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CLOWNS FOR PROGRESS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Clowns for Progress (Flipside) 1995

The Clowns' greasepaint gimmick might be necessary for a band with nothing else to show for itself, but the New York club punk/roots quartet has tight, electric chops, a strong, self-assured baritone singer in guitarist Deano and influential pals like Jesse Malin of DGeneration (who contributes vocals to the OK cover of the Who's "Kids Are Alright" here). Besides confidence, what the Clowns seem to lack most is songs. "Hurt Me Baby" is a good 'un, but overlooking the Nirvana styling of its chorus is impossible; after "Say Goodbye" and "Martian," the best numbers here ("Lonely," "Yeah," the rockabilly bop of "Killing Time," the bluesy, acoustic "Hand Rolled Cigarettes") aren't nearly as memorable. Despite the smiley faces and costumes, inside every Clown is just a regular guy.

[Terry Rompers]