By Mike Appelstein
By Daniel Hill
By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
We, the staff of "Radar Station," often find ourselves with a sort of postpublication hangover, our hands shaking as we read the laughable garbage we churned out the week before. It makes us sometimes wonder whether our diet of crystal meth, Twinkies and Yoo-Hoo is as healthy as the staff nutritionist says and whether said diet is actually, er, clouding our view. Rock & roll, a corpse? Don't be silly. After a healthy dose of beet salad, lentils and pinot noir, our teeth quit grinding long enough to hear and love once again the sound of clarity: the electric guitar. It's then, after a nice meal and maybe a lavender-oil-augmented bath, that we settle down and fall in love with the sound of the hard strum once again. It's usually after a Sexicolor show, or during the middle of Afternoon Delight on KDHX-FM. But you know that, because we gush often -- OK, too often -- about the former and occasionally about the latter.
With the recent release of their debut full-length, there's now concrete evidence of Sexicolor's power, proof that even tired, club-free rockers can grasp. The Look and the Feel of Sexicolor contains songs about diseases, torn-up phone numbers, former KWMU anchorwomen, dykes, money, cross-dressers, bitter jocks, disdain, pretty smells and, sure, love, even if the band's brand of love seems less heartfelt than, say, Sarah Cloud's.
Clocking in under a half-hour and containing nine songs, The Look and Feel of Sexicolor doesn't break any new ground, rock-wise. The band works well within the tried-and-true formula staked out by many rock bands over the last 25 years: twin guitars, bass, drums and nothing else -- no organs, no tambourines, no maracas. Within these parameters, though, Sexicolor's recorded sound is hearty and thick, way heartier and thicker than anything else that's ever come out of Mike Martin's fantastic Broom Factory studio.
If Sexicolor has a fault, it's that the music is so monochromatic. Each song begins in a similar fashion -- either with a starter riff or as a full-blown drag race -- and the band moves on from there, quickly getting up to the requisite speed and then racing until the song ends. Only once do they take a breather -- at the beginning of "Mescaline Radio," when singer/guitarist Jason Hutto starts by himself and nearly falls into the dreaded world of rock balladry, until the band chimes midsong and pumps the piece up to said speed -- and as a result the songs melt into one long theme-and-variation workout. Restraint isn't in the band's vocabulary, and from start to finish it feels as if Sexicolor's got you in a tight headlock.
But it's never headache-inducing, because there's a sweetness beneath the rough exterior. When singer/guitarist Spitzie West gets a phone number from a dude, she doesn't simply throw it away. Rather, she has to tear it up so she won't be tempted to retrieve it when she's drunk and more vulnerable. Throughout the record, truths such as this one betray Sexicolor's hard shell: Hutto can't say something as simple as "I like you" to a girl. He's gotta sneak in around the back by telling her, "Wear my pants," but when he does, he's admitting his love. Sexicolor's all about hooks and riffs and a sour kind of love that's love nonetheless, or at least passion, or -- OK, maybe all their songs are just about cheap sex. Regardless, Sexicolor's debut is strong and sturdy. The only concern is what they'll do for a follow-up; rock bands that stick so closely to one style often burn out after a few records. Here's hoping that they'll learn to stretch a bit.
In addition to having the perfect name for his Monday-afternoon radio show, Afternoon Delight, Jeff Hess spins perfect rock & roll music, some of the best on KDHX or any other radio station in the city, county, state and, probably, country; music that moves from the '50s through the '00s. He never limits himself to any specific subgenre, other than the huge umbrella that covers all forms of rebellion centered around the electric guitar. You won't hear any pansy-boy whining -- well, he occasionally plays the Sea and Cake and Nick Drake -- nor will you hear much soft, gentle folk music. What you'll hear is all over the board, not limited to rock but centered in it, selected by someone who knows music, has a head crammed with it and will throw you for a loop with every segue. He leaps from Bebel Gilberto to Curtis Mayfield in a single bound, connects the dots between Captain Beefheart and Ween, has an obvious fondness for the Kinks and the Fugs and, most impressively, doesn't have tastes stuck in the past; he's fine playing the new Aluminum Group, Plastilina Mosh and Saint Etienne as well. Afternoon Delight is a music freak's paradise, a radio show programmed by a man who obviously breathes the stuff. Afternoon Delight: 2-4 p.m. Mondays on KDHX (88.1 FM).