Kanary - 2000 Porno Church Of The Ugly Man

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ARTIST: Kanary
ALBUM: Porno Church Of The Ugly Man
LABEL: Times Square Productions
YEAR: 2000

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image
LINEUP: Leslie Knauer - vocals, guitars * Mary Fox - bass, backgrounds * Tony Matteucci - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 After * 02 Excuse Me Pardon Me * 03 Wish * 04 Porno Church Of The Ugly Man * 05 It'S Not Ez To Be Me * 06 Hullabaloo House * 07 Party At My House * 08 2 Steps * 09 Never Coming Down * 10 Lost Weekend * 11 Praying * 12 Moose & Squirrel

Background

Southern Californian three-piece Kanary are not your typical pop rock band, but then again, judging by this, their sophomore effort, I guess the band wouldn't want things any other way.

'Porno Church Of The Ugly Man', the left of centre follow up to the successful debut 'Invincible', will certainly be a head turner (check out the shocking pink and orange hair colours sported by bassist Mary Fox and lead singer Leslie Knauer), but is this due to their outrageous image or the quality of the material?

Happily, 'Porno Church..' demonstrates that it's the music more than the hair that is most notable, and for those unfamiliar with the band, their history provides a curious backdrop to an album that won't leave you disappointed.

Drummer Tony Matteucci has filled the stool for among others, ex Quiet Riot man Paul Shortino, and lead singer Leslie Knauer is otherwise known for her rasping vocals as part of 80's all-girl hair band Precious Metal.

Perhaps her main claim to fame though, is her starring role in Canadian 70's pop band Promises' hit video 'Baby It's You'. In Kanary, it seems Leslie has grown up a little and it's probably the unwelcome reminders of her, ahem, 'front' in that now infamous video which provides the basis for the angst-ridden, yet strangely addictive collection of songs on show on 'Porno Church Of The Ugly Man'.

These days, Knauer provides front of a more musical kind, with her tremendous voice rather than her chest, grabbing all the headlines.

The vocals often sound like a cross between Melissa Etheridge and the Cranberries Dolores O Riordian, and the mostly self-penned songs Leslie belts out come across as an interesting fusion of melody and starkly original lyrics.

The Songs

Setting the tone for the majority of the CD, opener 'After' gets proceedings off to a great start, with a hook you could hang your coat on and a solid riff backed up by the impressively tight rhythm section of Matteucci and Mary Kay on bass.

Kay contributes two blues-tinged songs to the album, 'Hullabaloo House' and 'Lost Weekend' but while they are decent enough tunes, they appear as distant cousins to the superior material on offer from Knauer. Highlights are abundant, from the cool trippy vibe of 'Never Coming Down' to the infectious groove of 'It's not EZ' and the lucid honesty of the title track.

'Wish' and 'Excuse Me, Pardon Me' are further evidence that Kanary aren't afraid to match melody with power but it's the most commercial track on the album, the irresistibly delicate 'Praying' which stands out the most for me. Possibly the only time Leslie lets down her aggressive and ironic lyrical guard, this is simply a song which cries out to be huge.

Lyrically, the songs are a breath of fresh air, there isn't a cliche within a country mile of any of Kanary's tunes, despite the well trodden paths of '..lives ,loves, mistakes and characters' explored by the band. And in the production stakes, 'Porno Church..' again scores highly.

In Summary

It's pretty hard to compare Kanary to anything else on the scene at the moment, and to do so would probably be unfair. When you are presented with an album as fresh, original and well written as this, the only thing to do is appreciate it for all it is worth.

In short, 'Porno Church Of The Ugly Man' is, as it's name suggests, surprisingly compelling and compelling enough to banish any unwanted memories of Leslie's dodgy 70's video forever.


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