The Virginian-Pilot
                            THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT  
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Friday, March 3, 1995                  TAG: 9503020153
TYPE: Album reviews
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   73 lines


the The, ``Hanky Panky'' (550 Music/Epic) - One of the biggest surprises of this still-young music year is the The's tribute to Hank Williams. What might have been an overwrought failure instead proves one of group mastermind Matt Johnson's most sterling efforts. Far more than an introduction to the great country singerfor young alternative-rock fans, the album is an often intensely moving work.

Johnson's vocal performance may be the single most impressive thing about ``Hanky Panky.'' Straining for, and missing, a high note in ``Weary Blues From Waitin','' or bitterly whispering ``I Can't Get You Off of My Mind,'' he stays true to the spirit in a way that Williams himself would surely recognize.

The doomsaying of many of Johnson's own songs has never been very convincing. But Johnson's Goth-dance version of the hymn ``I Saw the Light,'' which all but abandons the original melody, gains power in context. It wouldn't seem all that odd if the The's own compositions get better by dint of Johnson's exposure to these indelible ones.

- Rickey Wright

Chris Connelly, ``Shipwreck'' (Wax Trax/TVT) - With the graceful ``Whiplash Boychild,'' stark ``Phenobarb Bambalam'' and now ``Shipwreck,'' vocalist Chris Connelly has wisely retired the screaming artificeof his earlier work with techno-industrialists Ministry, Revolting Cocks and Pigface.

On his own, Connelly has emerged as a masterful singer/songwriter.``Shipwreck'' relies on the dramatic beauty of the Scotsman's Bowie-like baritone and lavishly layered production to give gorgeous form to his astoundingly evocative tunecraft. The tracks are eclectic, moving from the glam rock of ``Candyman Collapse'' and ``Swimming'' to the elegiac ambient wash of ``Modo Murmur'' and curious country-meets-chamber chorale fusion of ``Spoonfed Celeste.''

Connelly continues to prove himself one of rock's most gifted lyricists as well, warming up the cryptic abstractions of his earlier solo efforts into more penetrable lines of emotional decay and rescue.

- Sue Smallwood

Chris Connelly performs with Low Pop Suicide at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 9 at the Nsect Club, 1916 Armistead Ave., Hampton. Tickets: $5. 838-5463.

Brownstone, ``From the Bottom Up'' (MJJ Music/Epic) - The young female R&B vocal trio Brownstone's single ``If You Love Me'' is in vogue. Or is that En Vogue? Brownstone, which has scored the first solid success for Michael Jackson's custom label, seems positioned to snag a few of that pacesetting crew's fans. The formula is certainly in place: a little glamour, a little sass (on several sexually explicit tracks) and a good bit of vocal prowess.

Unfortunately, the result is an album that seems to drone on forever after ``If You Love Me.'' ``From the Bottom Up'' suffers from a glut of mid-tempo numbers and a trendy, connect-the-dots production approach. Despite a brief nod to dancehall style (``Sometimes Dancin' '') and an Eagles cover (``I Can't Tell You Why), the group's ambitions don't stretch further than politely conforming to the Quiet Storm agenda.

- Rickey Wright

Siouxsie and the Banshees, ``The Rapture'' (Geffen) - Once the howling Goth goddess, Siouxsie Sioux's turned all girly and gushy with the perilously pop-oriented ``The Rapture.'' The simpering softshoe shuffle of ``O Baby'' and cheesy, '80s-era synth bleepings of ``Tearing Apart'' make a weak first impression. Despite some John Cale production, the remainder of the album carries out the bland pop premise.

Mercifully, there are a couple of exceptions. ``Not Forgotten'' achieves an interesting ominousness with warring drumbeats and cavernous atmospherics. And the lengthy title track, a cinematic epic that just escapes pretense, snakes adventurously through vaguely medieval, classical and Eastern motifs.

- Sue Smallwood ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

by CNB