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Pop Music Reviews : Soul Asylum

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum may howl like a wounded beast, but on the Minneapolis band’s albums, at least, his raucous wailing is supported by coherent ideas. Often, Pirner’s thinking concerns the psychic toll an individualist must pay when the prevailing attitude is go-along-to-get-along.

Playing to a small audience Wednesday night at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, Pirner and his three band-mates had no problem venting the root feelings behind their fear and loathing of the conformist demands of a workaday world. Operating at two levels of intensity--booming and blasting--Soul Asylum yowled and bashed for 90 minutes at sense-damaging volume. All four members wound up drenched with sweat and probably feeling as if they had exorcised some of those post-adolescent blahs.

But Soul Asylum’s sonic storm obscured almost all of the ideas and most of the interesting musical touches that make its current album, “Hang Time,” a good example of how effective the coupling of punk-derived power and catchy song craft can be. Sloppy but enjoyable versions of oldies (including Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets to Paradise” and Neil Young’s “Barstool Blues”) lent some variety to a show that otherwise offered too much of one good thing.


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