FIRST WITH Defenestration and subsequently with the Chainsaw Kittens, androgynous singer/songwriter Tyson Meade has been keeping glam-rock alive in the improbable locale of Norman, Okla., for almost a decade. He and his fellow Kittens have never made so convincing a case for their obsession, however, as the new "Pop Heiress." While Meade channels such distinctive high-pitched vocalists as David Bowie, Johnny Rotten and Feargal Sharkey, the Kittens achieve a vigorous synthesis of glitter and punk.
Like most glam kids, Meade is fascinated by the media and fame, and the "Heiress" album cover bears the well-known image of Patty Hearst as an SLA soldier, as well as such songs as "Media Star Hymn," "Silver Millionaire" and "Pop Heiress Dies." The latter, a tuneful rocker with a catchy chorus, is a standout, but it's far from the album's only memorable song: From the delirious drama of "Dive Into the Sea" to the T. Rexy shuffle of "I Ride Free" to the punky attack of "Sore on the Floor" and "Burn You Down," this is the Kittens' most consistent outing.
Young pop-rockers from upstate New York, the Figgs clearly were exposed to Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson in their formative years. Though the quartet's "Low-Fi at Society High" opens with the short, sparkling and very American "Step Back Let's Go Pop," such tracks as "Wasted Pretty" and "Bus" quickly reveal the band's debt to the pub-rock wing of British punk. Their derivativeness aside, though, most of these songs are agreeably lively, shapely and tuneful. With producer/engineer Don Gehman polishing the sound, this promising debut isn't "low-fi" at all, but the Figgs' freshness prevents things from getting too slick.
CHAINSAW KITTENS "Pop Heiress" (Mammoth/Atlantic).To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call 202/334-9000 and press 8110.
THE FIGGS -- "Low-Fi at Society High" (Imago). For a free Sound Bite, press 8111.
Both appearing Tuesday at the Black Cat.