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Caterwaul Purrs With European Band Sounds

The name of the band is Caterwaul and the name of the local club at which the band has most often appeared is Scream-- proper monikers that don’t promise much in the way of, say, Western melodiousness. In fact, Caterwaul isn’t nearly as shrill as its name might indicate. (There’s a whiff of Commercial Potential, even.)

Playing at the Lingerie on Saturday, the L.A.-based quartet sounded as European as any American band has a right to, pounding out a consistently intriguing sound that isn’t just reliant on the usual droning guitar (though there is that), but an unusually forceful rhythm section that can rock out amid all the “atmosphere.”

And then there’s singer-mandolinist Betsy Martin. Remote and pale behind a thatch of red hair and black eyeliner, Martin sounds a lot like Siouxsie of the Banshees and enunciates her presumably English lyrics like Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins--which is to say not at all. We’re talking form over content here.

The form was mighty impressive indeed at the Lingerie. Yet Martin seemed a big blank at center stage. Her voice rose and fell, but was it emotion or just notes from a scale? An LP due in March may solve the riddle.

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