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April 14, 1998

Al's Not Well (Impact Records),

Al's Not Well is the result of late pop, punk and a garnish of funk that are all blended at high speed. The band is an intriguing anomaly in both music style and appearance. Led by Joce, a powerful guitarist with that same girlish quality as Juliana Hatfield (but with a lot more attitude), the band cranks out their loud South Florida style. Bassist Rick does a steady, solid job and often surprises with riffs thrown on like sloppy-good barbeque sauce. Eddy (drums pounds the skins with an urgency that melts the Prozac right off the frontal lobe.) Blue-haired Kala (percussion) brings a surprisingly Latin spunk with bongos and other assorted goodies. Add the lovely Bleu (backing vocals and costume design) whose harmonious unions with Joce are wonderfully natural, and ANW gives a rich, yummy froth like A&W.

And wait until you see these guys! Imagine a renegade skateboard team, acid freaks, a box of Crayolas and a wide assortment of thrift store clothing all genetically spliced to create a five person punk-pop band and you're not even close. These guys didn't run away with the carnival, they kidnapped it. But that is part of their charm. In a world where bands look either like J. Crew pre-med students or long-haired garage mechanics, ANW has a refreshingly boisterous and theatrical look. Listening to the CD and looking at their promotional glossy, I get the feeling these guys are designed for live performance.

Their style is definitely live-inspired because it's generally fast and steady. Song material deals with typical issues of identity and love-confusion. But rather than the usual brooding angst, it has more of an okay-that's-how-it-is-so-screw-it ideology.

Glitter is a perfect title for the CD because that's what ANW is all about. They're fun, glitzy and stick to your skin. Don't look for complete nourishment here. ANW doesn't have the full RDA. They're more like that good slice of cheesecake you want to eat before dinner. That's how Al likes it and that's what they're for. Good, old-fashioned finger-sticky sugar high. So check your glucose and buy some Glitter. Just don't try to snort it.

-- Jason Ladner

Fugazi (Dischord Dis110cd),

Self-managed and -produced, Fugazi has always done things their own way. End Hits, their newest full-length album, is impressive for many reasons. One reason is that the band is very tight and the music breathes. The opening track, "Break," rides on an intense, driving guitar and drum rhythm while another guitar plays a very piano-like melody that is fully complemented by the bass line. Another great thing about End Hits is the fact that the music doesn't sound dated or rehashed. In other words, Fugazi is its own band and the music benefits greatly from this. From grinders like "Caustic Acrostic" to smooth meditation like "Floating Boy," Fugazi delivers a personal musical experience that is a welcome change from the amount of radio clones. Also, watch for a documentary film on the band directed by Jem Cohen. For Fugazi info, write Dischord, 3819 Beecher Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20007.

-- Stephen McClurg

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