The diverse and shadowy sonic intrigue organized by producers David Kershenbaum and Paul McKenna can’t disguise Loey Nelson’s clunky songwriting and starchy, uncertain singing on Venus Kissed the Moon, the Milwaukeean’s not-quite-promising 1990 debut. Faced with a finely set table, she delivers an unimpressive menu of warmed-over made-it-myself disappointments, served with too much audible concern for how they’re going over with the guests. Stylishly presented as small-scale jazz-pop, the title tune is a minor treat; nothing else comes close, and the fussed-over artiness slathered on “To Sir With Love” all but hides the song completely.
Four years later, Nelson resurfaced as the centerpiece of Carnival Strippers, a Milwaukee quartet with guitarist Mike Hoffman (ex-E*I*E*I*O), bassist Keith Brammer (ex-Die Kreuezen/Wreck) and drummer Kirk McFarlin (ex-Ecoteur). With such in-house experience, Steve Jordan’s supposed production expertise and a mix involving the usually tasteful Niko Bolas, the awfulness of Reveal is surprising. A distracting tin-can snare clank, endless, shapeless songs that oscillate between acoustic folkiness and loud rock spuzz in several familiar flavors, singing that only intermittently matches the instruments’ chromatic exertions, kitchen-sink effects (like group whistling, sleigh bells and dulcimer) where they are truly unneeded — need to hear any more?