While a slightly patchy effort in comparison to later albums, Religion shows lead singer/mainman Tyson Meade and the Kittens still getting off to a good start all around. Its embrace of trashy punk glam, wonderfully out of tune with the incipient grunge empire of the early nineties, helped distinguish the group from the start. Meade's charismatic, delicious high-register singing and lyrical obsessions with kinky sex, death, madness and, indeed, religion called to mind understandable Ziggy Stardust comparisons, but he gives everything his own particularly fractured spin. When he breaks into one of his not infrequent yelps and wails, it suits the mood quite well. Musically, he and lead guitarist Metzger favor sprawl and chunky riffs, as much Ron Asheton and Steve Jones as Mick Ronson. The rhythm section is mostly there as opposed to being distinct, but they support Meade's cockeyed vision well enough, while random movie samples and some other touches flesh out the album. "Mother (of the ancient birth)" is the first song that totally lifts the Kittens up from being well-meaning if perversely mannered tribute fusion. Its quick clip and chewy chorus, poppy and punchy down to the handclaps while Meade sings of weird Freudian twists, serves as a great calling card for the band's abilities. From there everything winds up more furiously as it goes, one mascara-smeared aural car crash after another. Songtitles like "Death-Out at Party Central" and "Feel Like a Drugstore" are happily lived up to, while gentler numbers as "I'm Waiting (leeanne's song)" let Meade showcase his equally good, lower-pitched singing, soothing and smoky. The album wraps up with its best song, the lovely piano ballad "She's Gone Mad," covered live elsewhere by fellow Oklahomans the Flaming Lips. Meade's portrayal of the titular character is achingly sympathetic and matched by his performance perfectly.
Violent Religion Review
by Ned Raggett