Any record co-released on what would turn out to be two of the '90s hippest labels anywhere -- Washington's Teenbeat and New York's Matador -- probably had something going for it from inception. It certainly didn't hurt, though, that the band in question had plenty of talent and background to bring to the party. Starting off with a lengthy Fall cover is a gutsy way to begin an album, but, thankfully, the band proves themselves up to it, a neat way of showing the quality of Struggling and of the group. Said cover is a lengthy standout from The Hex Enduction Hour, "Hip Priest," and while hearing Dulany instead of Mark E. Smith sing then spit out the legendary kiss-offs of the song initially is a bit odd, she makes them her own. The rest of the band goes off with equal aplomb, led by Duane's snarling guitar. Ibold in particular shows just the right attitude and performance needed on bass, and if Pavement got tagged with its own Fall wannabe problem, it certainly gained a player well versed in the material. Perhaps inevitably, Struggling doesn't quite overtop that brilliant start, but not for lack of trying. While the ghost-of-Sonic Youth comparison is somewhat inevitable from the opening notes of "The Revenge of Cruiser Gurner" and then on for the rest of the record, it's a more inspired use of inspiration and similar influences than most. Dulany's frontwoman skills nail it, dealing out gritty imagery and just-right 'tude in measure, while the band as a whole aims for the messily epic and charging and generally hit the mark on numbers like "Throw the Bottlefull." Various folks from Railroad Jerk and other acts sit in -- drummer Reed's "ghost" is credited on only two songs, "When Gravity Hits" and "Freeborn, Man" -- but the whole thing sounds like a reasonably cohesive effort.
Struggling Electric and Chemical Review
by Ned Raggett