When I first got this CD I gave it a few listens and dug the band's spazz-jazz Beefheart meets Minutemen compositions. Admittedly, I didn't pay a lot of attention to the lyrics expressed figuring the gender politics to be an important issue to James (the vocalist), but not crucial to enjoying the groups complex and ingenious playing. Then I read the review in Magnet which essentially calls the band and its propaganda shit, presumably for having a confrontational aesthetic. I could be wrong, but wasn't this always punk music defining attitude. After considering the negative review I revisited the Cranium only to have my original belief reinforced, this is a band taking chances and are all the stronger for it. Their slew of dissonant chords, modal riffs and short-circuited robot drumming could easily have come across as a supreme mess on record, but thanks to the keen ears of engineers Juan Carrera and Guy Picciotto each voice has its place in the sound field. The recording is a major step forward for D.C.'s Pirate House being the first to take advantage of their new 16-track deck. The live/garage quality of the older 8-track sessions (most notably heard on many of the Makeup's singles) is left intact, only now the rough edges are cleaned up. Guy and Juan continue in the semi-purist mode with a minimum of noticeable overdubbing or mixdown effects (with the exception of one heavily layered voice collage piece). The only complaint I have with this CD is its length. At seventeen songs and nearly an hour by the end, things become redundant. While I appreciate a band wanting to give the maximum amount of music for the buck, but unless you've got a "Tommy" in you, forty minutes usually does the trick. This is more a problem of the medium (CDs) then any- thing else, but it is also important that musicians and engineers know how to edit their work for this is an important part of the creative process. (Slowdime, P.O. Box 414, Arlington, VA 22210)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More