Their Way, Most Definitely

On the long-awaited My Way Or the Highway, Tuscadero's

head

honchas, Melissa Farris and Margaret McCartney, bring home the

pop bacon.

The new album sounds like a loosened up, dual-

vocaled Elastica, augmented by a few loops and horns. For the

first time, the band has state-of-the-art production, thanks

to Keith Cleversley (apt name, that!), who's worked with the likes

of Flaming Lips and Hum. Even drummer Jack Hornady gets to

sing along this time!

The opener, "Queen For a Day," is a sprightly putdown ("to look

at you / is such a drag / coz you're the queen / and I'm just

the hag"), but "Paper Dolls" is epic, essential listening.

I know this because I'd like to quote all the lyrics, and I'd

like to hear it again and again, and on the radio, too. Suffice

to say, it trashes the "carbon-copy-cookie-cutter-phony-

little paper dolls," the advertising models we use to measure

success: "We don't / have to be the same / little paper dolls

in a chain." Great stuff, which proves that Tuscadero are no

cookie-cutter band, and that these formidable women are no

paper

dolls.

"Freak Magnet" asks the musical question, "Why am I a magnet?"

Answer: "curiosity get the best of me." But not everyone gets

the best of these ladies. A series of songs

examines the full range of relationships -- real and imagined,

stupid and worthwhile -- that one can enter. Setting aside the

comparatively

negligible "Not My Johnny," which teases the "narcissus at

the stereo" who listens to his own music and nothing, nobody

else, it runs the gamut.

"Hot Head," which is about your typical man-woman argument,

will sound familiar to those who've said, or heard, "you're

the winner you're always right." Very deflating. "Tiny

Shiny Boyfriend" is genuinely oddball. While it appears to

turn the table on a rock cliche by seeming to be about picking

up a guy at a truckstop, it's actually about a "die-cast ...

tchotcke," a metal naked man on a mudflap! Fun -- like shopping

at Spencer Gifts!

Next comes "Dr. Doom": your "charm turns to

a curse" while "love goes bad to worse," you "cloud-

worshipping" downer! What starts out poppy winds up in a

Pulp-like swirl of spy-movie orchestral goo that almost

threatens to drown out the band. Wonder what Jarvis (Cocker) would

think of these women....

"Tickled Pink" is what happens when a girl drinks a lot:

"you shake me in my shoes / especially in your underoos."

Of course, it could just be the booze: "three whiskies turns

into four / I am woman hear me roar." Will she ever learn?

"Evil Eye" looks at the darker, hidden side of such a woman,

describing "the bitter secret broken parts," and dovetails

nicely with the next song, "You Got Your Pride," which admits

a fondness for the kind of pale ghostly boy who wears black

"every day whether September, April or May" -- in the morning

when these prideful dopes fade away, she can always "find

another boy / and write another song." Withering.

To break things up, there's "Cathy Ray," with the lyrics, "Come with

me where we can be

free / Come

with me to the land of TV." Get it? Cathode ray?

Say, this could be the guy the other songs are about!

"Liquid Center" is a woman's "I Can't Explain": "I can't

explain / the continental drift in my brain / and I don't know

what my thoughts betray / so I censor what I say." Unlike

the fella in the Who song, she's no slouch.

"Temper Temper" is what happens when she wakes up and

actually wants someone to stay: "if you're going to leave /

I can't complain I never meant to / drive you insane."

Inspirational rhyme: fling/ring.

"Mutiny" is where the fling, and the album, end. The

gorgeous choral harmonies do not detract from the muscular

backbeat, from the strength of the lyrics, which lament,

"ask your fingers / do they miss the way I felt to touch /

and do I linger?"

This music lingers. It has lots to say. Lyrics like "It's not

hard / to know your own mind / and conquer it in kind"

articulate things some women never say and some men

never hear. Tuscadero are more than a quirky pop band now.

While it might be a song or two too long, this is music of enduring

value.

It's also a blast.

Take it with you on the highway, or at home --

Tuscadero have arrived.