PRINT December 1995

Lane Relyea


The cocktail lounge that serves as a camp reliquary for bands like Stereolab, Love Jones, and Combustible Edison has been miraculously refurbished as a pure slice of smoke-filled, dimly lit heaven, thanks to Chicago’s THE SEA AND CAKE. Half of 1995’s best moments were spent there; the other half came from an open tomb deep in America’s mythic backwaters, where bands like Palace, Son Volt, and THE GERALDINE FIBBERS were giving voice to spirits that refuse to stay dead. “I run like blood through open doors,” sings the Fibbers’ Carla Bozulich, the desperation in her throat having aged like vintage hooch into a slow, mournful groan—the words rendered so bodily they sweat with need and exhaustion. Bozulich sucks the vast country-and-western tradition into her lungs, only to spit out an exile’s language—no antebellum reverence here. Her drawl thins into pop cliche one moment, then grows deeply sedimented, revealing archaic pleasures and lasting wounds she retrieves or heals only through all-obliterating howls. This vocal whiplashing has been described as androgynous, but it’s really the femaleness of Bozulich’s voice (more than its faux-Southernness) that lends both weight and displacement to the history it evokes; it’s how Poly Styrene would sound if she were playing Patricia Neal’s Alma Brown character in Hud. The only problem is, the other Fibbers can’t catch up to Bozulich’s singing. On its debut album, Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home, the band sounds oddly crisp and brash, too much like the evening’s first drink and not enough like the last round—the warm, decadent glow of which describes Bozulich’s voice as perfectly as it does the year’s other best album, The Sea and Cake’s Nassau.


In Austin, Texas, despising the pseudoalternative, frat-boy rock that’s colonized the airwaves is no fun anymore: 101-X FM preempted that fun by hiring the Butthole Surfers’ GIBBY HAYNES to host its weeknight slot. On the air Haynes is a self-righteous, bitter, nostalgic drag. Listeners are forced to choose between “alternatives,” even though the difference between them makes no difference whatsoever. Gibby or Hootie—it’s alternative culture presented as the Pepsi Challenge.

Lane Relyea contributes regularly to Artforum.