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THE GENA ROWLANDS BAND "La Merde et Les Etoiles" Lujo/Autoclave

Friday, March 25, 2005; Page WE08

THE GENA ROWLANDS BAND "La Merde et Les Etoiles" Lujo/Autoclave

Singer-guitarist Bob Massey, the voice of the Gena Rowlands Band, once started a local musical salon called Punk Not Rock, a phrase that begins to explain his vision. The 11 movie-struck compositions on "La Merde et Les Etoiles" -- several of them reprised from a 2002 EP -- are definitely not rock. Spare and slightly jazzy, but with occasional lush details, these are art songs with a hint of punk attitude. After all, only a maverick could write a tune about Helena Bonham Carter's lips, and then talk-sing it as if he were the District's answer to Edith Piaf.

"Power, Lies, Helena's Lips" contains what may be the songwriter's manifesto: "I find that I don't believe in beauty anymore / I realize that ugly is more true." Massey's music isn't ugly, but it does forgo most of pop's prettier aspects; anyone waiting for a catchy refrain will be disappointed. Such numbers as "The Last Words of Lesley Gore" are loping and conversational, keyed to Massey's intimate lyrics and delivery. There are lovely moments throughout the album, but not obvious payoffs or crowd-pleasing climaxes. Contemporary Hollywood wouldn't get "La Merde et Les Etoiles" at all.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Sunday at Iota. • To hear a free Sound Bite from the Gena Rowlands Band, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8127. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

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