Thursday, July 29, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Rock Revival Auburn Band Arrives With A Tough New CD

Seattle Times Staff Critic

If the revival of hard rock is really true, will millions of fans worldwide soon be singing "On Earth as it is in Auburn"? That's the hook of "Auburn," a song from the self-titled debut album by New American Shame, a band that's proud to be from the rough and tumble working-class town.

So far, the only current hit single that's signaled a return of hard-rock popularity is Buckcherry's "Lit Up," a steamy, driving, pro-cocaine song by a tough, tattooed band. (The song's drug references are bleeped out on the version played on the radio.)

The only other sign is less convincing - the re-emergence of Def Leppard, Megadeth, Great White, Sammy Hagar, Bad Company and the Scorpions, all of which have hit singles on Billboard's current Top 40 list of "mainstream rock tracks." But the re-emergence of those veteran bands may be more nostalgia than a sign of a new movement. Those aging bands are not going to lead a renaissance of hard rock - for one thing, MTV won't play their videos, because they look so over-the-hill. Buckcherry's clip, however, is one of the most requested on MTV and The Box.

But rising fast on that Billboard chart is "Under It All," the opening cut on New American Shame's album (Lava/Atlantic). Like most of the dozen songs on the disc, it bears a striking resemblance to the classic sound of AC/DC (as do most of Buckcherry's tunes). The radio version of "Under It All" is bleeped, also, this time for a swear word.

If the song gets as big as "Lit Up," then a hard-rock revival may really be upon us (but first, New American Shame has got to get its video on MTV).

New American Shame sounds ready to take on the world. It's got a tight guitar sound, thanks to Jimmy Paulson, formerly of Best Kissers in the World and the Lemons, and growly vocals from lead singer Johnny Reidt. Its original tunes, though no ground-breakers, are clever, hook-filled and full of attitude. The five-man group (all veterans of local club bands) even has its own anthem, "American Shame." Among other cuts on the disc are the racy "Sex Teen," the brutal "Broken Bones" and the menacing "What's It to You."

New American Shame is already a top draw locally - it headlined a Pain in the Grass show, opened for the Cult at the Paramount and played the Showbox and other top clubs - and it's stirred a lot of talk here: The Rocket is in the band's corner, but The Stranger hates the band and its album.

The next step is going to be fun to watch. New American Shame is posed to take on the world . . . if that rock revival is real.


`Bad Love' Randy Newman (DreamWorks)

Can we give a Pulitzer Prize to Randy Newman? A presidential medal? His face on a postage stamp?

Newman has been an American pop treasure for three decades, and he's still turning out great music. "Bad Love" is one of the best albums in his long, brilliant career, and that's saying a lot.

The album of new, original songs is particularly welcome, after last year's box set, "Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman," reminded us of the wealth of highly original pop songs he's crafted. Newman has concentrated on movie music in recent years (he was nominated for three Academy Awards earlier this year, in three different categories, for three different films), which has resulted in some rewarding instrumental and vocal music. But with "Bad Love" he gets back to writing songs unfettered by plot or era, as he is when he writes for movies. The result is a return to the themes and ideas he's known for - history, politics, patriotism, Americana, and love and death.

With his natural, easygoing rhythms, subtle wit and original thinking as a lyricist and arranger, his songs are smart, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining.

Who else could write a song about Karl Marx ("The World Isn't Fair") that's not only historically accurate and politically astute, but also hilarious? Equally funny is "The Great Nations of Europe," which is in his tradition of songs about xenophobia (i.e., "Let's Drop the Big One Now"), but somehow manages to equate imperialism and expansionism with homophobia. In "The One You Love" he tells a suitor, "Sorry, dear, you're too late; I've already ruined my life."

I giggled when, in the middle of "Shame," a song about the power that beautiful, sexy people have, he suddenly asks his soulful female backup singers, "Will you stop that please?" And I did the same thing when, in "I Want Everyone to Like Me," he sang "I'm really very modest once you get to know me."

"I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It)" is the funniest song about death I've ever heard (well, there aren't that many). And the nostalgic, patriotic overkill of "My Country," the opening cut, is perfect.

`Blues' Eric Clapton (Polydor)

The older he gets, the more Eric Clapton resembles the traditional American bluesmen he's always loved and admired. On the three new cuts on this two-disc retrospective, "Before You Accuse Me," "Alberta" and "Meet Me (Down at the Bottom)," all of them superb, he sounds more like a native of the Mississippi Delta than a veteran British rock star.

Most of the material on the 25-cut, 2 1/2-hour collection (one disc is studio material, the other live) will be fairly familiar to longtime Clapton fans, because it is drawn from his many albums. But in putting most of his blues cuts into one package, you can appreciate how blues has been the foundation of his music from the very beginning. You can hear how he adapts traditional blues guitar into his own style of playing; how he skillfully balances homage with originality, coming up with something new. You marvel at his original thinking as a guitarist, and his under-appreciated skills as a singer.

I'd quibble that "Wonderful Tonight" is not a blues song, however much I love the lyric and his singing. But other than that, it's a great collection, attractively priced, with a fine 20-page booklet. And it suggests that Clapton will be making music for a good long time, just like those old bluesmen.

`End Sessions: Live on the End' Various artists (KNDD)

If you've ever been driving along, listening to KNDD ("The End") on the FM dial, and heard a live session that you wish you were home taping, here's the likely solution to your frustration: It's probable that that session, or at least a highlight of it, is on this 15-song disc.

"End Sessions" is a collection of cuts drawn from the local station's fine series of live concerts. Such bands as Soul Coughing, Cake, Third Eye Blind and Bad Religion are represented, with a song from each.

The recording is superb and the stripped-down style of the mostly acoustic cuts is refreshing. Among the highlights are the Verve Pipe's haunting "The Freshmen," Blur's cranium-shattering "Song 2," Marcy Playground's spare, coy "Sex & Candy" and Everclear's ironical "I Will Buy You a New Life."

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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