The Kelley Deal 6000

Go to the Sugar Altar

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Given that it was Kim who was famous (or at least known first), it was bemusing that Kelley came up with the truer follow-up to Last Splash, at least in terms of standing up to repeated listening. Compared to the Amps' ultimately go-nowhere Guided By Voices worship (and attendant limitations), Go to the Sugar Altar had the crisper rock punch mixed with some surprising but effective experimentation. The first song alone has a steel drum as a lead instrument, and why not? Everything takes a turn -- from castanets to Casio keyboards -- thanks to various guest players (including Jimmy Flemion from the notorious Frogs), and the result is one of the few albums of half an hour in length that honestly shows a real sense of range and ability. Snaky blues, high and lonesome country, full-on punky thrash -- it's all in here and all sounds pretty good at that. Meanwhile, Deal's core band does a pretty good job replicating the sharp-edged charge of the Breeders, though there's not much in the way of immediate individual flair from the players. Deal herself, though, is a treat, her familiar, sarcastic, and wry approach suiting both the lyrics and her distinct way of singing. (Another key difference from the Amps: Kelley doesn't bury or distort her voice the way Kim did, or at least not most of the time.) Her ear for choruses that are catchy in spite of themselves works like a charm -- "How About Hero" in particular is a winner. Throw in everything else from the angelic overdubs and quiet guitar that start off "Dammit" to the semi-Lee and Nancy melodrama of "Trixie Delicious," and the result is an underappreciated treat.

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