[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
December 17 - 24, 1999

[Music Reviews]

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***1/2 Willie Alexander



Never mind that Willie Alexander's a Boston punk legend -- what's important is that he remains one of the more idiosyncratic, boundary-pushing musicians in town. His current style sits somewhere in among punk rock, avant jazz, Beat poetry, and trip-hop. And his songwriting's taken on some new depth: these tunes look unflinchingly at age and mortality, but they always sneak in a bit of hope. "Amber & Ebony" airs some late-career disillusionment without giving in to bleakness; "Who Killed Deanna" builds a liberating rocker out of a still-unsolved Somerville murder. "Josephine & Jono" and "Ocean's Condo" are both about Gloucester, and they share the feel of that town, bright on the surface, seamy underneath. For light relief there's "Bass Rocks," an improved remake of Willie's summer-fun single from the mid '80s.

With Alexander's piano and the saxes of Ken Field and Mark Chenevert taking the place of guitar, the Persistence of Memory Orchestra remain a fluid outfit. They can do a groove noir à la Morphine, but they also bring back the rocking abandon of Alexander's old Boom Boom Band ("Honeysuckle Rose" would have worked great back when he was opening for the Ramones). And while we're speaking of those days: "WA Anyway" opens with a verse that somebody had to write sooner or later: "I used to play the Rat in Kenmore Square, but I can't play the Rat `cause the Rat ain't there." The good news is that Alexander is still here.

-- Brett Milano
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