PRINT April 1997


Golden Palominos

If you live in a big American city, the voice running through the GOLDEN PALOMINOS’ new CD may recall someone you’ve met: a woman, controlled, astute, observant, maybe cynical or maybe just knowing, and a little too cool for her own comfort. Cool in the sense not of hip, not of rad, but of psychic temperature: I’m dead inside, she whispers, naming the record. Though she speaks through various personae, now an anorexic, now a murder victim, now an update of the erotic android in Metropolis, she’s always recognizable, but she’s probably talking more intimately, more revealingly, than you expect: ordinarily this isn’t someone who lets people get too close. I mean, when she finally writes a song that makes desire at least somewhat desirable she calls it “Drown.”

The Palominos have been in the world since the early ’80s, in a manner of speaking: not one of the band’s eight records features exactly the same lineup. But there are constants—Bill Laswell, Nicky Skopelitis, and the principal, Anton Fier—and there’s always an acute intelligence, as well as a taste for lyricists who sound like real people talking about real emotional and corporal events. The last record, Pure, was totally brooding and melancholic, so I liked it quite a lot. Oh, there were other things also—it was beautifully written and sung, by Lori Carson (whose own new record, Everything I Touch Runs Wild, is regrettably sappy), and the music was beautiful too, a kind of mournful and stately funk moored by Fier’s drums and Laswell’s bass, which were monumentally solid and mysteriously full of feeling. On Dead Inside Carson is replaced by spoken-word artist Nicole Blackman. Less passive and less seductive than Carson, Blackman is a talker rather than a singer, but that only makes her language the more insinuating and current.

Laswell too appears less on Dead Inside, leaving the record to be structured as a kind of duet for drums and voice—plus, for texture, a dense carpet of electronic winds and whooshes, zips and squeaks, pips and zooms. These might sound like something bad happening to a microwave oven in the next-door room, but as beats and rhythms recur, transform, and echo, they also resemble a Joycean image of consciousness. As Blackman anatomizes the experience of today’s girl, the Palominos give you the sound of thought processing at many megahertz inside her head.

David Frankel