun making noise that you can't help but be swept up by their enthusiasm. That's also the story with Pittsburgh's Mount McKinleys on Genius in Modern Music, Vol. 2. "No Come Down," "Blue Spell" and "Here Comes Last Summer" are so boisterous and rough-hewn that dwelling on their derivative nature is a waste of time. And on Genie in the Lamp, Fortune & Maltese and the Phabulous Pallbearers, out of Michigan, pick up where Sam the Sham left off; the title song and "Vampira!" are near-novelties that rock with a vengeance. In a better world, both would be hits--as would plenty of other raveups in the 360 Twist! catalogue (360 Twist! Records, P.O. Box 9367, Denver 80209).
Two dance-oriented twelve-inches that have come my way are just as meritorious. Dyonis, the brainstorm of producer Justin Hardison, utilizes drum-and-bass techniques but avoids many of the cliches that have come to typify this subgenre. "New Day" supplements brittle rhythms with synthesized riffing, vocal sampling and other sonic curveballs, "Tropic" has one of the more unconventional sonic foundations you'll hear, and "Camouflage" provides straight-up techno/disco for the happy-feet crowd. Strong stuff (available in area record stores). A venture from Terraform, the namesake act of Terraform Records, the imprint run by John Chamie, is more deliberate. "Vandal" and "Nickel-Plated" are slow-builders that use dub and drum-and-bass in a minimalist manner that bridges the gap between ambient and dance. An intriguing experiment (784-4841).
Nobodys vs. Pinhead Circus, a split single that pairs (honest) the Nobodys and Pinhead Circus, won't shock you with its freshness, but punk loyalists will approve. The former excels on "Headache," a weighty riff orgy, and sticks to formula on "I Don't Need Your Love" and "I Don't Like You"; the latter packs "You Don't Say" and "No Time at All" with just enough spontaneity and snottiness (Soda Jerk Records, P.O. Box 4056, Boulder 80306). Also sharing a 45 are Acrobat Down and the Blast-Off Heads, and both acts acquit themselves well. The Heads add a bongo beat to modern rock on "Waxed," go in a tuneful direction on the fragmentary "Blizzak," and chant like drunken soccer buffs on "Fraidy Cat." Acrobat Down, meanwhile, gets ambitious on "#12--The Rumbleseat Dream" and "#7--Pissboy anti-boss song," a complex pop suite that fills several minutes with glorious racket (Stact Musicalities, P.O. Box 104, Denver 80201-0104).
The Minders' Paper Plane platter is another strong offering from Denver's Elephant 6 Records. Singer-songwriter Martyn Leaper is in top form on the title track, which is accentuated by appropriate sound effects, ringing guitar and a heavenly hook. Just as impressive are "Sally," a gem that would do Ray Davies proud, and "Big Machine," a flimsy but delectable confection. To hear them is to love them (The Elephant 6 Recording Co., P.O. Box 18326, Denver 80218). In the same mode is Dressy Bessy, a promising act that includes former 40th Day vocalist Tamee Ealom and John Hill of the Apples. "Ultra Vivid Color," "Fuzzy" and "Said You Would" are jangly and beguiling--the opposite of slick. It's not music that will reach out and grab you by the throat, but who would want that to happen? Not me (Little Dipper Records, P.O. Box 18652, Denver 80218).
Finally, "Luminous Crush"/"Helios," by Space Team Electra, produced by Keith Cleversley and issued by Cleversley's Luminous Records firm, begs this question: Why the hell isn't this group signed to a major label yet? The A-side is a beautiful mood piece that's drenched in feedback and shot through with intensity; it builds to a stirring conclusion. The flip, for its part, is considerably more psychedelic and not nearly as accessible, but the emoting of Myshel Prasad and her associates does more than reward repeated listens: It demands them. Guess that means I liked it (Luminous Records, 2044 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612).
Speaking of Space Team Electra (which I think I was doing in the previous paragraph), the group's Greg Fowkes is now running the Blue Satellite, at 3242 East Colfax. The venue (formerly Across the Street) will be featuring live music that falls into the acoustic or jazz camps. Interested performers are encouraged to ring the Satellite at 377-6300 to learn more.
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Greater knowledge is only a phone call away. On Friday, October 31, Concentrated Evil visits the dark side at the Cricket, with Blister and Suffer Structure; Mosh Pit Records brings together Last Supper, Godless Promise Mechanism, Victory Boy and many others for its seventh annual Halloween bash, at Pure Energy in Colorado Springs; Fatal Erection wilts at the Bug Theater in support of San Francisco's Subarachnoid Space and the aforementioned Terraform; Brethren Fast and the Vermicious Knids run roughshod at Herman's Hideaway; David Mallett hammers at Cameron Church; Big Town Seven plays for the first of two nights at 9th Avenue West; Preacherman and the Congregation worship at the Moontime, in Nederland; and Jorge Santana (brother of Carlos) headlines at the Mammoth Events Center. On Saturday, November 1, Herman's celebrates its fifteenth anniversary with the help of the Dogs of Pleasure and Wendy Woo; the Colorado Players for Peace Band, featuring Westword profile subject Jeffrey Marshall, stops by the Tivoli Student Union (details can be had at 322-2521); Freak Hungre chows down at the Dickens Opera House in Longmont, with the Girls; Zeut visits the Market Street Lounge; and the Colorado Friends of Old Time Music and Dance present a swing night at the Mercury Cafe. On Monday, November 3, the Mighty Blue Kings get mighty blue at the Bluebird. And on Tuesday, November 4, Shankis introduces a new CD, Tales From Lonvernia, at the Fox Theatre, and the Offspring are joined at the Mammoth by Good Riddance and One Hit Wonder. Who are just asking for trouble with a name like that.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com