Personnel: Bag (vocals, guitar, bass guitar, percussion, programming); Darren Parris (bass guitar); Cheeze (drums, percussion, loops); Hellenkeller (loops).
Audio Mixer: Greg Reely.
Recording information: Profile; Rambambi Studios; The Factory; Twentyroom.
Animation: Ben Schabner.
Illustrator: Kevin Kobasic.
Mix ICP's sleazy and gaudy attitude with Beck's kookiness and the Eels' cleverness, and then sprinkle in a little of Todd Rundgren's maverick wizardry and you've got the sound of Bag, a one-man band who has never met a clever idea he hasn't fallen head over heels in love with. Heavy with quirk and dramatic twists, his self-titled debut gets ponderous once in a while and the "I love you but I loathe you" songs "I Can't Stand Your Face" and "I Hate You Baby" are practically interchangeable, but when Bag wows, he wows big. Likening lovemaking to bull fighting, "Aye Mi Amore" layers Spanish guitars under gems like "one breast is all that I need," but the song's character doesn't even get one because the object of his nocturnal obsession is a man in drag -- not that he minds much. The other gutter tales of depravity contain plenty of twists and turns, all in arrangements that are very ambitious, epic, and theatrical instead of rock & roll. Weird thing is, all this freakish, nonconformist stuff gives way to some sweet ballads in the fourth quarter, ones that make Bag out to be a wistful dreamer all alone in a world that's ever so cold. This change of heart would be more interesting if Bag's sentimental lyrics weren't so bland, but once again, the elaborate arrangements are engaging and he surrounds his ballads with production that would make Jeff Lynne jealous. Toward the very end, the pathos-prone Bag goes through his Beatles phase and then on to incredibly slick psychedelia before exiting with the amusing "Ballad of Johnny Eunuch," which would be nothing without the line "Lucy's so soupy her life is a peach." It should be noted that Kiss member and marketing madman Gene Simmons made Bag the first signee to his revived Simmons label, and it's easy to see why. Just like the fire-breathing madman, Bag embraces indulgence and shock tactics while putting equal oomph behind his good and bad decisions. Luckily, this maverick is more hit than miss than his mentor, and there's evidence on his debut that it'll stay that way. If you can ignore the clumsiness of Bag's sensitive-versus-sleazy dichotomy, dig in and enjoy this one-man Rocky Horror Picture Show. ~ David Jeffries