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Wheels Fall Off

Venus Hum - The Colors in the Wheel
(Network Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 22, 2006
Venus Hum

Review by Brad Walseth

There is much that is admirable about Venus Hum's sophomore recording The Colors in the Wheel - not that least of which is the fact it got made at all. After having good success with their debut Big Beautiful Sky and opening for Stereolab on tour, the electronic dance group ran into a series of setbacks that would have destroyed many a similar entity: their label collapsed due to a merger, singer Anette Strean developed serious health problems including nodes on her vocal cords, and the band members drifted their separate ways into individual projects. After a hiatus of three years, in which Strean worked to recover her voice and health, the band has returned with this recording, which, although it contains some very nice work indeed, is admittedly a mixed bag of sorts.

First the good: Venus Hum's sound is original and pleasant - somewhat recalling that of 80's darlings Yaz - wherein some lovely female vocals are paired with electronica - and it is a welcome entry to this listener into this world where male emo singer/guitarists seemingly hold sway. And for the first half of this recording Strean and her fellow bandmates Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle achieve a powerful success. "Turn Me Around" combines acoustic guitar with rippling electronic effects and the singer's voice to draw the listener in, while the bold, brassy "Yes and No" is the scorching feminist dance powerhouse that should be, but almost certainly won't be a hit. "Birds and Fishes" is delightfully catchy and showcases a hint of Native American influence in Strean's vocals (perhaps a byproduct of her youth in Whitefish, Montana?) over percolating bubbling synths and chiming electric guitar, while "Do You Want to Fight Me" is another rip-roarer that makes you believe Venus Hum are going to fight their way out of their problematic situation. "Genevieve's Wheel" is sweet, but here's where the wheels start to fall of as "You Break Me Down" recalls the goofy side of the 80's that should remain buried. "72 Degrees" references "Everything But the Girl" and "Depeche Mode," but fails that catch hold despite some nice vocalizing. "Surgery in the Sky" has a few good moments, but "Pink Champagne" is an utter embarrassment that should have never seen the light of day. Perhaps thinking it was cute - this number sounds like an outtake for a Pink album and represents a severe lack of judgment.

If a society is judged by the support given its artists, and the only music we see fit to sponsor is unimaginative America Idol crap then we limit our best artists to what they can manage working outside of an against a hostile system. Considering what Venus Hum has had to deal with, it is amazing they have given us half a decent album of music. Just think what they could do with a little support.

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