• Tuscadero
  • The Pink Album (TeenBeat) 1994 + 1995  (TeenBeat/Elektra) 1996 
  • Step Into My Wiggle Room (TeenBeat) 1995 
  • My Way or the Highway (TeenBeat) 1998  (Elektra) 1998 

“I dunno just what possessed you/If I were a cop, I’d arrest you/Mom, what’s goin’ on?/I know to you it seemed like trash/But did you have to do something quite so rash?” The misdemeanor being bemoaned by Tuscadero singer/guitarist Melissa Farris on the Washington DC punk-pop quartet’s debut album is, of course, the parental disposal of childhood artifacts. But then you have to expect such topical issues from a group named for Suzi Quatro’s Happy Days character. An unabashed member of the back-to-infancy junk-loving movement, Tuscadero does tuneful songs about board games, candy, crayolas, its namesake and monster crushes, counterbalancing the juvenilia with silly slices of adulthood (“Latex Dominatrix”) and a serious bust-up putdown (“Dime a Dozen”) on The Pink Album. Farris alternates mic duties with Margaret McCartney; neither of the two guitarists has a particular strong or accurate voice, but that’s in keeping with the band’s amateurish and poorly recorded energetic rock hash. “Just My Size,” “Game Song,” “Crayola” and “Nancy Drew” are all sturdy constructions, but there isn’t a song on this premature ejaculation that couldn’t use a more accomplished, appealing performance. (After being signed by Elektra in ’95, the group remixed and rerecorded some of The Pink Album for its substantially improved ’96 reissue, actually the album’s third version. Because of a producer’s credit omitted from the booklet, the original CD ended with the band announcing the correct information. Subsequent copies amended the booklet and deleted the spoken bit from the disc, thereby shortening its length by a minute.)

Step Into My Wiggle Room resolves most of the band’s sonic problems, arranging the two women’s voices into stirring harmonies that recall the B-52’s, clarifying and complicating their guitar tones and settling bassist Phil Satlof and drummer Jack Hornady into a supple, reliable rhythm team. Besides four group efforts-including the psychedelic “Poster Boy” and the wry character assassination of “Palmer: The All-Star Jam,” which gets ten pals in to help move the swaying chantalong groove along — the arts-and-crafts assignment disc contains an individually created item from each member. Satlof’s “Dreams of the Tanker” is a busy-bee blanket of guitar whooshing over a tinny electronic rhumba, while McCartney’s “The Sways,” Hornady’s “Given Up” and Farris’ “Sonic Yogurt” are catchy electric pop tunes of divergent stylistic impulses. Most annoying self-indulgence here: five minutes of ambient chatter that follow “Palmer.”

[Ira Robbins]