Amy X Neuburg & Men

Utechma

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A very strong first record for Amy X Neuburg & Men, Utechma is a definite improvement from Amy X Neuburg's 1992 solo album. Of course, the instrumentation is richer and more varied (despite still relying heavily on synthesizers), but more importantly, the Men bring with them an improvisational dimension (in the short "Man Jam" tracks) that seem to give Neuburg the possibility to stretch her wacky side. Lyrics move deeper into odd word play and surrealism while keeping a foot in personal relationships -- they're just a bit stranger. Herb Heinz's guitars put the music in motion, backed by Joel Davel's MIDI mallets (not something you hear often) and Tim Root and Neuburg's keyboards. But the best feature of this album is the way woman and men play their roles of lead singer and backup band, the Men joining in for the choruses like a well-trained bunch of slaves, the singer teasing and dominating them cabaret style. Some songs, like "Chinatown" and "Get That Camera Out of Here," are pretty straightforward but very catchy. Others include odd features and improvisational moments, like "My Empire" and the title track. The latter is one crazy number beginning in Scottish trad style -- is the title Gaelic? No, it's just a warped pronunciation of "you take my" -- only to be twisted into a calypso. Above all of this, Neuburg's voice reigns like the Queen it deserves to be, exploring its impressive range in the closer "Hunger for Heaven." Not as wildly entertaining as the group's second opus, Sports! Chips! Booty!, this album still makes one hearty first course.

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