• Paleface
  • Paleface (Polydor) 1991 
  • Raw (Shimmy-Disc) 1995 
  • Get Off (Sire/Elektra) 1996 

Hailing from New York’s Lower East Side, durable anti-folk bard Paleface served up a brilliant self-titled debut in 1991. With a booming acoustic guitar and a bit of country twang, Paleface is a punk rocker reborn as urban homesteader. His plaintive voice hustles brash strumming through a cleverly worded outpouring of ruminations on sidewalks, heartbreak and disillusionment in America. Produced with an excess of echo by Kramer, moody bits of prose like “Constant Misunderstandings” and “World Full of Cops” are passionate protests for the individual in a land of too many police chiefs. Given a full band arrangement (including banjo!), “Burn and Rob” brings the collusion of rock’n’roll records and slackerhood to a logical criminal conclusion in a sardonic style very nearly borrowed from Phil Ochs.

The major-label world wasn’t ready for Paleface: the mainstream ignored him, while indieville, which should have provided his prime audience, never knew he existed. Sent packing before the release of his second album, Paleface worked as a barback while former roommate Beck took large chunks of his Beat ramble and guitar shuffle to the bank. Paleface resurfaced on Raw, a record consisting of five new studio tracks augmented by lo-fi live and home tapes from his cassette releases. Lacking the dignity of the debut, Raw is basically a collection of unassuming one-takes by a slightly pissy singer/songwriter. Mature cuts like “Reflections” and “Better Friends Than Most” cross paths with sarcastic throwaways like “Some Stupid Love Song” and the monotonous “Hair of the Dog.” The Kramer-produced album does, however, include “With a Girl Like You,” Paleface’s contribution to Shimmy-Disc’s Rutles tribute.

Paleface has packaged and sold numerous homemade cassettes in limited editions; among these, Burn and Rob is infamous for including umpteen versions of the punky title track.

Get Off was produced by Andy Paley without undermining the singer/songwriter’s raw passion or loopy sensibilities. (In other words, it still doesn’t sound ready for prime time, but is organized and listenable.) Using a band, occasionally honking away on harmonica and sometimes roaring like a man possessed, Paleface fills the brief but diverse record with his own brand of urban blues — serious (“G.G.F.U.”), silly (“Your Commercial Sucks,” “Oh the Pain, Ouch!”) and solemn (the Tom Waitsy “I’ll Be Right Back,” performed on piano) — as well as punk (“Don’t You Understand?”) and poppy folk (“My Fault”). Fascinating.

[Ian Christe / Ira Robbins]