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Kittens Exposed

Over the years, and there's been almost ten of them, it's been nigh impossible for Fort Lauderdale's Livid Kittens to enjoy a lick of respect. Even the band's own fans will sometimes characterize the exciting quintet as merely a depraved novelty. True, singer Paige Alison Harvey and her scanty panties usually give the band its visual focal point before, during, and after its flashy performances. But during appearances at Hollywood's lowbrow art festival about two years ago and recently at a crowded Culture Room CD-release party for the new More Flames to Fall in Love With, the Livid Kittens' glam underpinnings were entertaining in a far more substantial way. Now they'll receive a measure of respect from fanciers of fairies and artsy music due to their inclusion on 12 Tales, an illustrated fairy tale/compilation CD placing the Kittens in a very tony neighborhood, gothically speaking.

12 Tales is the creation of artist Amy Brown (who paints stylized fairies at a prolific rate), Melora Creager (one of the three corseted cellists in Rasputina, which contributes 12 Tales' leadoff track), and New York City music publicist Julie Griner. Griner, a former Florida resident, has been an friend of Harvey's and founding Kitten guitarist Dave Heikkinen's since the early '90s and used her influence to include a Livid Kittens song in the context of dark offerings from the Legendary Pink Dots, David Sylvian, and Russell Mills, Miranda Sex Garden, the Creatures, Cranes, and Future Bible Heroes. In addition to those formidable talents are the lesser-known Violet Indiana (ex-Cocteau Twin guitarist Robin Guthrie's new band), the Flir, Bitstream Dream, and the Devics.

Griner selected the songs, then chose one of Brown's illustrations to accompany each one. Creager wrote a fairy tale for each song as well, with the text for "Flying" appearing particularly well-suited for the Livid Kittens: "Cast out by the others, she floated rather aimlessly," it reads in part, "endlessly satisfying her own socially unacceptable desires."

"It was great to be in a position to expose them," Griner says of her cuddly Kittens. "They've been around for such a long time, and it's been such a struggle. It was great to be able to take a band like that and put them in the company of the Cranes and Rasputina and Robin Guthrie's new project." In its first week, SoundScan tabulated 800 units sold of the disc (which retails at $9.98), "which is 800 people who never heard of a band like the Livid Kittens," notes Griner.

The Livid Kittens song Griner licensed for the comp is a menacing, trippy minefield that recalls Bardo Pond, old Cocteau Twins, and the Cure, culled from a 1998 EP called Undercool. The song is among the Kittens' very first scratchings, though it wasn't recorded until four years ago. "I thought it really fit with the track listing, more than some of the stuff they've recorded recently," Griner mentions. "Flying" is 12 Tales' bleakest, most guitar-oriented inclusion.

"And just when we were starting to shake the goth tag," mock-complains Heikkinen, whose name, naturally, is misspelled in the liner notes. "I'm extremely happy about this -- I don't care if they call us goths. That is the music we come from."

Call it whatever -- tossing a four-year-old song recorded for free at Miami-Dade Community College on a CD with David Sylvian, Robin Guthrie, Stephin Merritt, Siouxsie Sioux and Edward Ka-Spel is fortuitous in any light.

The Livid Kittens will rub against legs at the Culture Room on April 5 with the Toilet Boys, a transvestite-led glam ensemble from NYC that Heikkinen cheerfully compares to Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Poptopia, the Brit-rock shuttlecock that local drummer Steve Copeletti has been knocking about for a few years, has been searching for a home since its ouster about a year ago from Wilton Manors's Shakespeare's Pub. The Billabong Pub in Hallandale Beach will pick up Poptopia for a monthly date beginning March 30, with a 9 p.m. performance from scene stalwarts Whirlaway and the New Graduates. The new location will make it possible for more bands and fans to feel the love: Just a block from I-95, the Billabong is a convenient journey for Miami folks while still having both feet in Broward. Two weeks ago, when Faller and the Rocking Horse Winner opened for Miami's Machete, it seemed the Billabong could emerge as a virtually indestructible venue sort of like Davie's Club Q, only with more grownups and a killer beer selection. A pint of Hoegaarden White and a couple of the sharpened eye-sticks of Machete's songs is a pretty heady mixture. Faller has nowhere to go but up -- the young trio's exuberant take on the post-rock Thrill Jockey sound, complete with samples triggered from a laptop, is already fascinating, if a bit rough around the edges. The new songs from Rocking Horse Winner's forthcoming release, Horizon (coming out on the national indie label Equal Vision), are bowl-over beautiful; the group's ardent fan base has noticeably bolstered the band's confidence. Cocksure and ultraprofessional, Machete has delayed the release of its new record again (this night was to be its coming-out party), no doubt aware of the perils of giving the people what they want.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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