Chester Stacey: Westminster Life
If Westminster's Chester Stacey knows how good a rock band it is, it certainly forgets once it enters a studio. Its third CD, Westminster Life, peddles all those usual 1990s alt-country scrambled eggs--the plaintive guitars, the vocal harmonizing, the twangy finish to chorus lines, the songs about what ordinary people they are and the fucked-up things that go on in their hometown, and the Replacements homages (see "Lonesome" and "Meet Me at the Mall"). Only rarely does the band tickle that inner sweet spot that it displays onstage. So, yeah, it can knock out the hoedown story ("Leigh Masters") and the blue-collar anthem ("Knocked Down"), but the band shines at flat-out-fucked country psych, like a Blue Cheer reared on the farm. And when that band shows up, Chester Stacey rattles the spine and the brain to which it's attached. The band hits an almost Big Star buoyant ambivalence on "Business as Usual" that flirts with a pop-song resolution before exploding into a hammering dirge that seethes with a menace the lyrics only imply, while the feral close to the almost eight-minute guitar workout "Jimmy Page" shoots for Neil Young heavy and pushes right on through to feedback-throb territory. Even with these two high points, Life remains a catchy insurgent-country outing from a band with more interesting ideas than jaunty guitar stomping.