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Of note

New life for death metal Local death-metal act LIFESRUIN has announced plans to record their first full-length album, currently titled Destination Armageddon. According to band spokesman Mike Merchant, LIFESRUIN is currently in label negotiations. For more information, visit www.geocities.com/Lifesruin2001.

Front-row reviews

Who: Mad Tea Party CD release w/Quinto

When: Friday, Oct. 4

Where: Vincent’s Ear

Ami Worthen comes across like all the best parts of a kindergarten teacher: happy, enthusiastic and into music for the sheer fun of it. Hearing her strum and sing, you can’t help but catch a touch of this. You almost feel guilty for enjoying the music, as if you were betraying your hard-earned, jaded adultness for a few moments of simple giddiness.

In fact, Worthen seems altogether too wholesome to haunt the same stage used by bands whose names can’t be printed without inserting symbols in place of offending vowels.

But then, tonight is not a typical evening at Vincent’s Ear.

Tonight, the stage is set with something other than drums, electric guitar and bass — Worthen’s ukulele, to be exact, plus an old acoustic guitar and a banjo. Instead of sequencers, effects pedals and a web of cables on stage there’s a bicycle bell, a pair of slide whistles and an animatronic toy hamster dressed in martial-arts garb. He’s singing, “Everybody was kung-fu fighting … .”

Worthen’s partner in her Mad Tea Party is Snake Oil Medicine Show sideman Jason Krekel, who matches in skill what Worthen brings in sincerity. His guitar, banjo and fiddle playing sound deceptively simple, with occasional solos revealing the full range of his talent. But they’re short solos — he’s not trying to steal the show, he’s simply playing his part.

Together, the pair plied the late-night crowd with songs that can only be described — even written off — as silly. Songs about vegetables dancing, frogs falling in love with mice, and monkeys liking coconuts. Most were old songs, either old-time traditionals or tunes borrowed from the early days of jazz. The two musicians were aided in their efforts by special-guest vocalist Ashley Cheney and accordion player Sean Foley.

The entire show felt light, but a few striking originals managed to make a deeper imprint. Take, for instance, “I Never Was a Cool One” — an autobiographical song from Mad Tea Party’s new album, Be in Life. “Didn’t wear name brands/ Always had bad hair/ Had to wear headgear/ Never was I.” On the surface, it’s as simply constructed as the rest of the duo’s songs, but it has a bit more to it than mere antiquated whimsy.

Toward the end, Worthen and Krekel even strayed from the realm of the sing-a-long and into slightly heavier territory, offering their take on the evils of American consumerism, the lackluster life of the singer/songwriter, even sex (“The Ukulele Style of Making Love”).

Perhaps the most meaningful thing I can say about the show is this: It’s a rare night that I can walk out of a bar at 2 a.m. and feel a little more innocent than when I came in.

Listening room (album reviews)

Long Time Coming — Vic Crown

As the title of their new CD suggests, Maggie Valley-based rockers Vic Crown did, for a long time, flounder in a sort of local-music limbo. In fact, many people forgot the band ever existed.

I should know — I was one of them.

Then, one day, I received a package; inside was an album called Long Time Coming. I listened to it. Then I listened some more. I doubt I’ll ever be able to forget Vic Crown’s existence again.

This record isn’t perfect; in fact, it’s often a little too rough around the edges. But it does manage to effectively bring back some of the great, bass-driven heavy metal missing from the local-music scene since the mid-’90s. Vic Crown’s sound combines sung-spoken vocals and extremely heavy bass lines playing off wailing metal-guitar work over hard-edged, jazz-styled drumming.

For a good example, check out the song “Long Time,” which almost defines the group. Long Time Coming has been worth the wait.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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