The Gena Rowlands Band

La Merde Et Les Etoiles

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It's one of those strange things -- a band album designed to showcase a singer/songwriter where the central artist is eclipsed by the music around his words. Named for a cult movie icon, the members of the Gena Rowlands Band are veterans of the D.C. post-punk scene -- imagine, for example, Fugazi taking a shot at the limpid atmospherics of American Music Club. Bob Massey might be an individual songwriter, but his rambling ideals simply don't captivate, while his voice goes nowhere in keeping tension in the listener. Thank God, then, for the band, who inject interesting atmospherics into the end "Tom Shroder's Blues" that tower over the rest of the song. And when they bust through the lyrical fabric of "King Kong Meets His Maker (A Parable About Dating)" it's like a breath of fresh air. There's no doubting Massey's cleverness, but his schtick seems to be style over substance, however earnest he is at heart -- and it seems very earnest indeed on "Pilot for a Situation Tragedy." It might be much more interesting to let this band do an instrumental disc, since that's where their imaginations run riot.

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