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Sharp as Nails

Lucky Pierre
ThinKing (Lucky Pierre Music)

Lucky Pierre, Prick’s nicer face, surfaces hard and brilliant two years after Prick’s The Wreckard, Kevin McMahon’s jagged, tormented return to form. Pierre and Prick live in McMahon’s head, expressing different parts of a personality that is tangled, indeed. Fame burned McMahon in the ‘90s, when he recorded as Prick for Trent Reznor’s Nothing label and toured with the Nine Inch Nailhead and David Bowie. Lucky Pierre was his band in the ‘70s and ‘80s; Reznor—and Tom Lash, McMahon’s key supporter—is a graduate. Lucky Pierre never dies, he embers—and occasionally bursts into flame, like here. ThinKing is a very fine, very edgy pop record. It’s also Lucky Pierre’s first CD.

The 11 tracks on ThinKing, largely recorded by McMahon in his apartment in suburban Cleveland, are exemplary pop-rock, from the eerie, metallically sensual “Clouds” to “Attitude,” a twisted power ballad about the perils of domesticity and curdled Catholicism, two of McMahon’s most inspiring obsessions. McMahon’s music is insidious and infernally catchy; tunes like “Sidewalking,” razorblade rockabilly with a bass line from Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody,” is about blacking out from booze, and “Saint of Blue,” a harlequin folk tune that shifts gears and dynamics with ease to showcase Lucky Pierre’s more pastoral side, hold your inner ear captive.

Where The Wreckard was wildly experimental and abrasive, ThinKing is more accessible. Some tunes date to what would have been Prick’s follow-up album for Nothing, a project scuttled in the late ’90s; some seem much more recent, like “Beginning,” McMahon’s disavowal of the inner darkness that is his muse—and has often consumed him.

Various friends help here, like former Exotic Bird Andy Kubiszewski, on occasional drums; Garrett Hammond, sometime drummer and frequent engineer; and Warne Livesey, who produced the first Prick album. McMahon, however, is the force here, and he’s equally good at lyrics and music. Packed with quadruple entendres, fractured French and cleverly masked accounts of truly painful events, ThinKing reminds you how expressive pop can be—and how very hard it can rock. (For ordering information, some lyrics and some MP3s, go to www.luckypierremusic.com.)

—Carlo Wolff

Auf der Maur
Auf der Maur (Capitol)

Alternative radio stinks. That’s a foregone conclusion, a given, a straw-man discussion (especially since commercial radio in general stinks). So this piece is not going to be yet another entry in the let’s-see-who-can-piss-on-it-in-the-most-clever-arc sweepstakes that has become a lot of rock writing. Rather, let’s point to the signs of life: Of the songs on heavy rotation, Loretta Lynn (you heard me) and Jack White have the coolest (“Portland, Oregon”—isn’t that a pisser?), and Modest Mouse, the Killers and Franz Ferdinand have likeable, if not wheel-reinventing, singles. (Meanwhile, the once unassailable Wilco have chimed in with the exceedingly boring “Handshake Drugs,” from an album that draws a complete blank.)

But for every Modest Mouse and Loretta Lynn, there’s a Dashboard Confessional (the ridiculously inflated dynamics of “Vindicated”), an Apollo Sunshine (Ben Folds should never be an influence on anyone—ever) and, more to our point, a Melissa Auf der Maur, whose status as onetime replacement bassist in Hole and Smashing Pumpkins somehow inorganically evolved into a solo deal with Capitol Records. And despite her pedigree, Auf der Maur [pr: OWF-der-MAO-er] has taken the alt-metal-lite path to airplay, her image a conflation of raven-haired sex kitten and doom-singing alt-metal goddess. (What Lita Ford was to ’80s metal, Auf der Maur is to alt-metal. Check out the inlay pics of her flailing around and posing with her bass guitar in high-heeled boots and bodice.)

As for the songs, the popular single “Followed the Waves” comes off like A Perfect Circle without the art-rock aspect, its radio infectiousness dependant upon some ominously chiming guitar tones from Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and a sinuous, über-serious chorus. True story: Hearing the banshee wail that kicks off the track for the first time, I was unprepared for its comic impact and sprayed the computer screen with Diet Coke. (The rest of the song seemed to chastise me for my mirth: “This is serious business, Mister,” it seemed to say. “Life is serious and dark, and you better straighten up.”)

On the opener “Lightning Is My Girl,” Auf der Maur harshly whispers the title line over skittering metal tones by way of introduction. However, once again, the singer lands comically wide of her flinty, suggestive intentions and then hurls headlong into an obtuse exploration of ’90s alt-metal clichés and goofy, nonsensical wordplay (“Gonna let the lightning tuck me into my bed/Electrified and cherry red”). The death knell for any credibility comes with “Taste You” (“I can’t fake it my love/I need filling, come on/I need it louder than bombs” or “I’ve got a big mouth/I will taste you”). Mark Lanegan, one of many big names on board to help out Auf der Maur, mutters a guest vocal at song’s end like he’s trying not to be noticed.

—Erik Hage

Arto Lindsay
Salt (Righteous Babe)

Arto Lindsay’s third album for the Righteous Babe label (and sixth overall), again sports a one-word title (its predecessors being Prize and Invoke). Salt can be a noun, adjective or verb, as can the equally succinct Prize, whereas, the two-syllable Invoke act only as a verb. Those are small and easy-to-miss details, worth mentioning only because Lindsay’s music is rich with similarly scaled characteristics. He continues to explore Brazilian musical traditions, braided to his own sensibilities, forged through the more dissonant and angular textures he wielded with DNA and assorted other NYC downtown acts (Lounge Lizards, etc.). He’s scaled back the more dramatic contrasts utilized on earlier works. Now the flourishes, born of either arrangement or production, are subtle and more constant. Pleasures of the flesh and dreams of the heart empower the songs. The earthy poetics of the lyrics celebrate sensuality as they trace the outlines that the music completes.

—David Greenberger


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