Various Artists

Cha Cha Cabaret Chez Vous

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One of the most irrefutably strange records of the late 1990s, this may be a compilation, but there's a thematic linkage in that the performers are mostly women of the way-underground indie variety. The album, too, is a cabaret of sorts in the jigsaw of styles, sounding like nothing so much as an alternate universe, a feminist counterpart to, say, early Frank Zappa albums. There's a lesbian fantasy about an older woman, the dialogue delivered with all the finesse of a junior high class skit; "Goldfinger" changed into a song about James Bond's secretary, with nothing but kazoo accompaniment; smooth lounge tap-dance fare; a faux torch ballad; a surrealistic spoken call-and-response piece with abstract heartbeat background noise, and incredibly over-the-top greasy intros and outros, delivered by some wag with an atrocious fake Latin accent, who bungles his way through the worst Queen tribute you could imagine. And then, to throw things further off balance, there are occasional folk-punk and riot grrrl-ish pieces that are much more typical of the product identified with the K label. It's hard to say what exactly Cha Cha Cabaret Chez Vous is trying to prove (probably nothing), but it's certainly an avowedly uncommercial exercise; these are art-damaged performers who are doing exactly what they want to do. Whether that translates to product that others might find interesting is questionable. But it does distinguish itself by virtue of its very oddness, which makes it an anomaly even in the can-you-top-this rock underground.

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