- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

BLUE TOFU
Self-titled
(Dubious recordings)
The funny thing about Blue Tofu is how much its music resembles the nutritious bean curd from which it takes its name. It sounds sort of amorphous, coagulated from an extract of styles, filling but certainly not for most people's tastes. Some would say … bland.
The duo dish out an experimental blend of languid electronica and sultry vocals, but the effect is too self-consciously arty. Andrea Mathews' singing smolders but fizzles. It shifts from breathy lounge jazz to edgy soulful belts, then melts into unintelligible murmurs.
Her lyrics are poetic, but they stumble over the music with awkward phrasing, like free verse on open mike night. Lines such as "you're like a wine that breathes," which ends "Gabriel," underscore the open-ended, aimless vibe. Her words don't seem to fit the songs, creating uneasy tension in her smooth delivery.
A couple of tracks, like "Tricycle," have deliberate structure with a discernable chorus. But only "Limestone," the album's best track, has what approaches a hook. "This is your happy song," Miss Mathews cries, with winning irony. "So are you happy?"
Producer Tim Story's loops, samples, keyboards and "noise," as his contributions are credited, provide a sparse textural backdrop for Miss Mathews. Most of its tempo is so ponderous, however, that it downshifts from laid-back to boring. The track with the best arrangement, "The Woman Singing," features almost no vocals at all.
Blue Tofu is trying too hard. It has a healthy serving of talent, but it's not a palatable recipe.
Bruce Hamilton

JUCIFER
Lambs
(Velocette)
Drummer Ed Livengood and singer-guitarist Amber Valentine may be a boyfriend-girlfriend duo out of Athens, Ga., but that doesn't mean the two write sappy, easygoing love songs. In fact, Miss Valentine more than makes up for the lack of other players by upping her guitar distortion levels and giving the band a heavy-metal kick that rivals those of early alternative giants such as Helmut and Big Black.
For fans of wispy vocals and the kind of distortion that rings in the ears, Jucifer is a dream come true. For anyone else, this 20-minute EP, released after the acclaim of 1999's "Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip" tends to be a bit repetitive.
The first four tracks, each titled "Lamb," set up this pattern, with breathy vocals and simple riffs made ear-shattering by the distortion applied. Miss Valentine occasionally breaks away from her wispy side to scream wildly, but these screams seem to be used just to liven things up, not to convey emotion.
Her voice at times can be quite beautiful, but hard to appreciate when she sings rather simple, dirgelike melodies (often buried underneath her guitar work). Perhaps the duo can iron out some of these problems on their sophomore long-player (due out this year) and rise above this mediocre effort.
Derek Simmonsen

JAGUARES
Cuando La Sangre Galopa
(RCA Records)
Jaguares is often dubbed Mexico's answer to Irish rockers U2, but the band musically owes a greater debt to 1980s hair bands, such as Def Leppard and Poison. This is the group's fourth release for RCA, and while still wildly popular south of the border, the band seems unlikely to make much of a dent in the U.S. market.
Part of the reason is that all of the songs are done in Spanish (albeit basic Spanish), and U.S. audiences resist embracing foreign language-only releases (even Shakira has done a mostly English album). Jaguares' music is also stuck in a bit of a time warp.
The opening riff on the first track, "Cuando La Sangre Galopa" (literally, "When the Blood Gallops"), sounds like vintage Led Zeppelin, and the arena-style rock does not let up as the album progresses. The lyrics further back up the metal analogies, with quasi-mystical lines such as "When your blood gallops, your ancestors become gods, and you become stronger."
There is the requisite ballad "Estoy Cansado," but most of the songs remain up-tempo. They are filled with big, crunch guitar riffs, passionate vocals and thunderous percussion. Musically it gets old fast, but for Spanish-speaking metal fans, Jaguares may be a headbanger's dream come true.
Derek Simmonsen


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