Lucid Nation

Tacoma Ballet

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Lucid Nation's ambitious Tacoma Ballet is a double album that offers a very complete picture of where they stand in 2002. Outside of vocalist Tamra Spivey, Ronnie Pontiac is the only survivor from the last lineup, offering his pleasantly sparse and sloppy guitar amongst the five new members. The band also features the incredible drumming of Patty Schemel, the former skin-pounder for Hole during the mid-'90s. The new band has a loose, jammy feel, often bringing to mind the Up on the Sun era of the Meat Puppets with a little Babes in Toyland-esque tension thrown in. But this is vocalist Spivey's show, and it is her acidic vocals that carry this album. Bringing to mind vocalists as different as Diamanda Galás, Kathleen Hanna, and Bonnie Raitt, her range is incredible, and her ability to take on various voices is what keeps the album as fresh as it is. Mostly concentrating on her contempt for the American way of life, Spivey can be a sharp social critic when she puts her mind to it. "Fall" is an excellent example, using the slow-moving psychedelia of the song to deliver a self-flagellating anthem that steps away from its own message to offer clever commentary on how things got so bad for the song's protagonist. It's when she goes straight for the gut that her talents seem to get overshadowed by her political ambitions. This is especially obvious on the controversial "Welcome to America." The anti-Republican message is delivered in a mock Southern accent as Spivey brags about Texas' superiority to the rest of the country. But to her credit, by the end of the song, her infectious passion for her own ideals overcomes the broad simplicity and uncharacteristic generalizations of the lyrics. Some might be turned off by the idea of a riot grrrl redux ten years later, but Lucid Nation's Tacoma Ballet is much more than that. It's a broad range of unique and repetitive musical pieces that are tense, psychedelic, and avoid the overbearing emphasis on complicated performances that can come with a double album. It's also a vivid portrait of conservative America from the point-of-view of a politically aware youth culture that still can't quite get over itself. And, most importantly, it's a great rock record that's not afraid to stir up a little controversy.

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