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Jen Trynin
Gun Shy Trigger Happy
(Warner Bros.)

Jen Trynin may ponder love's great existential questions to death, but Gun Shy Trigger Happy is a brilliant bit of navel gazing. This is a confident and cagey second outing, with more of the coy balladry and tough guitar-wrangling that made 1994's Cockamamie so exceptional. She sticks with the rock-trio feel she steadfastly adores but allows a little more groove and atmosphere into the songs this time, along with a sense of raw space in the arrangements that perfects this overdriven haiku to modern love.

Blasting off strong with "Go Ahead," Trynin sets the tone for the record, proclaiming, "I'd grab a needle and a ledge/But I don't wanna hurt my head." She's a romantic for sure, opening all manner of veins to immerse herself in the moment and to exorcise the pain. But she's also too practical to ignore the stench of souring affections or to let them go without applying a swift kick to someone's rear during the big exit scene. The tender, lingering affection and conflicted emotions of "Getaway (February)" immediately give way to the hard-edged wah-wah pedal soul of "Bore Me," on which she delivers the "I hope we can still be friends" line as if it were a cleaver to the sternum. "Washington Hotel" is another grand, guitar-drenched kiss-off, in the I'll-drop-you-before-you-can-drop-me tradition: "I can see your Chevy parked by the pool/Where I could leave you a note but I'm too cruel," she chides before adding the coda, "I'd rather die thinking you can't live without me."

Sure-footed as Trynin appears, she is as hard on herself as she is on her mercurial lovers. "I miss who I used to be," she laments in "Writing Notes," pining for the truth of times when she "could barely keep anything inside." But her doubt bites back in "Under the Knife," a metallic creeper that escalates into a Stones-style romp with a sarcastic, graphic spin. "I want to go under the knife/So that maybe my life could be like yours," she snarls, challenging those who might change her with "I wanna suck me out, I wanna stick you in, I wanna know what I can do for you."

Trynin's questions are never really answered on Gun Shy Trigger Happy, but she's delivered a powerful testament to getting through it all with honesty, beauty, and distortion.

-- Robin Myrick

Early Years -- 1979 to 1983, Live

From 1979 to about 1987, Jeff "Monoman" Conolly, leading a shifting cast of bandmates in the Boston-based Lyres from behind his vintage Vox Continental organ, almost single-handedly kept alight the American garage-rock flame, utterly oblivious to various prevailing commercial and critical trends (disco, new wave, hardcore, whatever). Conolly freely mixed obscure Sixties bedrock nuggets ("Soapy," "Busy Body," "Lily") with his own brutally primal compositions ("Don't Give It Up Now," "Help You Ann," "High on Yourself"), all of them imbued with a gutbucket, unselfconscious simplicity and a careening, head-spinning passion. Guided by Conolly's quavering Vox and vocal delirium and abetted by a series of guitarists' (Little Man, Danny McCormick, Peter Greenberg) frontal lobe-piercing chordal assaults, the Lyres tapped into a direct line to rock's pure pulse.

Although their studio EPs and LPs, notably 1984's On Fyre, successfully documented the band's fiercely signature sound, the Lyres were best experienced in a live setting, where, depending on Conolly's mood and alcohol intake, they could be either brilliant or abyssal. (I count among my most transcendent rock moments a sweaty 1982 Lyres show in a tiny D.C. club.) These 24 tracks, culled from 1979 to 1981 New England gigs and two live-in-the-studio Boston radio broadcasts (1979 and 1983), capture the band's innate rapture, ping-ponging from rave-up to rave-up: "Little Sally Tease," "Nobody but Me," "I Really Want You Right Now," "How Do You Know," "Long Gone," and "Never Met a Girl Like You Before." An unvarnished testament to rock's primitive throb and the sheer rush of letting go. (Crypt, 1409 W. Magnolia, Burbank, CA 91506)

-- Michael Yockel

Smash mouth
Fush Yu Mang

Rock and roll isn't calculus. At least it shouldn't be. The rules are pretty simple: Find a hook, throw the appropriate pose, and keep the beat slamming. All of which this San Jose quartet does with laudable gusto. No doubt its sudden popularity has been aided by the band's ska and punk leanings, but there is also the single to consider. "Walkin' on the Sun" is, to put it mildly, a monster. The swirling organ and copacetic lyrics are an unabashed Sixties come-on, derivative as all hell, and utterly impossible to shag from the memory banks. An album filled with this stuff might grate, but the band has a few more tricks than you'd expect on Fush Yu Mang, their rambunctious debut. "The Fonz," for instance, is a curious little piece of power pop, a groovy, bottom-heavy paean to all things cool. "Beer Goggles" opens with a burst of falsetto voices that is positively Beach Boys before launching into a scorching verse/chorus/verse fueled by Gregory Camp's blunt but effective guitar leads. Steve Harwell's raspy vocal work takes on a certain strained poignancy on the campy Mafia number "Padrino," and rhythm dudes Paul DeLisle (bass) and Kevin Coleman (drums) do their part to keep the mayhem effectively anchored in the low end throughout.

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Steve Almond
Contact: Steve Almond
John Lewis
Robin Myrick
Neal Weiss
Michael Yockel

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