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Massacre - Funny Valentine

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Album Review

In 1983, Bill Laswell's Celluloid label released a minor masterpiece by a downtown power trio called Massacre; the group consisted of Fred Frith on guitar, Laswell on bass and Fred Maher on drums. The album was called Killing Time, and it was a brilliant combination of quirky but composed avant-gardisms, experimental noise and post-punk funk. That album remains one of the great monuments of the downtown scene, right up there with A Taste of DNA and No New York. Fifteen years later, Frith and Laswell reunited (replacing Maher with Charles Hayward) for a second shot at the same magic, and didn't quite succeed. But that doesn't mean that Funny Valentine isn't great, just that it isn't quite as great as Killing Time. It opens on a weak note, with the sprawling and noisy but somehow anemic "Leaf Violence," then steadily improves. By the third track, Laswell and Hayward are laying down a propulsively swaying groove and letting Frith do his inimitable voodoo on top of it. "Ladder" flirts with a funk/reggae feel; "Talk Radio" and "Further Conversations with White Arc" show the sense of humor that animated so much of Killing Time. And "Well-Dressed Ripping Up Wood" seems to be, er, rock & roll. Overall, you wish there was a little more discipline and a little less length, but not much more discipline and not too much less length.

Biography

Formed: 14 February 1980 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

British guitarist Fred Frith moved to N.Y.C. in 1979, and within a year had formed the improv rock trio Massacre with bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Fred Maher. The group released Killing Time in 1981 and then called it quits a year later. Frith and Laswell rejoined, this time with drummer Charles Hayward, in 1998 to record an album in the same vein, under the Massacre name. Funny Valentine was released on the Tzadik label later that same year. In 2001 the group released Meltdown, a six-track set...
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Massacre - Funny Valentine, Massacre
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