Variety Showcase

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Variety Showcase takes generally punky rock, a few touches of post-punk oddity (the squeakily expressive vocals recall Pere Ubu), and an almost over-the-top rock bombast, and explodes the combination into something rather strange -- given that the Wall Men never choose to put a heavy bite into their rockiest moments, they wind up with a jokey sense of irony that lends Variety Showcase most of its interest. When the band lays out a half-hour abstraction trip like "Optional," it's clear that there's something pretty odd going on in their approach to rock that wasn't quite as present on previous albums -- but the oddity of this record never seems to define its purpose well enough to get any reaction beyond puzzled looks. Wall Men releases like 1994's Not Too Long Time Sound fare much better -- all of the oddity is there, but it's contained in a more palatable and pointed form.

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