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July/August 2001

Gary Lucas
Street of Lost Brothers
Tzadik

Rockers sometimes engage in an insidious habit commonly referred to as the "B-side." This entails the tossing together of experiments gone wrong, substandard takes or songs that weren't good enough to make the cut and releasing them as a brand new recording. Guitarist Gary Lucas' Street of Lost Brothers-one of Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series-may not technically be a B-side, but sure sounds like one.

It really seems as though Lucas, a player with plenty of rock, pop and experimental music history, slapped together whatever material he had on hand and hoped that it might add up to something. It doesn't. The recording bounces awkwardly between rootsy solo guitar fingerpicking, bar band rock and humorless novelty. The acoustic guitar stuff is the best of the lot. In the liners, Lucas makes a big deal about how he used no overdubs on any of those tunes, and though he sometimes displays an impressive technique, the music is mostly just pretty.

The rest is plain difficult to sit through. John Zorn turns up for "Yigdal," but his spirited honking sounds hopelessly out of place on what is essentially hokey Jewish-themed rock kicked around by Lucas' old band, Gods and Monsters. Wagner may be a controversial subject for Jews, but that hardly justifies Lucas' painfully straight, electric guitar cover of "Ride of the Valkyries." The few vocal tracks suggest that Lucas probably shouldn't be singing, and his 10-minute synthesizer deconstruction of the "Sh'ma" only succeeds in turning dead rabbis in their graves.

Originally published in July/August 2001
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