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REVIEW: Hazel, Ariana (Candy-Ass)

I didn’t know much (or anything) except that I was wandering through Mod Lang Records in Berkeley and this song “Mr. Magazine Man” was playing and I bought their EP on the spot. “Mr. Magazine Man” is an instantly memorable song which really shows of Hazel’s strength: their dueling X-like male and female vocals. energetic and speedy punky chordal rhythm section. The vocals simultaneously reel off different letters to the editor and the song sparkles with a sense of life and energy. The female belted out the words “I’ve got something that you can’t stand!” and I couldn’t stop listening.

It turns out that this is a hip band now in Portland, formerly from Seattle, and formerly known for bubblegum grunge songs. In fact, their drummer and female singer, Jody Bleyle, is none other than guitarist Jody from the ultra-hip Team Dresch. Go figure. But in this band she’s putting a punk engine in the folk songs of guitarist Peter, along with bassist Brady Smith and Peter Krebs. And they are also known for having a strange middle-aged hippie named Fred Nemo dancing furiously during their shows. He doesn’t appear on the record (no footsteps or whips cracking or things breaking). Anyway, this EP has music that is mercifully distant from grunge cliches.

The EP is named after the first and weakest song “Ariana” which highlights the compelling but somewhat wavering vocals. But any vocal that spits out (repeatedly and in one quick breath) “staple my eyes back, you pull out my heart” can’t be too bad. Jody sounds noticeably better on the other songs: the confusingly named “Title Track” has a fine duet of melodic “ba baddas” and “Ohio Player” starts off in standard pop territory and wanders off into a beautiful and passionate cry of “Oh no, I will not do it even though you push me to.” The EP ends with “My 2nd Chance” which is saved from being somewhat average (sloppy playing and sloppy melody) by the mournful and striking sound of the harmonies on the repeated line “hold the hand that holds yours”.

They make good music, they play with passion, and their singing is at its best gripping and moving and they have something creative going. All of their songs have something decent and listenable about them and they are worth a listen. From their interviews, it seems like Fred the dancer is no longer with them. But they sound like an energetic band with a sense of melody and honesty and I suggest you look them up. If your local record store doesn’t carry them, try Candy-Ass Records , P.O. Box 42382, Portland, OR, 97242.