THE YAH MOS
The Yah Mos were one of the best car wrecks the '90s ever heard. They took art damage to its most viscerally literal level, earning a reputation for totally fucking insane live beat-you-up-jazz-punk that splattered borrowed guitars up and down the walls. Too bad for you they fell apart while recording what would have been their first album—but hey, punk's not dead as long as no one loses the master tapes, right? So file this under better late than never: 10 years after that last blowup in the studio, the Yah Mos' ruefully titled Undefeated emerges. And although the production is pretty thin compared with their earlier singles—blame the ravages of time—Undefeated is every bit the tazer to the testicles we were promised so long ago. Remember that band Nation of Ulysses? You shouldn't because the Yah Mos did it crazier, louder and better. Rambling foulmouth Nic Offer's ragged vocals swerve through the same sorta delinquent asphalt-jungle shtick (but with more spit and fire than ironic ol' Ian Svenonius ever sputtered out), steeped in a spastic start-stop poison cocktail of the Germs, Damaged-era Black Flag and gleefully schizophrenic riff-referencing of everybody from Wire to the Smiths (members later went on to funk's-not-dead bands Out Hud and !!!, so trust that these kids knew how to make a body dance). This lo-fi relic sears the eyebrows right off most of the plastic-doll punk that's around now. The right kind of fuck-you never sounds old. (Chris Ziegler)
JOHN HIATT & THE GONERS
THE TIKI BAR IS OPEN
It's easy to have faith in John Hiatt. The Indiana native rarely lets us down, whether dabbling in country-tinged folk-rock with the Nashville Queens or, more recently, tackling the Delta blues on his solo acoustic Crossing Muddy Waters. With The Tiki Bar Is Open(out this Tuesday), the veteran singer/songwriter's first release with the three-piece Goners since 1988's Slow Turning, our allegiance pays off. Hiatt recaptures the rollickin', kick-ass spirit that defines his most memorable work on the strength of his raw, soulful vocals and the fiery backing of the dexterous Goners. Things get rolling fast with "Everybody Went Low," a sonically upbeat (if thematically bleak) tune about fucked-up people who bring down themselves and those around them. Hiatt, who adds his skills on electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica, mandolin, and piano, gets precise yet ebullient support throughout from guitarist Sonny Landreth, bassist Dave Ranson and drummer Kenneth Blevins. Although the quartet is predominantly noisy—in a good way, of course—they seamlessly shift gears for a sad ballad or two ("I'll Never Get Over You," "Something Broken"). The band even gets downright spooky on the chilling "I Know a Place," an eerie tale of murder highlighted by Landreth's bluesy, haunting slide work. Overall, though, The Tiki Bar Is Open rocks with gusto while serving to remind us how real rock & roll, like a great bottle of scotch or wine, gets better with age. Bottoms up. (John Roos)
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