Drinking from Puddles, a new Kill Rock Stars anthology, is, more than
anything else, a state of the punk-rock union. A collection
of 22 live-in-the-studio (or over-the-phone) tracks from a Portland,
Ore., community radio show of the same name, the punk ethic is shot straight
through the disc, even if many of the songs avoid punk's standard sonic
Tying all these tracks together is the notion that you should make whatever
sounds you want to make, and if you deem it good, then so be it. The
selections run the gamut from the full-on hardcore of the Murder City
Devils' "Dance Hall Music," to Elliott Smith's solo acoustic "Everybody
Cares, Everybody Understands," to Pleasant Gehman's spoken word "Monsanto."
Pretty much every rock 'n' roll base is covered, and still the DIFY (Do
It For Yourself) spirit pulls the collection together.
On any collection there will be a few songs that reach out and grab you by
the throat. Drinking from Puddles definitely has its share, starting
with the late Jeffery Lee Pierce's solo "Lucky Jim." It's strong and
forceful while still maintaining the Gun Club's fevered haziness. The
brilliantly named Cadallaca (including Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker)
contribute "You're My Only One"
(RealAudio excerpt), a farfisa-driven confection that, despite
the murky mix weighing down most of the disc, sparkles with playful pop
force. You can almost see Paul McCartney bob his head from side to side
listening to it. Cindy Lee Berryhill's "Aquamarine"
(RealAudio excerpt) is cut from much farther down the same cloth; it's
dominated by something like a pump organ and two female voices and is
sticky like molasses, sweet and dark.
Nuggetsesque rock 'n' roll is provided by the aforementioned Murder City
Devils, along with the full-throated gospel stomp of Soul Junk's "Sweet to
My Soul" (RealAudio excerpt) and Dead Moon's "Graveyard." And there's plenty of avant-rock, too,
courtesy of Come, Hazel, Poison Idea and Madigan (which, despite being
"just" cello and vocals, is still definitely rock 'n' roll).
All in all, Drinking from Puddles has something for everyone who's
looking for something other than the same old thing. It's an adventurous
collection, one that's sure to turn off hard-core fans of a single genre
(you'd be hard-pressed to find feverish Cindy Lee Berryhill fans who are all
that fond of Crackerbash, for instance), but for those who are willing to
give punk a wide-open space to define itself, Drinking from Puddles
is a collection of many pleasures.