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SNATCHES OF PINK (Buy CDs by this artist)
Send in the Clowns (Dog Gone) 1987
Dead Men (Dog Gone) 1989
Bent With Prey (Caroline) 1992
Love Is Dead (8th House) 2007
MICHAEL RANK
Coral (Caroline) 1993
CLARISSA
Clarissa (Mammoth / Atlantic) 1996

Chapel Hill, North Carolina's Snatches of Pink played a tasty blend of Stones raunch and punk insistence, well- crafted tunes delivered with jackhammer finesse on its debut, Send in the Clowns. Singer Andy McMillan is a young good-ol'-boy with an aching twang stuck in his throat, spurred to spill his guts by Michael Rank's barbed guitars. Need a party-starter? Try "Ones with the Black."

The grunge level rises dramatically on Dead Men. With Rank assuming lead vocal duties from McMillan (now the full-time bassist; Sara Romweber, formerly of Let's Active, is the drummer), Snatches could be a big-time boogie band debilitated by bad drugs. Caught in a thoroughly muddy mix, the performances are stirringly urgent.

Returning after a three-year gap, the trio sounds like an unwillingly sober Black Crowes on the tense, disturbing Bent With Prey. The emotionally charged scene-setter is built on savvy, intelligent songwriting and justifiably busy production that stops just short of being overblown. Aside from Rank's desperate, guttural exhalations (and introspective lyrics that nearly reach the point of self-abuse), the delicately layered instrumentation is lovingly crafted. "Mother Crane" epitomizes the album's subtle twists: clearly recorded 12- and 6-string acoustic guitars, glazed with solid drumming and nearly nonexistent bass. Highly recommended.

Following Rank's solo album, which he cut with Romweber and bassist Freddie Salem, the three original Snatches regrouped as Clarissa, taking a full-on flyer down the dynamically restrained path blazed on Bent With Prey. No less emotional in his writing but more inclined to a whisper than a scream (though the wah-wah solo in "High Horses" gets up a head of rock steam and "Slow Punch" keeps threatening to explode), Rank works to draw listeners in to him, rather than make much of an effort to go out and sell his songs. If Silver is underwhelming in its consciously pretty inventions as a result, an edgy undercurrent ensures that the ride, if sometimes enticing (like the soulfully southern "Butterfly"), never quite turns easy.

Snatches of Pink continues its high-level rowdiness on Love Is Dead, another album of hard-charging, no-holds-barred rock. The band lets the songs dictate the performances: on "Rocks," Rank’s growling vocals and the band's wailing guitars recall the 1970s Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. The smoother "Just a Girl" and the uptempo "From the Sun" tone things down without turning tired or tedious. Still, the intro to "Smiles" goes on too long; a little tidying up around here would help.

[Jon Young / Ian McCaleb / Ira Robbins / Nancy Dunham]