1991: The Man From B.E.T.T.Y.
If their harmonies on so many of these tracks (and on those of their later albums) werent just so awkwardly, noticeably off-pitch and not quite matching (usually standing out because the instrumental tracks dont bend to match), Id be raving about BETTY non-stop. Their song material ranges from hilarious to poignant (usually nearer hilarious with a spin of wry), the instrumentation is often completely absent and rarely fails to contribute to the impression when its present, and the performances are deliciously robust, smarmy, raunchy, tender, flighty, airy, or just perfect for the moment, all as the circumstance demands. If only their combined voices werent so often off-pitch!
There are many, many delightful treats on this CD. Shrinkback is probably the best of the harder-rocking numbers, and its rich with innuendo and vocal/harmonic treats; it also serves as a fine example of the three-voiced BETTY beast in action, as is DC Dog which follows it.
More intimate tracks such as the near-twin Martini Talk and Bar Talk Duet contrast interestingly with the similarly intimately presented Window and Go Ahead and Split, Mr Amoeba Man. And then theres the delicious Bicycle, which bridges that gap exellently by draping a suggestively ambiguous narrative vocal over the main rhythmic theme of Chain Reaction before deftly segueing into their sniggeringly deft adaptation of the theme to Petticoat Junction&.#148;
The first real track, Fun Girl, is a fascinating deconstruction of Funny Girls songs, pastiched into a snazzy yet angular concoction that Barbra fans must either love of hate (I dont feel compelled to investigate that issue). First Date I loved when I first heard it, and then the love faded, but when I revisit it I find Im tickled anew.
Where this album suffers is in heavily over-produced numbers such as Broken (which is actually a very nice song under all that machinery), Wolfwoman, Echo, and Aftershock. Chain Reaction manages to skirt the issue by being entertaining and amusing, while Ms Snake only works as the latter counterpart to the niftily arch and excellently acted Snake Saga.
Ive never seen BETTY in live concert, but I know that cello is one of the instruments involved; when I listen for it I can hear it here and there on this album, usually in an electrified/distorted form, but just to recognize it as such is a treat . Also, the layers of pop-culture references in their lyrics are necessarily elusive at times to one so off-the-PopCult-radar as me, but theres plenty I *do* catch here nonetheless.
Comments © 2005 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.