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Wednesday, October 20, 1999

High-wired act

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Outrageous Cherry (Deb Agolli, Chad Gilchrist, Larry Ray and the locally omnipresent Matthew Smith) are now on their fourth record in six years, getting an incredible amount of power and distance from musical forms – Stones, Yardbirds, Velvets – that date back to the Johnson administration. But don’t be fooled by the wolf-of-a-rock-band in ’60s-garage-sheep’s-clothing; OC comes to play, covering both rock ("Tracy" and "Song for Inoshiro Honda") and mope-rock ("Easy Come, Easy Glow," "It’s Always Never") with more pop-kitsch-per-square-inch mastery than any band since Big Star.

Which is the only downer about Out There in the Dark at all; the band’s choice of production effects – stuck somewhere between Brian Wilson’s bedroom and Iggy’s fender-pressing dreams – make about as much sense in the hip-pop ’90s as the new Volkswagen Bug. But by the time OC hits the provocatively titled "Where Do I Go When You Dream?," grabbing the useful bits from the Beach Boys and throwing out the rest (all that Four Freshman bullshit), what decade it is really doesn’t matter.

Remember: Retro only matters if the band doing it can make it sound like there is unfinished rock ’n’ roll business to be done. OC brings the garage-schlock back to the table because Smith et al. have scores to settle.

The kicker is "There’s No Escape from the Infinite," an incredibly broad yet controlled 10-minute rave-up that ends the album. It surfs the space between irony and earnestness with a skill that is as uncanny and spooky as it is gorgeous. You can almost hear Smith laughing: "Who’s the president now?"

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