Subject to Change

Womb Amnesia

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Womb Amnesia confounds expectation from the moody, folk-rock jangle of the guitars that kick the album off to the panoramic acoustic strumming that closes it. Perhaps that is what sunk the album in Capitol's eyes before it ever made it out of the gates. It is not an easily pigeonholed entity. Rather than fall back on urban and R&B formulas, Subject to Change -- bearing out the band's name -- mashed together rock, deep-groove funk, and R&B elements with half a dozen other genres into an eclectic hybrid. The mixture occasionally recalls the work of Prince & the Revolution (the organ intro on "Universal Pimp," for instance), but Subject to Change stakes out its own unique territory as well, particularly with its strong affinity for both fusion and heavy psychedelia, and the heavy metal that occasionally creeps into the music. Cree Summer strains at times to wring as much grit as she can from her voice. Her vocals are very much in the rock & roll, as opposed to soul music, mode (bassist Oneida James, tellingly, provides the more soulful backing vocals). But that is exactly the sort of juxtaposition that makes Subject to Change such an interesting one-shot. When all else fails -- and there are some weak moments -- the band is always formidable, never less than on-point throughout. The dual guitar attack of Tori Ruffin and Greg Bell is particularly blistering, and the rhythm section stays deep in the pocket for most of the album, at times even veering wildly toward jazz. And when the band veers, it often veers well off the map. The most curious moment is the astounding avant-garde funk of "Beauty Is Made," what the Revolution might have sounded like with Frank Zappa as bandleader instead of Prince. Many of the lyrics are socially conscious, attacking topics as caustic as race, class, gender, and ego, while others take on a sunny, hippie-esque vibe. Already pressed and ready to go but pulled by a cold-footed Capitol just weeks before it was supposed to hit the shelves, Womb Amnesia was never officially released but the already-pressed copies did eventually find their way to used CD stores, and is worth tracking down there.

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