Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Heart smart

Posted By on Wed, Jul 4, 2001 at 12:00 AM

The opening riffs of Kabuki snarl like a freshly formed band fighting in a garage over whether they want to sound like Kitty or Sleater-Kinney. Somewhere midargument, all goes awry and something intriguing emerges, more along the lines of Frank Zappa’s band meets Veruca Salt.

Sure, groups that set out with a clear vision might have a more solid sound and more success with the fans, but often what gets lost in the clarity is quixotic inspiration — something Violet Skin is not lacking in the least.

At first, the lo-fi to the lowest common denominator might turn you off, but something pulls you back at the last minute. Maybe it’s Katie Janness’ nearly gasped yo-yo vocals that affix themselves to your skin like a stretchy, gummy frog from a machine that vends plastic eggs.

Or maybe it’s the point when you recognize that the jumbled fuzz-swapping isn’t a sign for lack of skill. It soon makes itself obvious that these four Ferndalians could swing the whole power-chord pounce adopted by many of their grrl peers. Not that there’s anything wrong with power chords. Violet Skin just chooses to take its angst elsewhere with its first full-length CD, somewhere on the fringe of the hardcore-art-heart-punk-metal spectrum. The rhythm section provides a rough crunch and rumble, keeping up with the attention-deficit sequencing of squaring-off guitars. This is no doubt due in part to the capable stickhandling of Angie Kaiser, formerly of Day 28, Spat and Fez.

Lyrically, Janness speaks of emotional sincerity distorted by detachment and cynicism, anguished by jaded lethargy, the hallucination that ensues and then finally, the simple but profound realizations concluded. “I ran away without moving an inch/and I heard screaming that night as I fell through glass that wasn’t there/and realized it was my voice screaming/but you didn’t hear.”

At other times, it’s impossible to hear, or distinguish, what is being said, perhaps because two people are singing two separate sets of lyrics simultaneously. Coincidentally, the lyrics point to a godlike/antlike dilemma in “Overflowing.” “I want to see it all / Must I open my eyes … Dying of thirst / in a pool of salt / I can’t do it anymore / I can do it all the time / Sometimes I’m scared of heights / Sometimes I want to fly.”

The melodies will stick in your head even though the song structure is anything but conventional. At times it almost sounds as if each member is wearing a pair of headphones, singing and playing along with whatever it is she’s hearing. Chaotic, yes, but somehow, it clicks.

Violet Skin opens for Consolation Prize and God’s Reflex July 5 at Magic Stick.

Melissa Giannini is the Metro Times staff music writer. E-mail her at mgiannini@metrotimes.com.

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