Part jazz/funk/rock orgy, part political tirade, this 1995 debut by Screaming Headless Torsos is not for the easy listening fan. Strongly allied with the Black Rock Coalition, the Torsos at times sound like an angrier and infinitely funkier Living Color. Vocalist Dean sings, raps, and emits heavy metal screams while David Fiuczynski lets loose with his signature guitar pyrotechnics. The rhythm, absolutely monstrous, is laid down by bassist Fima Ephron, drummer Jojo Mayer, and percussionist Daniel Sadownick. This is no mere wall of sound, however. The music is thick with harmonic and rhythmic detail, the stuff of stellar musicianship. The group's lyrics are rancorous, subversive, and at times racially provocative, with buckets of vitriol directed against sellouts and jazz-funk phonies, the analog to those hip-hop arch-villains, "sucker MCs": "Tell a story of the honky dory/Living in the past/Kicks off his shoes, destroys the blues/Let's splice his ass." They also take aim at mainstream American entertainment in general: "We celebrate mediocrity and worship crap/This country went to camp and never came back." Declaring war on corrupted aesthetic values, the group answers with defiant pronouncements: "I won't be a fool in your school of misinformation"; "I won't sublet or pretend to beget/a shackled down music that's nothing but hype." In "Graffiti Cemetery," the Torsos decry the disappearance of New York subway graffiti as a loss for oppositional culture. Going beyond local concerns, the band laments war in the Balkans with "Wedding in Sarajevo." They also pay Miles Davis a double tribute with "Blue in Green" (hit the dirt, jazz purists) and the theme from A Tribute to Jack Johnson. Along with outfits like Lost Tribe, the Torsos are creating a new kind of uncompromising fusion that Miles would likely have smiled upon.
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AllMusic Review by David R. Adler