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Tribe of Judah Exit Elvis

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Wednesday, January 22, 2003 @ 1:48 PM


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Turnabout is fair play.
I always felt that Filter’s hit “Take A Picture” borrowed heavily from Extreme’s “Hole Hearted.” With the opening industrial fuzz of “Exit Elvis,” it seems that Gary Cherone is taking something back -- and bringing something new with him.

Arguably, there is nothing new about a rock band veteran putting out some new-sounding noise (see Taime Downe’s “Newlydeads” or even Bowie’s “Earthling”), but for all of the new frost on this project from Gary Cherone (following Extreme, and a one-shot with some band I forgot the name of…), there is a lot of familiar warmth.

At best Gary Cherone’s voice and lyrics elicited warmth and gentle neo-political wisdom; at his worst… he kinda sounds like a vigorous Sammy Hagar. On Exit Elvis, Gary Cherone is very much the former. A guy like Gary Cherone NEEDS a big, bombastic song to really showcase his writing and vocals. This is when he really shines; and Exit Elvis gives him that; just cleverly draped in the blanket of this industrial thing.

It makes a lot of sense to me: Extreme was as musically diverse as a hard rock band could get for the time -- in a way that Blondie and The Clash explored different styles while staying true to their formula, Extreme managed to explore different styles: acoustic guitars; horns; jazz-classical; the voices of children; and hints of rap during their four-album run. To update that idea for the post-Millennium resurgence of rock, industrial fuzz, programming, keyboards and tape-looping effects sound very timely without over-saturating the music in style. There is nothing but substance here ~ read: rock. All those “Metal Vs. Electronica” CDs that have poured out of LA in recent years… apply that concept to “Extreme” and you get “Tribe Of Judah.” Strip it all away, and play this stuff with just Gary and some guy on acoustic guitar for VH1’s Un-Plugged, and still get a great bunch of songs.

Right or wrong: this CD rocks, and was the biggest little surprise of the year. “Left For Dead” opens with a nice guitar hook and then shakes into the chorus with that industrial fuzz I mentioned. Call it what you want -- but this stuff will make you nod your head whether blasting out of your speakers or your Walkman headphones. “No One” starts slowly then builds up. There is some jazzy guitar and --“Hey, it’s that Gary Cherone guy from Extreme!” Yep…very familiar and -- “Hey- there’s leads- and they’re cool!”…

Neither of these songs -- none of the songs here, in fact -- overstay their welcome… they stand alone, but in sequence sound fantastic. A nice flow here. “East Of Paradise” is a breezy sittin’-on-a-porch acoustic kind of song layered with slow drum effects. “Thanks For Nothing”…again: Metal Vs. Electronica “Extrreme.” Cool slow grinding git, textured background choruses -- it weirds out for a little bit -- then come “leads.” And it sounds really cool. What’s wrong with that?

“Thanks For Nothing” (my favorite) is a rocker no matter how you dress it up. “Celibate” shows Gary stepping out from his “soul-holler,” with a “sotto voce” as it slow-rock segues into “Ambiguous Headdress.” If you aren’t listening carefully, you don’t realize that these are TWO songs. They seem to flow into one: picture an upper-register Pete Steele singing for Xymox and produced by Trent Reznor, (if anyone gets that, “Rant” away…)

“In My Dreams” is hard guitars and drum machines (I think) and not the longest song ever, but fares well as a piece of the Exit Elvis puzzle.

“2X2” is a young girl singing alone, which gives way to “Suspension Of Disbelief.” This sounds less like Gary until the bridge-chorus of Gary doing his thing over a crunchy guitar. Someone has indeed been listening to a lot of different music lately…

“My Utopia (anthropolemic)” finds this vibe again: dancy industrial, layered guitars, mixed-down vocals, drum machine, leads.

Last is the title track, “Exit Elvis.” A ballad. All sorts of things going on here- slow-dirge guitar, opera girl in the background, Gary wailing, flamenco, shades of hard rock guitar/drums…leads.

I should note that lyrically, Cherone’s songwriting is darker than ever. (Odd that his greatest success with Extreme came around the Persian Gulf War -- and now he is back -- and we seem to be on the verge of war in The Middle East.) Still, he’s got some catchy stuff for everyone…

I regard this disc as one might consider something like Operation: Mindcrime -- as a whole, best listened to in it’s entirety -- yet there are plenty of stand-outs. For my money (Tower records, $18.99), it’s one of the best records of the year, ‘cuz I like everything on here. Haven’t said that too often in recent years. Oh, you can bide your time for a possible Extreme reunion… but I think you’d be missing out on something cool.

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