Porn to Rock
Classic Adult Film Music
Savvy music fans are right to be skeptical of gimmicky projects like Porn to Rock and Sex-O-Rama 2, two new albums that bank heavily on the public's growing penchant for porn. But in their own way, both discs are strangely compelling--and with Larry Flynt, of all people, staking out a role as the nation's moral arbiter, their timing couldn't be better.
Porn to Rock's title is meant to be taken literally: The CD is a collection of thirteen songs written and performed by porn stars, including such notables as Hyapatia Lee, Chloe Nichole, Suzi Suzuki and Ginger Lynn. The package's liner notes attempt to establish some credibility for the concept by noting that blues belter Candye Kane (profiled in "Size Matters," August 27, 1998) was once a porn "actress" and that contributing starlet Midori is the younger sibling of Eighties diva Jody Watley. But the worst of the songs here recall the Boogie Nights scene in which Dirk Diggler and his buddy embarrass themselves in a studio while clad in Miami Vice knockoffs. To put it another way, the most common criticisms of porn movies (lousy production values, second-rate talent, unintentionally goofy performances) definitely apply to much of this material. "Strike Back" and "Calypso Shower" are laughably inept, and Vinnie Spit's abhorrent "Asshole Man" is convincing evidence that most folks go into porn because they lack the talent to do much else.
Just as I was about rechristen the disc as a play toy for my dog, however, I heard Johnny Toxic's "Happy," the hands-down funniest geek-rock ditty I've ever heard in my life: It suggests They Might Be Giants if the members of that band were actually amusing. And Midori shows some of sister Jody's flash on the catchy club anthem "5, 10, 15, 20." Since most of the other tunes follow the maxim "Write about the things you know best," there's plenty of sex/stripping/lap-dance songs, including Nina Whett's anti-subtle "Drink Beer and Fuck." But in the end, Porn to Rock is still a guilty pleasure. Like a decent skin flick, it's raunchy and ridiculous--but in a good way.
Sex-O-Rama 2 takes a more serious approach to porn, if that can be said with a straight face. An instrumental album whose songs are performed by an unnamed band, it's a showcase for what its subtitle calls "classic adult film music" from the Sixties and Seventies. And like Vampyros Lesbos, a Motel Records tribute to the porn/horror epics of German director Jess Franco that became an underground hit three years ago, the disc pulls listeners straight into a very strange world. The combination of plucked bass lines, wah-wah guitar and cheesy Moog synthesizers conjures up a druggy, psychedelic era of bad clothing and loose morals (cool!) that's just as kitschy as lounge music but not nearly so played out. Moreover, the pace of the songs stirs the imagination: As the slow, bottom-heavy funk gradually builds momentum before reaching its climax, you can practically see the inevitable money shot. It's not the kind of thing you'd want to listen to for hours on end, but it makes great background music for a party--or even a Senate impeachment trial.
(Windham Hill Jazz)
Listening to Brasil Nativo is like taking a sip from a glass of milk when you're expecting lemonade. On this painful, misguided attempt at South American music, Hall sounds like Barbra Streisand at her sappiest, especially on "Saudades De Casa (Meant to Be)," which is awash in shimmering synthesizer effects and lightly salted percussion. "Mas Que Nada," a samba that was penned by Jorge Ben decades ago, shows how flat the singer falls: Guitars plunk, symbols tinkle, Hall moans. "Varadero," which is among several tracks on which trumpeter Herb Alpert (Hall's mate) toots away in the background like a lonely coyote, isn't much better. "Tres Curumins," meanwhile, is a song about the white man's invasion of indigenous people's land that's meant to inspire activism. Well, maybe one thing to do would be to pipe this music over loudspeakers at the edge of the rainforest. It might not frighten away the wildlife, but it will definitely scare off the people.
Let the Good Times Roll
Yeah, the neo-swing movement's pretty much worn out its welcome with me, too--and since any style that people who loathe contemporary music embrace so readily is automatically suspect in my book, I won't be blubbering on the sidelines when it does its inevitable fade. But the revival has had some positive side effects, not the least of them being the arrival of Let the Good Times Roll. Subtitled The Anthology: 1938-1953, this two-CD set collects an attic's worth of party classics from the acknowledged king of jump blues (the style that most of today's so-called swing groups are actually playing). After hearing original versions of faves such as "What's the Use of Gettin' Sober," "Cock-a-doodle-doo" and "Doug the Jitterbug" (highlighted by the wonderfully anachronistic lines "He studied to be a lawyer/ But he never got a case/Every time they'd look for that cat in court/He'd be doing the Panty Waist"), you'll be ready to kiss your Big Bad Voodoo Daddy goodbye.
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Los Amigos Invisibles
The New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera
(Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.)
There's a tiny little breakthrough here: New Sound is the first rock-funk band I've heard since the Ambitious Lovers to apply multi-percussion and bursts of sampled noise to techno-plus ballads. But as Jose Luis Pardo pushes his guitar until it soars right out of the instrumental "Mango Cool," it becomes clear that this band is aiming to sound like Carlos Santana as an acid-jazzer. This role model's influence is detectable not only in the heavy riffs that occasionally wedge their way past the jazzy chord changes, but also in the smooth, bland choruses delivered by useless guest singers. Beyond this, the Amigos are all pose, especially on the sexy stuff--with Animal House frat chorales yet! But I'll admit to being enough of a sap to enjoy a few other songs here, just as I liked Santana's "Let the Children Play," "Dance Sister Dance," "Bahia" and so on. Still, my sappiness dries out on contact with the shlock oozed out by crooner Julio Briceno, who sounds as if he hung on to his spot at the karaoke clubs till the right band came along. Guest guitarist Arto Lindsay should have left his ax in the car and plucked the mike out of Briceno's hands.