Picks and Pans Review: Mettle

updated 04/10/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/10/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Hugo Largo

Her long arms carve slowly through the air with the elegance of a Japanese dancer. Her eyes widen, suggesting the possibility of both innocence and lunacy. Then she sings, quickly shifting from a whisper to a scream. Such mannerisms lend an unforgettable stage presence to Mimi Goese (pronounced GAY-zee), part-time performance artist and lead singer of the New York City quartet Hugo Largo. Though this unique group's debut album, Drum, failed to recreate the drama of its live shows, Mettle brings listeners a giant step closer to being there. Certainly no other pop band sounds quite like Hugo Largo. While Goese swoops easily from soprano to alto registers, two bass guitars and an electric violin soar and swirl along with her dreamy melodies. In no way should Hugo Largo be construed as a literal-minded bunch. Album titles aside, the band has no drum; there is, for that matter, no Hugo Largo around. Like a symbolist poet, Goese fills her lyrics with unrelated images that play off each other provocatively. In singing she lavishes attention on each syllable. Perhaps as a joke she at times drifts off into dopey stream-of-consciousness, reciting every word she knows in Japanese, for instance. (Fortunately she doesn't know that many.) But Goese's revelations generally have deeper meanings. In "Turtle Song" she describes a small yet important moment when, while marveling at a turtle's shell, she feels connected to the world. As an electric violin makes agitated pizzicato leaps, Goese whisper-sings the chorus, "That excites me./ That's exciting to me./ That makes me think." Some people will feel the same way when they test Hugo Largo's resonant Mettle. (Opal /Warner)

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