Reviews of CDs by The Rev. Horton Heat, Guy Clark and Smashing Pumpkins 

Now Hear This

The Rev. Horton Heat, "Spend a Night in the Box," (Time Bomb) — From the opening guitar riff, "The Rev.'s" intentions are clear. He may not be out to carve new musical territory, but he is out to get listeners up on the dance floor with his raucous rock trio spirit and barroom band sound.

Recorded at Willie Nelson's studio near Austin and produced by Butthole Surfers' guitarist Paul Leary, "In the Box" is full of short, to-the-point, feel-good tunes about the road, girls and booze. "Whole Lotta Baby" celebrates some "goin' on" with one cool chick, while "Sleeper Coach Driver" is a lyrically clever tune about life on the bus. Guitar, drums and slap bass surf along on "Millionaire," while the loser in "Unlucky in Love" hasn't got a clue. The songs on "Box" will not startle a listener with their uniqueness, but there are enough surprises here to bear repeated spins. That's if you can stop dancing long enough to hit the replay button. The Rev. Horton Heat plays Traxx in Charlottesville, Thursday, March 23.
— Ames Arnold

Guy Clark, "Cold Dog Soup," (Sugar Hill) — Clark has been hands-down one of contemporary America's most dependable sources for finely crafted country/folk songs for more than three decades. With "Cold Dog Soup," the Nashville-based singer/songwriter once again shows us how it's done. Clark's easy-rolling, rough-hewn voice wraps around a tune with rowdy backwoods sidekick ease, and his way with a story takes us to the parlor where friends pick songs until the jug runs dry. Clark wrote or co-wrote nine of the 12 tunes, and, as always, they reveal his feel for the land and its people. "Red River" tells the story of his family's early Texas days while "Indian Head Penny" follows a copper relic's journey through poker games, little boys' pockets and an old wino's weathered hands. The title song is a surreal glimpse into Guy's early days when he scratched out a living playing tiny bars, while gathering the stories for a lifetime. This CD may break no new ground for Clark, but it again shows why he's one of our best song crafters.
— A.A.

The Smashing Pumpkins, "Machina: The Machines of God," (Virgin) — If the title sounds more like an opera than a rock album, you're on the right track: The pretension knows no bounds.

Worse is that behind the high-concept song titles — "The Sacred and Profane," "I of the Mourning" — are lyrics like "No one's out there/ to hear if I care/ about the troubles in the air."

OK, there are bright spots. "Stand Inside Your Love" soars with anthemic vocals matched to sheets of guitar — not unlike 1993's "Cherub Rock," arguably the Pumpkins' finest moment. Elsewhere, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, back from rehab, propels otherwise listless songs like "Raindrops + Sunshowers."

But most everything else is overprocessed to death, especially Billy Corgan's voice, warped on many tracks into an electronic whine. Despite being the band's purported return to guitar rock, it's clear the machines still rule.

Fans who've stuck with the Pumpkins this far will want to check out the latest chapter. But if you dug "Siamese Dream" and couldn't swallow the bombast that followed, there's not much here to recommend.
— Dave Renard, The Virginian-Pilot


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