By Gina Arnold
February 15, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST



If you love rock & roll but are full-on sick of the prefab emotions and synchronized synthesizers of dance-oriented pop, then Tucson’s Giant Sand may be just what you’re looking for. The band combines classic rock influences with guitarist Howe Gelb’s country-blues songwriting, searing guitar, and offbeat but nonetheless haunting lyrics. Gelb’s half-desperado, half-high- school-pothead persona has, oddly enough, made him a superstar in Europe (where both halves must seem exotic). Despite a close reliance on mainstream influences (Dylan, Springsteen, Neil Young), Giant Sand’s previous six records belong in the underground rock bin, mostly because of Gelb’s tendency to record everything he’s ever thought, said, or spat. Swerve, Giant Sand’s seventh LP, is easily the band’s most accessible, thanks to a more streamlined approach, a fabulous hard-rock duet between Gelb and Blake Babies’ singer and bassist Juliana Hatfield, and a cool song called ”Sisters and Brothers.” It still contains a good measure of the quirky casualness — 12-bar blues, scat vocals (by Hatfield and Gelb’s 3-year-old daughter, Patsy), and just plain weird guitar rants — that’s always set Giant Sand well apart from the mainstream. There is a naturalness and intimacy here that is completely lacking in most of today’s rock records. A-


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