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the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Birdsaw

eclectic reviews and opinions


Haunted By One Question ...

(Laks/Coomer, 1998)

Haunted by One Question's ... movie poster-style cover was intriguing enough to get me to yank it out of a bargain bin, and I liked the way the back cover embedded song titles in phrases: "BLESSED CHOCOLATES DIDN'T WORK. THESE SCISSORS SHINE WITH TEETH."

I've sometimes wondered wonder why bands with this sort of sound -- thick, dark, almost metallically crunchy guitars (at least on the loud tracks) and a female vocalist -- never seem to make it big, because something about it sure strikes a responsive chord (E minor, perhaps) in me. Coomer is a versatile singer with a pleasing voice -- she's up to belting out "Radio Flyer" and waxes prettier on the gentle, acoustic guitar, cello, and violin-driven "Siderian." (I think they mean "sidereal" -- that is, "determined by the stars," if you were rushing to look it up. I dunno, maybe it's an acceptable alternate form, but it's not in my dictionary.)

If you want reference points, try All About Eve with less pomp and circumstance, Elysian Fields without the downtown jazz bent of their earlier work, or maybe Veruca Salt with a gothy spin, or -- a bit of a stretch perhaps -- Mazzy Star on speed. Or Heather Nova fronting Mission UK, or something. That's probably going too far; I'll stop.

I like "Radio Flyer" best. It teeters back and forth between a propulsive guitar figure that reminds me obscurely of classic Blue Öyster Cult -- I'm talking Tyranny and Mutation here -- and a big bold chorus that's probably why Veruca Salt seemed like a decent comparison. But the expansive "Seven Pointed Star" has a cyclic figure that feels comfortably familiar, and grows momentum nicely over its length, and the cover of Rodgers and Hart's "Valentine" is a shrewd selection. It's a pretty consistent disc overall. The last track, "Crickets on Mars," a quiet electronic instrumental, is quite a departure, but somehow i'm not usually inclined to stop it from playing through. I've gotten way more listening value from this disc than the $3 i snagged it for.

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