Various Artists

Incestuous

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Incestuous rounds up a group of ultra-indie Australian bands for a self-financed compilation. Certainly an honorable endeavor, a chance to be heard based on the bands' own initiative along with the help of Indent Music. And it is constructed so as to offer a cross-section of styles. But the music contained on the album grates just as often as it pleases. Blue Frogs sound--annoyingly, I might add--like a lo-fi version of Hole, with the same tuneless vocals that would wear on your nerves if they didn't first render them numb. Mince Kittens and Doll Juice both indulge in sort of ranty, heavy sludge rock in the L7 mold, while Eye are a lethargic hardcore outfit. Half the songs on the album, in general, seem submerged in a musical gunk out of which they are too ho-hum to fight. Much of the album has an amateurishness to it, a sub lo-fi quality, and though that gives the music an intriguing raw, live feel, it just as often tinges the songs in blah college-rock no-man's land. The songs tend to run together, marring Incestuous as an overall listening experience. Still, there are bright spots and shining lights to be plucked from the mire. Rifled Slug is, well, interesting, in the artsy sense of the word. Musically, they make an '80s-ish racket with their guitars while thin-sounding drums sloppily pound out a backbeat behind them. Amateur on the transcendent side of that category. Over the top of the music is Thomas Bollinger's warped spoken-word performance. Ultimately, a completely odd amalgam, but worth working through. The Reflection offers solid pop-punk, especially "When I'm Here With You," which seems almost-certainly to be New Wave informed, as in early-'80s stiff-necked pop New Wave, with quick downstroked guitar riffs. They also show some '60s garage-rock influences that help their songs stand out. The main reason to listen to this CD, though, is the appearance of Fetishes, the guise of Bridgitte Corbett and Paul J. Narkiewicz. While the music is necessarily spare and quiet, Fetishes have an unbelievable vocal style, with Corbett's and Narkiewicz's voices twisting around each other in exotic fashion. It is utterly original. Narkiewicz has the odd ability to end his phrasing with a note that is a half-tone off from Corbett's, giving the harmonies a dissonant and mysterious quality. It is no surprise that the duo hooked up with Bollinger and two other musicians a couple years later to morph into the fabulous band, the Stinking Badger of Java. Though the music would be perfected and filled-out in that setting, the formula was already in place here.