The Boston Phoenix
March 19 - 26, 1998

[Music Reviews]

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Jen Trynin, Gravel Pit, Jack Drag: Paradise Regained

Jen Trynin Before she sliced into "Under the Knife," a sarcastic, sad commentary on better living through plastic surgery, Jen Trynin addressed an audience member who yelled something forgettable toward the stage. "If you're going to scream out," Trynin suggested, "make it funny and make it fast." During her set on Friday the 13th at the Paradise -- where she was joined on an early bill (show time: 7:45 p.m.) by fellow local popsters Jack Drag and the Gravel Pit -- Trynin applied that criteria to herself, ripping through 17 songs in 60 minutes with panache, humor, and enough swagger to make Chrissie Hynde feel like a den mother (well, okay, maybe not exactly a den mother).

This was a postponed Valentine's Day show, and after a month of waiting Trynin appeared relaxed and ready to tear the roof off the sucker -- at least what was left of it once the Gravel Pit were done casing the joint. She chose to open, however, with the moodily atmospheric "Everything" before strapping on her electric guitar and diving into tough, brisk readings of "Around It" and "If I" -- songs so concentrated and tight you could bounce a quarter off them. Instead of dissipating momentum, Trynin's bait-and-switch rotation of surly rockers and bittersweet ballads worked well, with each showcasing the strength and intelligence of the other. Drawing mostly from last year's critically acclaimed though commercially somewhat disappointing Gun Shy Trigger Happy (Warner Bros.), she and her crack three-piece outfit cut cleanly into the strafing guitar buzz of "Bore Me" and the lush acoustic grace of "Getaway (February)."

The Farfisa-powered Gravel Pit brought garage-rock muscle and punishing volume to the proceedings, but the band's heaping helping of adolescent bluster and bravado tended to bury, rather than catch, the hooks of their material. Singer Jed Parish's roomy bellow worked best when he was pouring himself into dramatic, slow-burn numbers and crooning lines like "stumbling sideways home," but too often he just seemed to be shouting over the din. Still, the swirling carousel of keyboards and Lucky Jackson's gnashing guitar riffage ably powered anthems like "Drink You Up" and "Skipping Through The Chill." And the Pit delivered the snide, fuel-injected Elvis Costello-isms of "Officer Dwight Boyd" with sinister glee.

Just in case you were wondering what happened to Jack Drag's A&M debut, singer/guitarist John Dragonetti says the album's in the can, has been approved by the powers-that-be, and should be released this July. In the interim, the trio are playing a South by Southwest showcase next week, and they have a new single due out on May 20.

Despite a slow start at the Paradise, the local psych/fuzz-pop trio made the best of the rest of their eight-song set, fusing trad-rock melodies with warped distorto-noise explorations and unorthodox feedback-laced breaks. "I Feel Really O.K." opened with spiky curlicue clusters from Dragonetti's guitar and Joe Klompus's stealthy bass rumble. A "Tomorrow Never Knows" drum figure that might have been nicked from the Beatles (or is that the Chemical Brothers?) propelled the lysergic imagery of "Seem So Tired," which sounded anything but. And they closed the half-hour set with "Psycho Clogs," a hooky number built on an "Electric Warrior"-style riff embroidered with riots of acid-dipped guitar clamor.

-- Jonathan Perry
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