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SUPERCONDUCTOR (Buy CDs by this artist)
Heavy With Puppy EP (Boner/Tupelo) 1992
Hit Songs for Girls (Boner/Tupelo) 1993
Bastardsong (Boner) 1996

This Vancouver seven-to-nine-piece (four to six guitarists, two bassists, one drummer) has done its part to prove the parental belief that all rock'n'roll is really sonic mayhem. Led by co-vocalists Carl Newman (who also fronts the Bacharach-meets-Beatles quartet Zumpano) and Keith Parry (who doubles on drums), Superconductor mishmashes a love of metal, sugar-pop and Japanese noisecore together into a musical potluck. On the five-song Heavy With Puppy (produced by Numb's Don Gordon), "Satori Part One" and "Bushpilot" demonstrate the band's tightness and melodic leanings, while the noise-scaped instrumentals ("Riffmania" and "Clamhammer") make a strong case for the less-is-more aesthetic.

By the time of Hit Songs for Girls, the band seemed to have found a method to its madness, carving out space for both vocal and instrumental melodies to rise above the din. Standout tracks include the country-meets-Kurt romp "E-Z Bake Oven" (with Kevin Kane of Grapes of Wrath guesting on slide guitar) and the hummable, bracingly boisterous "There Goes Helen," which suggests a Pixiesque mentality at work.

Pulling out all the stops, the hour-long pseudo-rock-opera Bastardsong incorporates harmonica, antique synthesizers, Gilligan's Island soundbites — nothing is safe from the band's noodling. From the opening chords of "The Bastard Overture," clean, evenly mixed vocals and surprisingly tight massed guitar work make this an easier a point. When the electronic experimentation begins a few cuts into this nineteen-track monolith — unleashing synth-generated pops and whizzes as well as Newman's primal screams — Superconductor banishes melody to clamber through a host of unsettling time and style changes. In the rare moments of calm ("Cloud Prayer," "Mary Ann"), the group comes off as downright Nick Drake-like. For the most part, though, Bastardsong bridges a most unboring bridge to Boredom.

[Denise Sheppard]
   See also New Pornographers, Zumpano