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Turkey Shoot 2005

Duds

BURT BACHARACH
At This Time
(Columbia)

When I ask myself which of the many horrible things about this adoringly promoted “political” record is the very worst, I’m tempted to go for broke and say the arrangements. For in truth, it is difficult to imagine circumstances under which the pop paragon’s latest instrumental divertissements would signify. Chris Botti provides a few high points on trumpet—that’s right, Chris Botti, high points, canceled out and then some by the anonymous saxophone soloist, who sounds to my unschooled ears like a moonlighting Kenny G. Then there are the weak yet obtrusive beats hired out to such humanitarians as Kon Artis and Dr. Dre. Rufus Wainwright doesn’t really believe “Love’s the answer like I said before/It’s the one thing needed maybe now even more,” Elvis Costello maintains a suspicious distance from “Who Are These People?” before belting it with equally suspicious enthusiasm, and both outsing—by a lot—John Pagano (?), Josie James (?), and Donna Taylor (?), who in turn outsing—by a whole lot—chief vocalist Bacharach. Who are these people? C MINUS

BARLOW GIRL
Another Journal Entry
(Fervent/Curb)

These three Christian sisters from Illinois specialize in arena-emo love songs to that perfect Guy, who unlike so many guys forgives them when they fail Him. One exception, if I’m not mistaken—and I may be, Christian code is a motherfucker—is “5 Minutes of Fame,” apparently a message song for the “secondary virginity” movement. Not that they’re in need of the secondary kind themselves—they’re lucky if “maybe I gave in more than I should” (for “popularity”) recalls anything heavier than a copped feel. Here’s hoping they meet Sufjan Stevens at prayer meeting. C MINUS


BACKSTREET BOYS
Never Gone
(Jive)

Lest you doubted it, this is grotesque, and not just because stardom ruined Nick Carter like so many young people before him. It’s more that nobody loves a man group. Blue-balled yearning becomes AJ-said-you-swallowed whining, which wasn’t the formal challenge their Swedish Svengalis signed on for. Maybe they could learn their instruments and call themselves a man band, which rhymes. An album of Four Lads covers is also a thought. C


BORIS WITH MERZBOW
Sun Baked Snow Cave
(Hydra Head)

Only innocent doomsayers willing to call someone plucking a guitar every few seconds for 12 minutes a “solo” will get to minute 38, when Merzbow makes some interesting noises that in just a few precious moments decay, like everything in this universe of pain, boredom, and surplus value. But be of good cheer. For verily, if a band named after a Melvins song thinks the world is coming to an end, it almost certainly isn’t. D PLUS


THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE
Tepid Peppermint Wonderland: A Retrospective
(Tee Pee)

Touted by the Dandy Warhols in the impressive Dig, Anton Newcombe gets a no doubt small, no doubt excessive cash advance to prove his genius with 38 songs the world passed on the first time. The world was right, and will be right again every time Newcombe revives. His recombined riffs rarely break the shambolic surface, and whenever two consecutive lines of lyric grab and hold, they complain. The Dandy Warhols’ drones have some pull to them, their hooks some sock. They’re funny, too. They overrate Newcombe because they do with panache and professionalism what he does with heroin and lies, and feel guilty about it. C PLUS


KELLY CLARKSON
Breakaway
(RCA)

Unlike young Hilary Duff, 23-year-old Clarkson feels the responsibilities of stardom, which demand melodramatic overkill. The doctors give her stronger pills than, say, Clay Aiken—the prefab kissoff of “Walk Away,” the new wave heartbreak of “Since U Been Gone,” “Because of You” may just describe an occurrence, here’s the verb “implode,” and “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel/Just a bridge that I gotta burn” could hold up its end of a bargain. None of these survives Clarkson’s larger-than-life ambitions or compressed-to-oppress production regimen. But she may have a heart, and it may end up in the right place. B MINUS


FALL OUT BOY
From Under the Cork Tree
(Island)

Stuck between pretentious young purists who believe catchy love songs betray their hardcore heritage and eager younger fans who believe catchy love songs fulfill their teenthrob destiny, these Warped Tour cover boys aren’t terrible, but are they ever ordinary. Only their record company would claim that emotional vocals, dramatic dynamics, poppy-punky tempos, and not actually all that catchy tunes add up to “their own sound.” They have some talent, they’re cute, and they work hard. Thus they get to pretend that “Douse yourself in cheap perfume it’s/So fitting of the way you are” is a lyric for the ages, a/k/a next week. C PLUS

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SEU JORGE
Cru
(Wrasse)

There’s a reason rhythm—and not the subtle stuff: beats stated and elaborated, on percussion instruments per se or string and electronic instruments deployed percussively—looms so large for us in the music of darker-skinned foreigners who don’t sing in English. Romance of the primitive not required—rhythm is where the music is, and the meaning. For non-Lusophones, this brave Brazilian favelado—who has a record out here because he’s a beguiling musical presence in the minor The Life Aquatic, not because he’s a commanding dramatic presence in the major City of God—is selling timbre even when he sings an Elvis trifle in the original Leiber, and timbre isn’t enough. The one keeper is a Serge Gainsbourg trifle consisting of proper names and the word “suicide.” And it too needs its rhythm track. B MINUS


RAY LAMONTAGNE
Trouble
(RCA)

I admire LaMontagne, who’s had nothing handed to him. But it bodes ill that the Stephen Stills album that moved him to quit his factory job was a ’90s one. Just as we live in a world where some radio stations get on Stills’s latest, we live in a world where some record buyers suck up folk-rock verities—to which LaMontagne adds nothing but a backstory. Since his admirers bring up Van Morrison, it is my duty to report that he lacks Morrison’s voice, poetry, Gaelic soul, and r&b feel—in other words, everything that once made Van worth bringing up. Nothing lasts forever, folk-rock included. C PLUS


NICKEL CREEK
Why Should the Fire Die?
(Sugar Hill)

Of course they’re still “really” “newgrass,” but mainly they’re a prog-pop band accessorizing their chords with mountain sonics. One effuser goes so far as to claim “a younger, better-scrubbed Dave Matthews Band minus the blowhardiness, a rootsier Ryan Cabrera,” while a tradder fellow adduces Bill Evans and Debussy. For some of us, unfortunately, all those loose-lipped compliments are negatives– Kind of Blue aside, we don’t even like Bill Evans. Nor would I advise any three prodigies to reduce a James Joyce story to 54 words and rather more notes. The young-prodigy-tries-to-love title tune is a winning exception, and “Doubting Thomas” intimates spiritual struggles that arouse one’s curiosity. But like most schmoograssers they’re committed to virtuosity for its own sake, and like most young musos they’ve been too focused on technique to learn much about how music interacts with life. C PLUS


MATT POND PA
Several Arrows Later
(Altitude)

With pleasant tune and steady groove standing in for pellucid prose, Pond’s songs are the alt-rock equivalent of what used to be called New Yorker short stories: subtly realized domestic epiphanies often involving tame nature imagery. At least they’re shorter on quiet desperation. B MINUS


QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS
Return of the Champions
(Hollywood)

Where Freddie Mercury was a true queen, Paul Rodgers is a big disgrace. And that’s not even counting the Bad Company cover, the Free cover, or, facts is facts, the HIV song. D PLUS


SLIM THUG
Already Platinum
(Geffen)

Screwed-and-chopped-esque rather than actually screwed-and-chopped, but representing the Black Sabbath tendency in rock-based musics nonetheless: Slim:Ozzy::screwed-and-chopped:grindcore. Jesus, does that mean screwed-and-chopped will last forever too? Scary. C


STELLASTARR*
Harmonies for the Haunted
(RCA)

What gave Shawn Christensen and his botched tonsillectomy the idea of joining the exalted ranks of Robert Smith and Simon Le Bon? This is pop music, not the Special Olympics. I mean, at least the Interpol guy is from England. Christensen’s from Pratt. C


THREE 6 MAFIA
Most Known Unknown

(Hypnotize Minds/Sony Urban Music/Columbia)

The pull of their gut-rumbling brew of dark keyb riffs and viscous rhythm under unison vocals isn’t absolute, but it’s there, distinct and original. Unfortunately for connoisseurs of the saturnine, however, it comes with rhymes that are part of the aesthetic experience. As a putative cocaine magnate, rival flava-of-the-year proprietor Young Jeezy enjoys privileges that include triumphalist fanfares, yes-man cheering sections, and a relatively abstract level of brutality. These Memphis lifers sell “street,” eventuating in quite a bit of put-your-foot-up-they-ass, knock-the-black-off-your-ass, ransack-your-home, and rape-your-bitch-cause-she’s-stacked. It isn’t original to point out that the reality this worldview represents is a bully’s reality, one that most of those who are stuck with it scheme to avoid. But originality isn’t everything. Bully reality can be musically compelling, no question. But jones for it and you risk brutalizing yourself. B MINUS

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Christians and Heathens

Pick Hits

DABY BALDE
Introducing Daby Balde
(World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, England, post@worldmusic.net)

This Dakar star is a 36-year-old Fouladou from the Casamance region south of Gambia, the cultural complexity of which is said to be why his band includes classically trained Belgian bigshots on violin and accordion. But if the explanation is glib, the results aren’t. The groove and ambience are West African with European shading—not Portuguese as history would suggest, but Balkan, probably an accident rather than an influence, though in the melting pot that is the continent that invented imperialism, who knows? Lithe, warm, changeable, distinct, Balde’s voice arouses hope, and in time the arrangements claim attention even when the tunes don’t grab it. With so much of the best nonarchival Afropop dependent on known quantities or brave new genre experiments, he has a shot at becoming a known quantity himself. A MINUS

SUFJAN STEVENS
Illinois
(Asthmatic Kitty, Box 1282, Lander WY 82520, asthamtickitty.com)

Scornful though one may be of Stevens’s beliefs that “classical music” is “high art” and Christ Jesus died for our sins, it would be rigid in the extreme to deny his melodicism. There’s not an unattractive tune on a record rife with counterpoint and interlude; musically, it’s so inspired—and because it does its appointed work simply and unhurriedly, so unpretentious—that nonbelievers had better accept that he’s getting over on talent, not talk. Religion arises mainly in the immensely touching, and unorchestrated, “Casimir Pulaski Day,” where the cancer death of a teen love occasions something resembling doubt. The historically inclined may object that Steven’s portrait of the great state of Abraham Lincoln and Ozzie Guillen is impressionistic to the point of whimsy, and I myself would die a smidgen happier if I never heard another song about a mass murderer. But this album radiates positive energy, and in today’s alt, that’s a precious thing. A MINUS

DANGERDOOM
The Mouse and the Mask
(Epitaph, 2798 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood CA 90026, epitaph.com)

I’ve seen enough Adult Swim to agree with Epitaph prexy Andy Kaulkin: “Danger Mouse and Doom [which I refuse to uppercase—R.C.] are both brilliant at taking chunks of popular culture and shaping them into art [I would say more art—R.C.]. The context of Adult Swim makes this already promising collaboration truly inspired.” Both guys are so irrepressibly playful that they get serious at their peril—they’re better off as a nonstop musical goof. Fave detail: Doom’s rhyming of the ancient usages “beer and skittles” (meaning ninepins, not some modern candy or long-lost salty snack) and “jot and tittle.” I promise to watch the DVD. A MINUS

STACE ENGLAND
Greetings From Cairo, Illinois
(Gnashville Sounds,Gnashville Sounds, gnashvillesoundsrecords.com)

Roots-rock program music about the southernmost city in Illinois. He doesn’t detail much vice, which was once the town’s bread and butter, but there’s lots of race—1909 lynch mob, segregated bus crosses big river, 1967 vigilantes, young Jesse Jackson stops by. Better researched than Sufjan, but not as evocative, nor any longer on answers. B PLUS

FRANZ FERDINAND
You Could Have It So Much Better
(Domino)

They’ve gotten unmistakably louder and unmistakably gayer—or perhaps I mean, hate the term, more metrosexual, given that the most affecting song here is a plea to a Brooklyn girl to rush her ass to Scotland. Small shows of force are all this ex-alt unit needs to achieve the meaning curmudgeons demand of rudderless guitar bands. They define themselves when they declare—not howl, not brag, declare—”I’m evil and a heathen.” Firmly secular on their shaky pop pinnacle, they’re a beacon. A MINUS

THIONE SECK
Orientation
(Stern’s Africa, 71 Warren St, NYC 10007, sternsmusic.com)

Seck is mbalax’s second banana, a leather-lunged griot renowned for lyrical wisdom whose work has never translated with anything near the fluency of Youssou N’Dour’s—his groove is solider, hence less explosive, and he’s shorter on telling musical detail. Like N’Dour, Seck had the idea of taking his Dakar brand of Mouridist Islam to Cairo long before September 11, but he was a year longer getting it right. The arrangements are more conventional and less delicate than N’Dour’s Egyptian pomo-trad, and Indian elements are added to the big Cairo-pop orchestrations and choruses. But though the big man still sounds somewhat grand and stentorian to non-Wolof ears, the novelty factor and the alien melodic input put his wisdom across—if not as ideas, at least as an idea. A MINUS

SILVER JEWS
Tanglewood Numbers
(Drag City, PO Box 476867, Chicago IL 60647, dragcity.com)

David Berman joins a pickup band that includes his close personal friend Stephen Malkmus to explore realms of vocal inexpressiveness undreamt by Stephin Merritt or the Handsome Family. The music rocks very very steady with femme backup counteracting occasional Pavementy noises, and the lyrics, Berman’s specialty, devote equal time to the animal kingdom, which permits him to wax whimsical if not vegetarian, and the dark burden of love, which inspires even more steadiness, in this case welcome. B PLUS

STEVIE WONDER
A Time to Love
(Motown)

Right, what you feared—mostly mush. Since mush has been his specialty for almost 30 years—that is, since he was 26 years old—why anybody should expect him to turn into Bob Marley now beats me. I just marvel that the mush continues so tasty. The melodies don’t falter, and Wonder’s unexpectedly and perhaps unfortunately influential vocal attack is as mellifluous as ever. Credit his laziness, or maybe it’s perfectionism. His touring schedule is nonexistent, and in the time he took for one album, fellow aging melodist Paul McCartney, for instance, chose to release four plus (don’t tell Stevie, he might try again) a faux symphony. And speaking of McCartney, this stuff isn’t all mush. Wonder’s politics are moralistic and universalist. But he’s as faithful to them as he is to the lady or ladies in his songs. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

Dud of the Month

BON JOVI
Have a Nice Day
(Island)

Bon Jovi mean so little long or short term that it was only with this redolently entitled cheese bomb that I realized they hadn’t actually broken up back in the fabled ’90s. (Really—I took all their ’00s albums for reunion one-shots, and couldn’t figure out why the product kept coming in the three seconds I thought about it.) The commercial secret is as unchanging as Jon-Jon’s mysteriously unwrinkled countenance—hard rock so inoffensive it’s less Aerosmith than Air Supply. Not only is it impossible to tell whether the one called “Bells of Freedom” is pro- or anti-Bush, it’s impossible to tell whether it’s patriotic. A depressing argument for the existence of that intellectual fairy tale, the passive mass audience. C PLUS


Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention

THE WACO BROTHERS
Freedom and Weep
(Bloodshot, 3039 West Irving Road, Chicago IL 60618, bloodshotrecords.com)

Bitterly weary, which isn’t always an advantage (“Missing Link,” “Nothing at All,” “Join the Club”).

MERLE HAGGARD
Chicago Wind
(Capitol)

Leave Iraq and stay with your love (“Where’s All the Freedom,” “It Always Will Be”).

LIZ PHAIR
Somebody’s Miracle
(Capitol)

In pop, when the production’s solid and the voice a little less so, the songs had better be on the money (“Got My Own Thing,” “Table for One”).

JIMI HENDRIX
Live at Berkeley
(Experience Hendrix)

The Cox-Mitchell band at its most documentable (“Hey Baby [New Rising Sun],” “I Don’t Live Today”).

BUDDY GUY
Bring ‘Em In
(Silvertone)

Blues subpatriarch claims soul as his dominion (“I Put a Spell on You,” “Ninety Nine and One Half”).

GRETCHEN WILSON
All Jacked Up
(Epic)

Not a good sign when the three really good ones are about booze (if you count the one that’s really about stardom) (“All Jacked Up,” “One Bud Wiser”).

EDDIE PALMIERI
Listen Here!
(Concord, 100 North Crescent Drive, Suite 275, Beverly Hills CA 90210, concordrecords.com)

Regina Carter and David Sanchez help more than they should have to (“In Flight,” “In Walked Bud”).

BOUBACAR TRAORE
Kongo Magni
(World Village, c/o Harmonia Mundi, 2037 Granville Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90025, )

I ask you, how much do words matter with John Hurt? (OK, a little) (“Indépendance,” “Djonkana”).

ALL NATURAL
Vintage
(All Natural, allnaturalhiphop.com)

Always militant, always calm, always on the one (“Keep It Movin,” “Heel-Toe”).

SON CUBANO NYC
(Honest Jon’s, 278 Portobello Road, London W10 5TE, England, honestjons.com)

1972–1982—neopurist Cubanismo from the salsa-is-sauce school (Rey Roig y Su Sensación, “Son Sabrosón”; Henry Fiol, “Oriente”).

WE ARE WOLVES
Non-Stop
(Fat Possum, c/o Epitaph, Epitaph, 2789 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90026, fatpossum.com)

Finally, Suicide influencees that rock—Francophones, mais oui (“L.L. Romeo,” “T.R.O.U.B.L.E.”).

EMMANUEL JAL & ABDEL GADIR SALIM
Ceasefire
(Riverboat, c/o World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham)

Sudanese child soldier turned Christian rapper meets Sudanese Muslim elder for great story and above-par music (“Alwa,” “Gua”).

LADELL MCLIN
Stand Out
(Gigantic, 59 Franklin Street, Suite 403, NYC 10013, giganticmusic.com)

Those awaiting a new Jimi should note that this one has Jesus on his side (“Hooked,” “Rich Man’s Lounge”).

RICHARD THOMPSON
Front Parlour Ballads
(Cooking Vinyl, PO Box 1845, London W3 0ZA, England, cookingvinyl.com)

Finally, it says here, an acoustic record—which he leads with some rock and roll (“Miss Patsy,” “My Soul My Soul”).

MICHELLE SHOCKED
Mexican Standoff
(Mighty Sound, 5042 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 155, Los Angeles CA 90036, michelleshocked.com)

For no discernible reason, blues and Spanglish bring out the irreverence in her (“La Cantina,” “Mouth of the Mississippi”).

SYSTEM OF A DOWN
Mezmerize
(American/Columbia)

Firm in their convictions and (relatively) simple in their art rock (“B.Y.O.B.,” “Radio/Video”).

CAROLINE, OR CHANGE
(Hollywood)

What better can one say of an original Broadway cast recording than that you’d love to see the play? (“JFK”).

YERBA BUENA
Island Life
(Razor & Tie, PO Box 585, Cooper Square Station, NYC 10276, razorandtie.com)

They try, and I’m rooting for them, but the real pan-Latino Black Eyed Peas would have more hooks (“Bilingual Girl,” “Bla Bla Bla”).


Choice Cuts

MICHELLE SHOCKED
“Hi Skool”
(Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Mighty Sound)

RICHARD THOMPSON
“Oops! I Did It Again”
(1000 Years of Popular Music, richardthompson-music.com)

DELBERT MCCLINTON
“One of the Fortunate Few”
(Cost of Living, New West)

MARS ARIZONA
“Elvis Blues”
(All Over the Road, Big Barn)

WOLF PARADE
“You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son”
(Apologies to the Queen Mary, Sub Pop)


Duds

RUBÉN GONZÁ
Momentos (Escondida)

BUKKY LEO & BLACK EGYPT
Afrobeat Visions (Mr Bongo)

LENE LOVICH
Shadows and Dust (The Stereo Society)

LINDA PERRY
In Flight (Custard/Kill Rock Stars)

MICHELLE SHOCKED
Got No Strings (Mighty Sound)

WRECKLESS ERIC
Bungalow Hi (Southern Domestic)

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Craft and Lies

Pick Hits

AMY RIGBY
Little Fugitive
(Signature Sounds, P.O. Box 106, Whately MA 01093)

Trying to be hardheaded, I ask myself how the soul-horned “It’s Not Safe” or the wan “Always With Me” would sound on an album by someone similar I don’t care for—Aimee Mann, or Gillian Welch. The answer is that a differently arranged “It’s Not Safe” would be a highlight for either, and that the mournful “Always With Me” is there for mood and pace. A cover sticker quotes the claim that she’s as consistent as Richard Thompson or John Prine, but Thompson hasn’t been her match lyrically for decades, and Prine, bless his heart, has recorded one album of new material since 1995. It really is quite simple—no one of any gender or generation has written as many good songs in Rigby’s realistic postfolk mode since she launched Diary of a Mod Housewife in 1996. She’s the best, plus a fine singer in an apt doing-the-dishes mode. Not counting the heart-tugging “Dancing With Joey Ramone,” my current fave is “So Now You Know,” in which a beloved tells her perfect man how she was once a slut. “Year of the Binge” could be about the same woman. Who almost certainly isn’t Rigby—when would she have had the time? But the mod ex-housewife knows her well.

BALKAN BEAT BOX
(JDub, 111 Eighth Avenue 11th Floor, NYC, 10011)

Former Gogol Bordello horn man Ori Kaplan moves in with Big Lazy’s Tamir Muskat, the Israeli-born drummer who faced down Gypsy punk Eugene Hutz in J.U.F. last year. Everything else is friends and programming, with a party feel more relaxed than expected despite the fact that their CVs assuredly include weddings. The drumbeats remain edgily electronic. But the bass lines propelling the dance, and the horns and vocals flavoring it, are sweeter than in Gogol Bordello or Big Lazy—with a discernible sensuality putting flesh on the fun. Ethnically, and politically, the idea is that Morocco and Bulgaria are one place—a lie longing to become a dream. A MINUS

AMADOU & MARIAM
Dimanche à Bamako
(Nonesuch)

No Malians more eagerly downplay their nation’s sun-slowed intensity than this Parisian couple, so it was a good idea to introduce them to Manu Chao, whose breakthrough concept gentled up international sounds into reggae lite with brains. Though the pair’s warp and weave are softened as a result, the beat remains theirs, and though they’re less brainy than Chao, there’s bite in their ineluctable Malian-ness. For social content, they take on the danger truck drivers pose to giraffes, hippopotamuses, elephants, chickens, and children. A MINUS

ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS
Mercurial
(Spanks-a-Lot, P.O. Box 49799, Austin TX 78765-9799)

At their most forced when Christina Marrs plays up the sex angle—”Mojo Working,” “Sugar in My Bowl”—and their most audacious when they mix genres big-time, as in the (uncredited) “interpolations” (as they say on hip-hop albums, where money might change hands) of Skynyrd’s “Gimme Two Steps” into “Hick Hop” and Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” into “Tight Like That,” this nouveau jug band from Austin T-X outdoes itself on three punkier covers: a letter-perfect “Dance This Mess Around” (B-52’s, kidz), a modernized “TV Party” (Black Flag), and, best of all, a gun-toting “Paul Revere,” complete with “Beastie Boys Boogie” coda. B PLUS

GABY LITA BEMBO AND ORCHESTRE STUKAS DE ZAì
Kita Mata ABC
(RetroAfric, P.O. Box 26072, London SW10 0YA England)

Although ’80s soukous is obviously sleeker, only those who know early rumba will get how uncouth and just plain pop this unjustly unrenowned ’70s act was. Full-band choruses are deployed—”You-you-you-you-you-you-you.” Whistles are blown, scripted jokes exchanged. Sometimes the guitars teeter where they should ripple, sometimes they go veryfast, and I read where one showboat admired the way Jimi played with his teeth. Teens especially loved them. But a ball was had by all. A MINUS

BLACKALICIOUS
The Craft
(Anti-, c/o Epitaph, 2798 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood CA 90026)

There’s no more accomplished crew in alt-rap, and though that can make their messages seem slick sometimes, on this break with UniMoth their booming beats, lucid raps, and articulate rhymes are technically miraculous. The Lifesavas, George Clinton, and ally-for-life Lyrics Born—whose deep rapid-fire takes the quick-lipped Gift of Gab to Mount Sinai—vary the flowetry better than Floetry, and most tracks offer what we outside of hit radio call hooks. With “World of Vibrations” and “The Craft” bookending metathematically, high points include the uplifting “Supreme People,” “Your Move,” and “The Fall and Rise of Elliot Brown” and two songs about women. “Powers” describes a queen, “Side to Side” a skank. Musically, both gals get respect. A MINUS

BRAKES
Give Blood
(Rough Trade, Chelsea Hotel, Room 103, 222 West 23 Street, NYC, 10011)

The singer from British Sea Power joins three even lesser U.K. alt-rock notables in 16 short-and-shorter ditties about their scenester lives. Some observers classify these ditties “country-punk,” while other crankily insist they’re “anti-folk,” proving mainly that nobody knows what to make of simple little guitar-band songs on a scene where everyone’s busy refining his or her artistic vision. But if you believe as I do that the alt-rock subculture means more than almost any individual alt-rocker’s vision, they’re an up. Four bohemian fellas with a sense of humor who relate actively to their friends and lovers, despise Dick Cheney, and get wasted some—the last of which they’ll cut down on. A MINUS

CANTANKEROUS
(Tommy Boy, 120 Fifth Avenue, 7th Floor, NYC 10011)

Like the Lords of Acid after the cops broke up the party, these masked dancehall-industrial Brits sing about sex and money as if they’d as soon kill a rich guy as hear him squeal. I say “guy” because “Shove my nigger-loving pussy in your inbred mouth” doesn’t sound like a lesbian domination fantasy to me. And this is only the EP, with an album due in January. Can they keep up the pace? Depends on how angry they are—in a world where there’s always more to be mad about. A MINUS

THE ROLLING STONES
A Bigger Bang
(Virgin)

I’m obviously not to be trusted, since when I finally pulled out my vinyl on Dirty Work, which nobody else likes, I still loved its booming Steve Lillywhite Charlie, its studious chicken-scratch Keith, its bitterness and cynicism and spiritual desperation. On this one desperation is in remission. But despite its lack of an anthem to replace “Start Me Up,” it certainly beats Tattoo You or anything else going back to Exile except Some Girls. Long the weak link, Mick—come on: Keith and Charlie are gods, Ron is for sound effects, and Darryl Jones is an improvement—once again proves capable of relating on what we humans pathetically call a human scale. Not that I credit his “vulnerability,” but I’m touched that he cares enough to lie about it. Together with clear evidence of prolonged cooperation between or among the principals (meaning two-man songwriting and a living groove, respectively), the effort suffices to provide or simulate the mattering considered so crucial in veteran bands. It also helps that the opener really rocks. As for the anti-Bush song, duh. Next time they should vet their corporate sponsor instead. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

COLDPLAY
X&Y
(Capitol)

Tunewise, this is the craftiest of their well-crafted albums. Conceived as a boy group, showing girls who long to believe it that not every guy is a jock, a thug, a lothario, or a male-bonded mook, they might even have their uses. Conceived as a pop alternative to U2 and Radiohead, however, they’re an argument for death metal. Precise, bland, and banal, their sensitivity emotionless and their musicality never surprising, they’re the definition of a pleasant bore—easy to tune out, impossible to care for. B


Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention

HUSTLE AND FLOW
(Atlantic)

What the fools who claim Djay’s crunk success isn’t credible don’t mention is the reason—he’s too smart and too nice (Djay feat. Shug, “It’s Hard Out There for a Pimp”; Juvenile feat. Skip & Wacko, “Body Language”; Djay, “Whomp That Trick”).

BETTY LAVETTE
I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise
(Anti-, c/o Epitaph, 2798 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood CA 90026)

Well-culled material sung harder than necessary, which was probably the idea (“Sleep to Dream,” “How Am I Different”).

BABYFACE
Grown & Sexy
(Arista)

Pretty smart for a love man, less so for a deposed record exec who worships Curtis Mayfield and toured with Vote for Change (“Sorry for the Stupid Things,” “Good 2 Be in Love”).

BANTU FEAT. AYUBA
Fuji Satisfaction
(Piranha, Carmerstr 11, 10623 Berlin, Germany)

Europeanized Islamo-Yoruba Afrobeat strives to please (“Fuji Satisfaction,” “Oya”).

NYBOMA
Nyboma & Kamalé Dynamique
(Stern’s Africa, 71 Warren Street, NYC 10007)

Early-’80s soukous by one of Quatre count-’em Quatre étoiles (“Doublé Doublé,” “Amba”).

TRANSPLANTS
Haunted Cities
(La Salle/Atlantic)

Gangsta punk revisited, broader musically and narrower lyrically (“Gangsters and Thugs,” “Crash and Burn”).

MIKE DOUGHTY
Haughty Melodic
(ATO, 157 Chambers St., 12th floor, New York, NY 10007)

A clever solo artist who once led a great band (“Busting Up a Starbucks,” “American Car”).

THE WITNESSES
Tunnel Vision
(Howler, 31 Union Square West Suite 9A, NYC 10003)

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll and they execute it (“I Should Not Have to Ask,” “Panic Attack”).

GO BETTY GO
Nothing Is More
(Side One Dummy, Box 2350, LA CA 90078)

Chicana punks rise above the tough act (“Laugh Again,” “Unread”).

DOVES
Some Cities
(Capitol)

Battling banal balefulness, they cop from “Heat Wave” and warm up (“Black and White Town,” “Some Cities”).

THE DANDY WARHOLS
Odditorium, or Warlords of Mars
(Capitol)

What they get for assuming psychedelia, futurism, and the drone are the same thing (“Down Like Disco,” “All the Money or the Simple Life Honey”).

HORACE X
Strategy
(Omnium, P.O. Box 7367, Minneapolis MN 55407)

Comfier in its ska-polka pan-everythingism, and less galvanizing (“She Want,” “Strategy”).


Choice Cuts

R. KELLY
“Trapped in the Closet Chapter 2,” “Trapped in the Closet Chapter 4,” “Trapped in the Closet Chapter 3,” “Trapped in the Closet Chapter 1,” “Trapped in the Closet Chapter 5”
(TP.3 Reloaded, Jive)

NIKKA COSTA
“Till I Get to You”
(Can’tneverdidnothin’, Virgin)

THE INCREDIBLE CASUALS
“I’ll Do Anything”
(Nature Calls, Iddy Biddy)

CHRISTINE LAVIN
“One of the Boys”
(Folk Zinger, Appleseed)


Duds

CRIME MOB
(Crunk Incorporated/BME/Reprise)

MIKE DOUGHTY
Skittish/Rockity Roll
(ATO)

EMBRACE
Out of Nothing
(Lava)

KHALED & FRIENDS
Ya-Rayi
(Wrasse)

PAUL MCCARTNEY
Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard
(Capitol)

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook Listings Living MUSIC ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Gypsy Part of Town

Pick Hits

GOGOL BORDELLO

Gypsy Punks:Underdog World Strike

(Side One Dummy)

I’ve never gotten the very few bands like this: neither black nor green Negresses Vertes, strident pub politicos Black 47, squeezeboxing omnivore Kepa Junkera. Even before it jelled, however, I got this. Balkan immigrants flee some combination of thieving bureaucrats, bootstrapping hustlers, Yugoslavian genocide, and anomie. The underworld no-accounts of old Montmartre pursuing Eurotrash chic, they valorize their half-imposed marginalization by reaching out to fellow jetsam from other international backwaters where Islam is an everyday thing. Bootstrapping hustler Eugene Hutz formed a band in this subculture, which for all I know he invented first—rock, yes, but with its segmented groove and village dance rhythms very un- American (and un-African). This album is that band’s statement of principle, cri de coeur, and ring grab—Hutz hectoring his way through a bacchanalian rant that’s broken into songs that want to be slogans. Sixty revolutions per minute, this is my regular speed. You are the only life there is for yourself my friend. It is all connected through the Gypsy part of town. A

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO THE MUSIC OF THE BALKAN GYPSIES

(World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, England)

The Rom, as these notes call them, set out from India a millennium ago and have long played music the way African freedmen did in Cuba—because it’s low-class, low-paying work, but also because they’re thought to have a knack. By 1700 or sooner they had seized local styles in dozens of European locales. There is no “real” Gypsy music, but the daredevil fiddles, skirling horns, and extreme vocals of the Balkan strains whose ins and outs they deploy come close enough. I’d never heard of most of these Romanian, Bulgarian, and other bands, but those I’ve encountered before, including Taraf de Ha‹douks on a standout cut absent from their two Nonesuch albums, have never sounded better than in this can-you- top-this party. Not a new groove because it’s not smooth enough. But more than one new beat, usually with a history. A MINUS

ART BRUT

Bang Bang Rock & Roll

(Banana Recordings/Fierce Panda, Box 21441, London N7 6WZ)

Although this crudely hooky three-chord guitar band are working on a concept EP about a Red Brigade spinoff, their debut album is the kind that brooks no follow-up. Beginning with “Formed a Band” (“Dye your hair black/Never look back”), it really should end with “Stand Down” (“Some of us want to go back to our families”) rather than the one about the 18,000-lira bank robbery. Young love, impotence, older love, charging head down at a stray Matisse, and being bored with the Velvet Underground: this is the stuff of one-shot art- punk. Mike Skinner, meet Eddie Argos—the perfect collaborator, and he’ll be looking for work. A MINUS

BESH O DROM

Can’t Make Me!

(Asphalt Tango, c/o Harmonia Mundi, 2037 Granville Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90025)

Like most Gypsy outfits, these Hungarians work weddings, which involves pleasing many ethnic subgroupings—subber than the “Albanian, Greek, Serbian, Macedonian, and Turkish” cited in the notes—and complement many moods. Some of these moods are kind of moody, and the players like to show off their chops and their respect for propriety. In general, however, they’re wild panethnic fun for the entire family—and fertile, that’s important, fertile. B PLUS

DJ SHADOW

Live! In Tune and On Time

(Geffen)

Recombinant is the idea with any DJ, but who’d expect even Shadow to make a live album worth hearing twice? Yet this hits-and-obscurities set is cannier than that of rock bands with twice as many titles to choose from: pieces of Endtroducing and Private Press reconfigured to mesh with pieces of Preemptive Strike and Psyence Fiction while and generating the same old illusion of inevitability. Sounded so right it got me to watch the bonus DVD version. Some of it, anyway—better his wrists and fingers than the superimposed film clips of freeway traffic and such assembled for the ticket buyers. A MINUS

MISSY ELLIOTT

The Cookbook

(Atlantic/Gold Mind)

On this benchmark album that half the beatoisie will sleep on because it has no “Work It” and Timbaland, after all, was the genius (which he was)—this benchmark album that given the vagaries of fashion could initiate a permanent commercial decline—Elliott showcases the musical health of African American pop. Oldschoolfreshbeathiphopr&b—run through Elliott’s considerable talent and good heart or reasonable facsimile, these are meaningless categories. Elliott’s disinclination to give it up to gangsta’s thrill cult or black pop’s soft-focus porn, plus her proven ability to work a good beat when she gets one, leads her naturally to a collection that ebbs and flows, peaks and dips, and pokes fun at any canon of taste you got. It’s vital beginning to end—vital even when it’s misguided, a matter on which your judgments may differ from mine, fine with her. A MINUS

GOGOL BORDELLO

East Infection

(Rubric)

For two albums, Eugene Hutz’s concept was better than his songs. On this EP, spillover off an album in progress is manna from Thrace. No need to repeat the contentious bathhouse romp “Ave. B”—the flag-waving “East Infection,” the baton-passing “Strange Uncles From Abroad,” and the Romanian-tuned “Madagascar” would have sufficed. A MINUS

PAT METHENY/ORNETTE COLEMAN

Song X

(Nonesuch)

Right, the same damn jazz album—same damn fine jazz album—he/they released in 1986. Only the 18 minutes of bonus tracks, which include Ornette blowing changes and playing bebop, would make a damn fine EP. Instead, they sit there at the very beginning, saying, “We are the loam from which Song X will arise forthwith.” A

CHARLIE ROBISON

Good Times

(Dualtone)

I liked the title tune better when I thought he was saying “don’t let the fascists get you down” rather than “bastards,” but it amounts to the same thing. Long a champion of country music that eschews both purity and virtue, here Robison writes like his life depends on it, which it does—the virtue lobby has all fun in its sights, his music included. On the one about eating his wife’s cooking he finds a new shade of meaning for the word “brisket.” And on the one about how his wife vamoosed anyway, words fail him: “But I still got my buddies and I still got my pals/And I still got my buddies and I still got my pals.” A MINUS


Dud of the Month

KEREN ANN

Nolita

(Metro Blue)

I know melancholy is as universal as joy, and considerably more common to boot, but that’s no reason to celebrate it. After all, the same can be said of sloth and will. And while this Javanese-Dutch-Russian-Israeli French succes d’estime obviously isn’t lazy—you think pinpoint arrangements come naturally?—the languor she encourages in her quiet cult is the kind of privilege that feels like an accomplishment to Nick Drake and Sylvia Plath fans. I say it’s static; I say it gets a person nowhere. At least Norah Jones swings. A little. B


Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO THE MUSIC OF SUDAN

(World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, England)

Decadent bandleaders, vagina-bearing vixens, and a former child soldier sin against Sharia (Emmanuel Jal, “Gua”; Omdurman Women’s Ensemble, “Daloka Bet El Mal”; Mohammed Wardi, “Azibni”).

URBAN BRAZIL

(Stern’s Music/Earthworks, 71 Warren St, NYC 10007)

Baile funk for party people with more stuff (Botecoeletro, “Coco Nutz Mass”; Rappin’ Hood, “Sou Negro”

RODNEY CROWELL

The Outsider

(Sugar Hill/DMZ/Columbia, PO Box 55300, Durham NC 27717-5300)

One more pissed-off patriot heard from (“The Obscenity Prayer [Give It to Me],” “Don’t Get Me Started”).

MF DOOM

Live From Planet X

(Nature Sounds)

Scoff all you like at the very notion of a live rap album, but just remember—no skits (“Name Dropping,” “I Hear Voices”).

HUMAN TELEVISION

All Songs Written by: Human Television

(Gigantic Music, 59 Franklin Street, Suite 403, NYC 10013)

Part of the discipline for tune adepts is to let the tunes carry meaning themselves, which is rarely how it worked with the bands they love (“Saw You Walking By,” “Yeah Right”).

SAMPA NOVA

(Stern’s Brasil, 71 Warren Street, NYC 10007)

Samba as beat itself, beat song, and, of course, beat jazz-schlock (Suba, “Sereia”; Otto, “Bob [Edu H Mix]”).

VERNON REID & MASQUE

Known Unknown

(Favored Nations)

On Steve Vai’s label, only would you believe funkier? (“Known Unknown,” “Brilliant Corners”).

SOUAD MASSI

Deb

(Heartbroken) (Wrasse, Wrasse House, The Drive, Tyrrells Wood, Leatherland, KT22 8QW, EnFgland, wrasserecords.com)

Sounds like a nice chick, but her Arabic leaves too much to the imagination (“Yemma [Mummy, I Lie to You],” “Ya Kelbi [Oh! My Heart]”).

ITALIAN CAFÉ

(Putumayo World Music)

(Putumayo World Music, 324 Lafayette Street, NYC 10012, putumayo.com)

Putumayo say these ingratiating Latins like cute novelties and guys who whisper almost as much as French sophisticates (Giorgio Conte “Gn‚, Gn‚”; Fred Buscaglione, “Juke Box”).

BE YOUR OWN PET

Damn Damn Leash

(XL)

Nashville pros’ punk kids prove their parents are hipsters like musicians anywhere (“Damn Damn Leash”).

CERYS MATTHEWS

CockAHoop

(Rough Trade, Chelsea Hotel, Room 103, 222 West 23 Street, NYC 10011, roughtrade.com)

Catatonia frontwoman writes some folk-type songs, covers others including one in Welch and many by co-religionists, almost holds her own (“Weightless Again,” “Only a Fool:).

MEHANATA: NEW YORK GYPSYMANIA

(Mehanata, Bulgarian Culture Center, 416 Broadway, NYC 10013, mehanata.com)

The fermented garbage from which arose the fabled gypsy punk (Balkan Beat Box and Eugene Hutz, “Tromba de Zangari/Yek, Dui, Trei/New Yorkskiri”; Yuri Yunakov, “Arabski Kjuchek”).

BRAZILIAN GIRLS

(Verve Forecast)

Trilingual rhythmically, quadrilingual verbally, and they make it all stick
(“Pussy,” “Homme”).

ENZO AVITABILE & BOTTARI

Salvamm’o Munno
(Save the World) (Wrasse)

Neapolitan saxophonist, Calabrian percussionists, and world-music luminaries exert their goodwill (“Porto Alegre,” “O Munno Se Move”).

RED EYED LEGENDS

Mutual Insignificance

(File 13, Box 804868, Chicago IL 60680, file-13.com)

If they don’t open when the Fall hit Chicago, Skull Kontrol died in vain (“Milk Crate,” “Go-Go Girls”).


Choice Cuts

MACUMBALADA

“Samba Do Morro”

SUBA

“Sereia”

(The Rough Guide to Brazilian Electronica, World Music Network) (World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, England, post@worldmusic.net)

KEITH ANDERSON

“Podunk,”

“Stick It”

(Three Chord Country and American Rock & Roll, Arista)

MIRANDA LAMBERT

“Kerosene,”

“What About Georgia,”

“Me and Charlie Talking”

(Kerosene, Epic)

GEORGE STRAIT

“She Let Herself Go,”

“Good News, Bad News”

(Somewhere Down in Texas, MCA Nashville)


Duds

DIERKS BENTLEY

Modern Day Drifter

(Capitol)

BERING STRAIT

Pages

(Universal South)

KENNY CHESNEY

Be as You Are

(Songs From an Old Blue Chair) (BNA)

KENNY CHESNEY

When the Sun Goes Down

(BNA)

TOBY KEITH

Honkytonk University

(DreamWorks)

STINA NORDENSTAM

The World Is Saved

(V2)

LEE ANN WOMACK

There’s More Where That Came From

(MCA Nashville)

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook Listings MUSIC ARCHIVES

Laptop for Desktoppers

Pick Hits

ENCRE

(Clapping Music, 8 alle de Normandes, 78112 Forqueux, France)

In the studio—live, see below, he has a combo—Frenchman Yann Tambour is a solo laptopper whose works are invariably described by the few Anglophones who know they exist as mysterious and depressing. I say they’re moody, and note for the record that the mood they evoked on a recent European sojourn was always comforting—notably during a jet-lagged rush hour as we sought lodgings in a language we do not speak on an Appian Way that was more picturesque back in the day. Tambour’s music is slow and textural, deploying glitches and ostinatos in the service of a better-grounded groove than is laptop practice. Over this Tambour whispers now and then in a French it’s just as well I can’t make out, although my multilingual wife believes that on the first track he says either “there is still a time” or “there is still a liver,” both of which seem chipper enough to me. Unless—uh-oh—it’s “there isn’t yet a time” (or liver). Oh well. A MINUS


A Brief History of Rhyme: MC Hawking’s Greatest Hits
(Brash)MC HAWKING

Absurdist comedy in which the virtually immobilized “young, gifted and tenured” theoretical physicist raps via a text-to-speech conversion program—about bitch-slapping his T.A. and drive-bying six “punk ass bitches from MIT,” about a bizang bigger than “the sound of my gatt,” about entropy and the end of all things, about the idiocy of creationists and others: “New age motherfuckers/Don’t get me started,/I made more sense than them,/Last time I farted.” It’s not all equally mind-boggling, but the concept, which the real Hawking finds funnier than shizzit, is glorious. As creator Ken Leavitt-Lawrence must know, it’s an affirmation not only of the primacy of reason but of its nihilistic gangsta power. A MINUS

MAHMOUD AHMED

Alèmyé

(Buda Musique, 188 Boulevard Voltaire, Paris 75011 France)

In 1974, a world-class singer in a small world made a pretty darn good album in his local style. Am I smart enough to distinguish said work, marketed here as Éthiopiques 19, from the 1973 and 1975 Mahmoud Ahmed albums that have caught my ear over the years? No. Do I listen with pleased attention as his commanding and arresting if never quite unique or exquisite voice declaims over the Ibex Band’s two-sax tchik-tchik-ka from scene-setting “Alèmyé” to relaxed, drawn-out “Tezeta”? Almost every time. B PLUS

THE BOOKS

Lost and Safe

(Tomlab)

What new subspecies of wankery is this? Guitar and cello contextualized to sound like laptop doodling? Spoken-word samples so unlikely they might be written and performed rather than researched and found? Plus many minutes of actual singing, or sing-talking, who knows what exactly, about what who knows exactly? If these were actual songs I’d scoff at their inaudible indecisiveness: listen hard now, “Our heads approach a density reminiscent of the infinite connectivity of the center of the sun” in under five seconds. But though this may be pretension, it’s also delight, strange and humorous verbally and aurally. It’s not catchy, right. Merely memorable and enchanting in the manner of Another Green World—which stays well within the lines by comparison. A MINUS

FOUR TET

Everything Ecstatic

(Domino, PO Box 1207, NYC 10276)

Kieran Hebden does pack a lot of ideas, or maybe they’re really just sounds, into a song, or maybe the term is album cut. But he’s always lyrical. There’s never that Conlon-Nancarrow- meets-Squarepusher sense of machine-scale speed exploited to evoke the workings of a mind that should take it easy already. Rounds was so lyrical, in fact, that it drove genre obsessives to the neologism “folktronica.” Many such folks are disquieted by Hebden’s constitutionally protected decision to dabble in the usages of drum’n’bass, which are every laptopper’s roots, after all. The drums get busy at times, but never fear—this sounds more like Rounds than it does like anything else. Just a little funkier. A MINUS

GLOBAL HIP HOP

(Manteca, Union Square Music, Unit 1.1, Shepherds Studio, Rockley
Road, London W14 0DA)

You want beats, they got world beats, finally. Whatever they’re rapping about—and when they break into English, which happens, it’ll seem real enough unless humanism’s not your way—the 14 non-U.S. crews on this U.K. comp are funking some different shit, usually looped tunelets that are common currency there and fresh here. Front-loaded Latin, it excludes European materials till the final track, which saunters past with its arm around the shoulder of a casually mesmeric Greek guitar or bouzouki figure. Lots of Africans, a German Turk, and some U.K. Indians headline; Sergent Garcia and Oumou Sangare guest. Watch out, homeboys—they’re learning, and they’re very eager. A MINUS

THE PERNICE BROTHERS

Discover a Lovelier You

(Ashmont, 10A Burt Street, Dorchester MA 02124)

Trying to be a better person,” swears Joe Pernice. But though he provides examples, the title on that one is the all too typical “Saddest Quo.” So in the end, he proves his good intentions the only way he knows how. Guitars chime, harmonies glide, hooks and choruses stroll by as easily as extras in an impressionist painting—all in the service of such topics as abject poverty, killing someone in a car accident, and our old friend the loss of love. On the loveliest album of Pernice’s pretty career, the most eloquent song of all is the wordless title tune. A MINUS

CHEB I SABBAH

La Kahena

(Six Degrees, 602 20th Street, San Francisco CA 94107)

Although Bill Laswell is only a bass player on this conceptual compilation, which adds beats to female singers in a panoply of Maghreb traditions, it partakes of Laswell’s long-established commitment to celebrating Islamic difference as a strength us guys should respect and draw on. Algerian-born, San Francisco-based dance DJ Sabbah is so skillful, so imbued with rhythm in general and these rhythms in particular, that exotic-in-the-Maghreb underlays from jazz, reggae, and the clubs sound chosen and organic. Well before 9/11, Laswell understood better than most of us that such fusions were a pleasure and a necessity. Now they’re also a solace. A MINUS

THE WHITE STRIPES

Get Behind Me Satan

(V2)

From Lil Jon to Thom Yorke, pop supports many cooler celebrities than Jack White, and though returning primitivism to the hit parade was a neat trick, his aesthetic ideas are as limited as Meg’s drum technique. So rather than carp about his failure to lead us to salvation, perhaps we should content ourselves with the hit parade. White’s commercial success has nothing to do with de Stijl or da blooze—just a strong, emotive voice delivering simple yet distinctive songs, which are fairly numerous here. “My Doorbell,” for instance, finds a fresh route to the abandonment theme and adds a little twist when his friends stop buzzing too. “Take, Take, Take” is that difficult thing, a smart song about what a drag fans are. You may prefer others, that’s part of the charm. And when he sticks to electric guitar he still rocks plenty. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

RÖYKSOPP

The Understanding

(Astralwerks)

Just as jungle tended toward soundtrack music for B thrillers in exotic locales, chill-out tends toward waiting-room music for plastic surgeons who really want you to order that butt implant. Where once these Norwegians were extolled for their subtle melodicism, here their schlock candidly attacks the jugular. If they’re Air, Goldie was Tricky. C PLUS


Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention

CAITLIN CARY & THAD COCKRELL

Begonias

(Yep Roc, PO Box 4821, Chapel Hill NC 27515)

One difference from Gram & Emmylou is they both write the songs (“Two Different Things,” “Please Break My Heart”).

AKON

Trouble

(Universal)

Ex-con, not gangsta (“Trouble Nobody,” “Locked Up”).

BAR BHANGRA

(Escondida, 150 Lafayette Street Suite 11R, NYC 10013)

Just like one of those dancehall comps named after a beat, which in this case goes surprisingly far but no further (Panjabi MC, “Jogi”; DJ Gem, “Kank Di Rakhi”).

THE BRUNETTES

Mars Loves Venus

(Lil’ Chief, Box 68-290, Newton, Auckland 1032, New Zealand)

That’s New Zealander Jonathan Bree, not Jonathan Richman, and his sweetie pie Heather-not-Katherine Mansfield (“Mars Love Venus,” “Beautiful Militant”).

THE BLACK EYED PEAS

Monkey Business

(A&M)

What all pop might be—so much brighter and kinder than it is (“Pump It,” “Don’t Phunk With My Heart”).

JAGUAR WRIGHT

Divorcing Neo to Marry Soul

(Song/Artemis)

The intelligent black woman, from helpmate to party girl (“Woman to Woman,” “One More Drink”).

DEAN MARTIN

Live From Las Vegas

(Capitol)

“You wanna hear me sing straight, buy an ablium” (“Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes/Pennies From Heaven [Bourbon]/Hello, Dolly [Vegas],” “Monologue”).

THE CHRIS STAMEY EXPERIENCE

A Question of Temperature

(Yep Roc, PO Box 4821, Chapel Hill NC 27515)

With Yo La Tengo and wide-ranging covers, and loosened by both inputs (“Venus,” “Compared to What”).

THE ADOLESCENTS

O.C. Confidential

(Finger, 18092 Sky Park Circle South Unit A, Irvine CA 92614)

If only Green Day were this mad (they wouldn’t have gotten near a Grammy) (“Lockdown America,” “Monsanto Hayride”).

JOHNNY HICKMAN

Palmhenge

(Campstove)

Lapsed Cracker after “before the great decline” (“Friends,” “Beauregarde’s Retreat”).

ANNIE

Anniemal

(Big Beat)

She can’t be saying “greatest tits”—she’s just too thin (“Chewing Gum,” “Greatest Hit”).

RYAN ADAMS & THE CARDINALS

Cold Roses

(Lost Highway)

Nine songs per disc, evenly divided good-dull-OK, only the first disc—he’s full of surprises—is stronger (“Easy Plateau,” “Beautiful Sorta”).

THE KNITTERS

The Modern Sounds of the Knitters

(Zoë)

These days folk-country is exactly their speed (“The New Call of the Wreckin’ Ball,” “Skin Deep Town”).

ENCRE

Live at Nantes: Oblique Lu Nights

(Clapping Music)

Concert EP with humanly interactive groove, hubba hubba, and less twee than Tortoise it certainly is (“Nocturnes,” “Une Nuit à Ciel Ouvert”).


Choice Cuts

Sinéad O’CONNOR WITH THE BLOCKHEADS

“Wake Up and Make Love With Me”

BOMB THE BASS FEATURING Sinéad O’CONNOR & BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH

“Empire”

Sinéad O’Connor,
Collaborations
(Capitol)

CHRIS STAMEY

“Spanish Harlem”

(Travels in the South, Yep Roc)


Duds

THE BRAVERY

(Island)

COWBOY TROY

Loco Motive

(Warner Bros./Raybaw)

BRIAN ENO

Another Day on Earth

(Hannibal/Ryko)

IVY

In the Clear

(Nettwerk)

JUNIOR BOYS

Last Exit

(Domino)

M83

Before the Dawn Heals Us

(Mute)

OF MONTREAL

The Sunlandic Twins

(Polyvinyl)

TRASHCAN SINATRAS

Weightlifting

(SpinArt)

THE WANNADIES

Before and After

(Hidden Agenda)

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook Listings MUSIC ARCHIVES

Odd Tangents

Pick Hits

WILLIAM PARKER QUARTET
Sound Unity
(Aum Fidelity)

This is Parker’s pianoless quartet, a format that demands two horn players who can dance—who play together even when they seem to be flying off at odd tangents. Trumpeter Lewis Barnes and alto saxist Rob Brown, little known outside of Parker’s discography, make a lovely couple. But in this quartet bassist Parker and drummer Hamid Drake aren’t content to keep time: They, too, dance. Perfect balance—the political analog is equality—is impossible to achieve, but if you listen to this record four times, each time focusing on a player, you’ll hear four slightly distinct albums, each one coherent. They did it. A

TOMMY SMITH & BRIAN KELLOCK
Symbiosis
(Spartacus)

Cherokee” may have been God’s gift to saxophonists, but none have played it as delicately and sensitively as Smith does here. It leads into a series of exquisite ballads, from “Moonlight in Vermont” to “Skylark,” each more lovely than the last. And this isn’t one of those ballads albums, either. Smith picks up the pace with “Honeysuckle Rose” and reaches into his bebop bag on “Bernie’s Tune,” where Kellock finally emerges from his supporting role to show you how Bud Powell might have done it. Smith was astonishing back in his teens. Now he’s managed to get past that stage and become well-rounded. A

REZ ABBASI
Shake Charmer
Earth Sounds

Coltrane’s soprano sax had an Indian-Near Eastern tone that imparted distance to his perpetual searching, but framed by Abbasi’s Indian-spiced soul jazz, Dave Liebman’s soprano sax sounds like he’s found something. His horn is the highlight here, but Abbasi’s snaky guitar is the charm. A MINUS

THE BLUEPRINT PROJECT

Creative Nation Music

Jared Sims (saxes), Eric Hofbauer (guitar), and Tyson Rogers (piano) split the writing credits with little evident pecking order or stylistic uniqueness. They are talented, well educated, thoroughly modern. They can do post-bop, post-Monk, post-Ornette; they can play gospel and tango and free. All they needed was bass and drums, so they hired Cecil McBee and Matt Wilson. One of the few jazz groups that feels communal. A MINUS

BRÖTZMANN/FRIIS NIELSEN/UUSKYLA
Medicina
Atavistic

With a career that started with Machine Gun, the big bang of European free jazz, and unfolded through smaller group efforts with titles like Die Like a Dog, it’s tempting to call this Peter Brötzmann’s easy listening album, but it’s only easier. His increasing use of clarinet and tarogato does take a little wind out of his sails, but even on tenor sax it’s possible to follow his intense yet inventive lines without feeling the need to duck. It helps that his is the only horn. It also helps that drummer Peeter Uuskyla stays on the case no matter what. A MINUS

AVISHAI COHEN TRIO & ENSEMBLE
At Home
RazDaz/Sunnyside

Cohen writes that “the main engine driving this record is a trio,” but he’s being too modest. It’s the bassist, and engine is the operative word because Cohen’s pieces build around the pulse of his bass. Half are trios with pianist Sam Barsh and drummer Mark Giuliana; the other half add horns for color, most notably Yosvany Terry’s saxophones. A MINUS

DAVE DOUGLAS/LOUIS SCLAVIS/ PEGGY LEE/DYLAN VAN DER SCHYFF

Bow River Falls

Premonition

One unusual thing about Douglas is how much he’s rooted in European folk traditions—mostly Slavic (Tiny Bell Trio) and Jewish (Masada). This evenly balanced collaboration with French clarinetist Louis Sclavis and the young Canadian cello-drums team continues in this vein. Sclavis is central, the backbone for pieces that spring Douglas loose. This compares favorably to the follow-up, Mountain Passages, where Sclavis is replaced by the extra horn power of Michael Moore and Marcus Rojas while the all-Douglas program gets way too complex. A MINUS

GERD DUDEK/BUSCHI NIEBERGALL/ EDWARD VESALA

Open [1977]

Atavistic

The records revisited by Atavistic’s Unheard Music Series went unheard for reasons—Baby Dodds talking and Sun Ra lullabies are novelties at best. Free jazz from ’70s Europe holds up better, but old Brötzmann and Schlippenbach are unlikely to convince non-fans, and rarities from Keith Hazevoet and Mario Schiano will never be more than cult items. So this one is a find. Dudek pursues Coltrane’s ghost on two saxophones, flute, and shenai—a double-reed oboe from India, like blowing into a buzz saw. Bass and drums aren’t supporting roles; they add dimensions. A MINUS

FME

Underground

Okka Disk

The initials stand for Free Music Ensemble, a nod to the famous FMP label, but if free suggests falling back on your instinctive wits, for Ken Vandermark that means blowing with rock roughness and r&b honk. Especially when the group is built around Nate McBride of Spaceways Inc. and Tripleplay and Paal Nilssen-Love of School Days. A MINUS

[

THE FRANK AND JOE SHOW

33 1/3

Hyena

The three vocal spots—campy Janis Siegel on “Don’t Fence Me In,” debonair Dr. John on “Sheik of Araby,” torchy Jane Monheit on “Besame Mucho”—shine so bright you wish they’d recruited more guests, but guitarist Frank Vignola has to get his licks in, beginning his beguine and jamming Mozart, ramrodding Rimsky-Korsakov at Dave Edmunds speeds, and ending in a shimmering oasis of “Stardust.” A MINUS

SCOTT HAMILTON

Back in New York

Concord

He’s looking almost as old as his saxophone, but he sounds fabulous—so comfortable in his own sound that the comparisons to Sims and Getz and Prez were just grasping at reeds. And now that he’s moved to London top U.S. players jump at the chance to play with him. This time his pickup band is Bill Charlap’s trio—the one with the Washingtons, unrelated but they play together more often than most twins. His best in more than a decade. A MINUS

RAPHE MALIK QUARTET

Last Set: Live at the 1369 Jazz Club [1984]

Boxholder

Historically interesting as Malik’s only recording between 1979, when he left Cecil Taylor’s group, and his return in the ’90s. Also because he shares the spotlight with Frank Wright, a rarely heard tenor saxophonist from the avant ’60s. Also because this is one of the earliest recordings where William Parker really flashes his bass. A rare case where the avant-garde gets down and dirty. So much fun that Wright took to singing. So much fun you won’t mind that he sucks. A MINUS

WILLIAM PARKER

Luc’s Lantern

Thirsty Ear

Parker’s past work with piano trios leaned heavily toward brawling with the likes of Cecil Taylor and Matthew Shipp. But this time he goes outside his usual circle, tapping drummer Michael Thompson and unknown Eri Yamamoto, an inside-out pianist who reminds me of Geri Allen. Probably the idea is to spotlight his songwriting—based on folk melodies, some surprisingly pretty, a couple roughed up by old habits, including a Taylorized take on Bud Powell. And by all means keep one ear cocked for the bass. A MINUS

STEVE SHAPIRO AND PAT BERGESON

Low Standards

Sons of Sound

On their own, Shapiro’s vibes and Bergeson’s guitar would be a fine lounge act. But their guests pay off: Annie Sellick has an exceptionally pleasing standards voice, and she alternates with Scott Kreitzer, who does his vocalizing through a tenor sax. A MINUS

Dud of the Month

CHRIS BOTTI

When I Fall in Love

Columbia

If he’s the new Chet Baker, then the original could pass for Fats Navarro. But at least this album breaks out of the smooth-jazz formula: no funk, no groove, no beat. On irresistible songs, Botti’s plaintive trumpet backed by string orchestra is gorgeous enough. But he can’t salvage tripe like “Cinema Paradiso,” and three cuts with guest vocalists, including his fairy godfather Sting, further dull the mood. N.B.: the bestselling mostly instrumental jazz album of the past two years. B MINUS


Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention

TONY MALABY

Adobe

Sunnyside

Most valuable sideman on a handful of albums last year steps forward.

PER HENRIK WALLIN

Burning in Stockholm [1981]

Atavistic

The piano rocks, setting up cascades of rhythm for bass and drums to bounce off of.

WILLIE NELSON

Nacogdoches [1997]

Pedernales

Jazz standards with mandolinist Paul Buskirk; like Picasso, he can palm off doodles as genius.

RAPHE MALIK/JOE MCPHEE/DONALD ROBINSON

Sympathy

Boxholder

Drummer, trumpet, soprano sax, or more trumpet: Sparks fly.

JOHN HAGEN

Segments

Cadence Jazz

Free jazz played slow lets you follow the logic.

GIAN TORNATORE

Sink or Swim

Fresh Sound New Talent

Flounders a bit at first but by the end he’s swimming with Coltrane.

JEFF PARKER

The Relatives

Thrill Jockey

Underground Chicago guitarist goes smooth, the synth matrix redoubling groove and quirk.

MICHIEL SCHEEN QUARTET

Dance, M y Dear?

Data

Odd twists and sharp angles, post-Monk, post-Mengelberg even.

JOHN ELLIS

One Foot in the Swamp

Hyena

Gumbo, corn fritters, homegrown pennywhistle jive.

BRÖTZMANN CLARINET PROJECT

Berlin Djungle [1984]

Atavistic

Six clarinets instead of the usual sax mob soften the squall, so enjoy the breeze.

RICARDO SILVEIRA/ LUIZ AVELLAR

Live: Play the Music of Milton Nascimento

Adventure Music

Stripped way down, the delicate songs reveal hidden strengths and wry subtleties.

SONORE

No One Ever Works Alone

Okka Disk

Three free saxes (or clarinets), never reducing themselves to a choir.

NOËL AKCHOTÉ

Sonny II: The Music of Sonny Sharrock

Winter & Winter

[

Eschewing flash, solo guitar puzzles over the melodies.

BOBBY WATSON & HORIZON

Horizon Reassembled

Palmetto

Victor Lewis & the Jazz Messengers make their long-awaited return.

COSMOSAMATICS

Three

Boxholder

Sonny Simmons as workhorse improviser, Michael Marcus on cosmic saxello, Jay Rosen’s drums hold it together.

FRED HESS QUARTET

Crossed Paths

Tapestry

Leaning toward his Lester Young side Hess sounds even more like Von Freeman.


Duds

STEVE COLE

Spin

Narada Jazz

THE FRANK AND JOE SHOW

66 2/3

Hyena

SUN RA

Spaceship Lullaby [1954-60]

Atavistic

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook Listings Living MUSIC ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Sustenance Enough?

Pick Hits

SLEATER-KINNEY

The Woods

(Sub Pop)

Corin Tucker’s abrasive warble is made for a Zeppelin move that seems inevitable now that it’s here, and when the lyrics fail to mesh, or veer toward the sociologically corny, her proven ability to plow such quibbles is beefed up from the backup muscle. Nevertheless, the metal affinities are basically spiritual. Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev hand Dave Fridmann ain’t John David Kalodner. Although the album is definitely loud, it’s also raw, with no hint of the symphonic, yet at the same time it’s a melodic highlight of an honorably tuneful catalog. And come down to it, the words are pretty good. I like the one about the boho losers. And the hungry-so-angry one. And the one that disses Interpol. A


THE ROUGH GUIDE TO THE SAHARA

(World Music Network)

Maybe it’s just the harem scenes in racist movies, but seldom will you hear a regional compilation at once so distant and so familiar. The Sahara is bigger than Europe, and insofar as these often nomadic artists—very few of whom I’d heard before, with only the jet-setting Tinariwen and one other on Festival in the Desert—have home bases, most hail from lands thousands of miles apart, and further off the musical map than Mali: Mauritania, Niger, Libya, the Morocco-occupied “Western Sahara.” Yet except for the closer, a long poem-sermon with rosewood flute by an Algerian Berber, they share lulling chants, many by women, and a steady pulse that seems neither African nor European but “Arab,” which it isn’t. Although often born of political conflict, they evoke eternal things—subsistence beyond nations, a post-nuclear future, world without end amen. A

BRIGHT EYES

I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

(Saddle Creek)

Given indie-rock’s formal-historical dilemma, grant Conor Oberst this—at least it bothers him that he has no idea what he’s doing, or rather why he’s doing it, though actually I mean he admits that it bothers him instead of trying to ignore it. Like the empathy of so many young men, especially artists, his is more self-involved than saints like us prefer. But at least he expresses empathy—to memorable melodies that very nearly bear up under the repetitions his rarely witless or superfluous lyrics require. A MINUS

ROBBIE FULKS

Georgia Hard

(Yep Roc)

Vocally, he’s neither here nor there—by the standards of Jay Farrar, Trace Adkins, but by the standards of Trace Adkins, Todd Snider—and as a writer he’s caught between Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Columbia University, where he’s spent more time. He has a lit major’s love for Music Row convention: “Some people say a real hard woman’s good to find,” or the evolution of the “they” in “If They Could Only See Me Now” from the parents who didn’t want him to marry above his station to the kids he can’t see after he murders their mama. Because he doesn’t have the physical equipment to put his formal hyperbole over the top, his novelties connect first—”I’m Going to Take You Home (And Make You Like Me),” featuring his wife Donna, and the first recorded use of the word gemutlichkeit in a country song, and “Countrier Than Thou,” featuring an Oh! Brother fan from Boston and GWB from Austin. But on this record the writing is so consistent that eventually it makes emotional sense—the cheating songs and the drinking songs and the faux gothic songs are set pieces he puts his gumption into, softened by a pastoral nostalgia that’s so lyrical you want to take a ride in the country yourself. A MINUS

STEPHEN MALKMUS

Face the Truth

(Matador)

Solo for real, Malkmus plays just about everything on this consistently enjoyable, predictably inconsequential recording. “You’re the maker of modern minor masterpieces for the untrained eye,” goes “Post-Paint Boy.” As he must know—he’s so knowing—substitute “ear” for “eye” and the self-portrait could make a lesser man afraid to look in the mirror without some company. B PLUS

JAMIE O’NEAL

Brave

(Capitol)

Middle America tells itself stories about normal life. The flourishes are too big and the musical colors too bright, the teller of tales a blonde looker who reaches out to heroic mommies and slaves of data entry and praises the company of girlfriends without abandoning her search for the perfect man. It’s “like trying to find Atlantis,” but somewhere in there she does. “I Love My Life,” she concludes, and you can almost see how some normal person might. Not the truth—far from it. But not quite a lie. Probably because she’s not middle-American at all. Australia—the promised land. B PLUS

SHUKAR COLLECTIVE

Urban Gypsy

(Riverboat)

[

Three Roma traditionalists aged 24 (“voices and primitive percussions”), 38 (lead singer, strikes barrel with stones or booted foot), and 62 (spoons player and singer, emulates Louis Armstrong) join five habitués of Bucharest’s electronica underground in an ethno-techno that sounds mighty real as long as it doesn’t overdo the techno. Ululating or speed-chanting, uttering words or sounds, vocalist Napoleon is the main dish. The enhanced beats are spice. A MINUS

SPOON

Gimme Fiction

(Merge)

Iwish this was still a world where the right guitar noise and a heaping helping of hooks were sustenance enough. But though I can imagine putting this on at year’s end and remembering every song with a kind of surprised admiration, I can’t imagine doing it any sooner—or any later either. Until their next album, anyway. This one’s selling, so there’ll be another. B PLUS

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

Devils and Dust

(Columbia)

Springsteen the superstar’s one-man-band album is less engaging musically than Malkmus the cult artist’s, but more engaging artistically, because for all his overreliance on dramatic drawls, Southwestern locales, and mother love, Springsteen has stories to tell. I dearly hope the two kids in “Long Time Comin’ ” ‘s sleeping bag are off with their parents on a cheap but restorative vacation—that would be so much less a commonplace than on the road. But I’m not so curious I’m tempted to boot up the explanatory DVD on the other side of the superstar’s DualDisc. A MINUS

THE WILLOWZ

Talk in Circles

(Sympathy for the Record Industry)

The new generation of cute punkoid bands are committed minimalists, like when these kids from Anaheim put nine songs on their 22-minute debut whatzit. But they’re also ambitious, a winning quality in a cute punkoid band. You can tell because these 20 songs last over an hour. Yet they still sound rushed and excited—if a lyric is unfinished it’s obviously because they couldn’t wait to get to the next one, and when they slow down they’re just catching their breath. In its cute punkoid way, a major statement. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

TRACE ADKINS

Songs About Me

(Capitol)

Adkins is one of these guys who spends so much time in the weight room that his arms don’t hang plumb from his shoulders. In the rear view thoughtfully provided his female fans in the booklet, only his ponytail and his cowboy hat distinguish him from the Incredible Hulk. You’d never confuse him with the similarly named Clay Aiken, a much wimpier guy, and not just in the delts—Adkins’s baritone sounds like it emanates from the Mammoth Cave. But in the most essential matter you’d be dead wrong. Track record notwithstanding, the ex-gospel singer is every bit as much a calculated corporate creation as the duly elected idol. The 11 songs on this No. 1 country, No. 11 pop album were written by 23 songwriters, only one of whom has his name on even two. The most far-fetched is “Arlington,” in which Dave Turnbull vouchsafes the patriotic thoughts of a dead soldier—to be specific, the first Tennesseean to die in our current Iraq war—to former DUI Adkins. Needless to say, the artist suffers no anxieties over exactly why any of these songs he didn’t write is “about me.” These are “songs I’ve been waiting to record for my entire career.” Especially “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” C


Additional Consumer News

PONY UP!

(Ten Fingers/Dim Mak)

The demure femme-punk sexpot trick (“Shut Up and Kiss Me,” “Matthew Modine”).

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS

The Sunset Tree

(4AD)

Is it that he knows less about himself than he does about the world, or that he won’t reveal it? (“Dance Music,” “Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod?”).

PAVEMENT

Crooked Rain Crooked Rain: LA’s Desert Origins

(Matador)

You have to care even more than I do to sort this expanded edition out, but you won’t turn it off (“Unseen Power of the Picket Fence,” “Fucking Righteous”).

SHELBY LYNNE

Suit Yourself

(Capitol)

“You do it do it do it do it just let go” (“Johnny Met June,” “You’re the Man”).

COMMON

Be

(Geffen)

Few of the best moments belong to the main attraction, who’s not as wise as they tell him he is (“It’s Your World [Part 1 & 2],” “The Food [Live]”).

THE ROBERT CRAY BAND

Twenty

(Sanctuary)

“I wanna see you burn all the way down/I wanna see your ashes all over the ground” (“My Last Regret,” “Twenty”).

DWIGHT YOAKAM

Blame the Vain

(New West)

Sounds older, and the infirmity becomes him (“Blame the Vain,” “Three Good Reasons”).

[

FARM FRESH

Time Is Running Out

(Peanuts & Corn)

McEnroe supercrew a tad too long on Pipi Skid’s whiteboy groan (“Frail Dale,” “Ex-Girl”).

COREY HARRIS

Daily Bread

(Rounder)

Has more blues in him than Ali Farka Toure and Sylford Walker combined (“The Bush Is Burning,” “Mama Wata”).

OXFAM ARABIA

(World Music Network)

If by Arabia you mean Palestine, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Sudan, and Iraq (MoMo,”Agee Jump”; Abdou, “Mali Ha Mali”).

BRIGHT EYES

Digital Ash in a Digital Urn

(Saddle Creek)

Noised these up because he’s nervous about them (“Arc of Time,” “Hit the Switch”).

RHYMEFEST

A Star Is Born

(All I Do)

Kanye homeboy proves who his friends are by rapping all over their mixtape (“All They Do Is Dis,” “Devil’s Pie”).

NORTH AFRICAN GROOVE

(Putumayo World)

Mediterranean cosmopolitans entertain a groovy world (Amr Diab, “Nour el Ain”; Samir Saeid, “Aal Eah”).

MIKE JONES

Who Is Mike Jones?

(Swishahouse/Asylum/Warner Bros.)

Marvel mildly yet again at the sonic variety of criminality (“What You Know About . . . ,” “Back Then”).


Choice Cuts

VAN MORRISON

“Keep Mediocrity at Bay”

(Magic Time, Geffen/Exile/Polydor)

PRINCE PAUL

“MVU (Final Act),” “Yes, I Do Love Them Ho’s!”

(Itstrumental, Female Fun)


Duds

BRIGHT EYES/NEVA DINOVA

One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels

(Crank!)

MATSON JONES

(Sympathy for the Record Industry)

TIFT MERRITT

Tambourine

(Lost Highway)

ROBERT PLANT AND THE STRANGE SENSATION

Mighty Rearranger

(Sanctuary)

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook Listings MUSIC ARCHIVES Technology THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Beguilement and Rage

Pick Hits

THE GO-BETWEENS

Oceans Apart

(Yep Roc)

Robert’s songs more tuneful in their maturity, Grant’s more atmospheric,
they punch ’em all up to make a stronger impression than on their comeback
album, thus proving that it was one. Settled down in real life, Robert
recaptures his peripatetic past with a clear conscience and a sharp eye;
still questing, Grant couches his romanticism in instrumental subtleties
that soften his detachment. Robert so fond, Grant so elusive, both so
beguiling, they’re deeply civilized for the leaders of a working rock band.
And for just that reason they can follow the calling until that distant day
when strumming itself is too much for them. A

Stream “Here Comes a City” (Windows Media)

LIVING THINGS

Black Skies in Broad Daylight

(Loog/DreamWorks)
Lillian Berlin is Johnny Rotten with politics. His art would be nothing
without his rage; he’s so possessed by the need to get his point across that
he grabs his brothers’ music by the throat and makes it bellow his tune. But
his rage wouldn’t be much without his analysis, which however simplistic—and
it is, though at this perilous moment no more so than apolitical cynicism or
liberal equivocation—gives shape, purpose, and a referent outside his
tortured psyche to feelings that emanate from who knows where. A more
balanced person would have gotten this cleansing full-length released in the
U.S. last fall, when we needed it so much, but a more balanced person
wouldn’t have recorded it. The Berlins have bought it back from UniMoth, and
maybe some patient U.S. bizzer will put it out eventually. Meanwhile, my
advance is identical to the U.K. version, while the Japanese boasts two
bonus cuts that’ll cost you 12 bucks apiece. Like it says inside their EP:
“Just one enemy—The Exploiters.” A MINUS

View “Bombs Below” (Windows Media)

BETTIE SERVEERT

Attagirl

(Palomine/Minty Fresh)

Down on my luck in Amsterdam, I’d want Carol van Dyk for an aunt, or a
second cousin, or a friend’s ex-wife, or something more. Back on my feet,
I’d remember her fondly for the rest of my life. But we’d lose touch. And
before too long I’d find it impossible to recall the details of the album we
used to play at breakfast. B PLUS

Download “Attagirl” (MP3)

THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS

Push the Button

(Astralwerks)

Their genre incontrovertibly passé, they can put futurist games
behind them. So, free to do their thing without looking over their
shoulders, they turn in their best album since 1996 even though some schmuck
from the Charlatans ruins track two. “Believe” and “The Big Jump” rock the
block. The Arabian strings of “Galvanize” are augmented-not-improved by the
tyrant-bashing rhetoric of “Left Right.” And the three abstractions that
complete the project clatter, tweetle, shudder, chime, whoosh, and phase.
A MINUS

View “Believe” (Flash)

FANNYPACK

See You Next Tuesday

(Tommy Boy)

The attitude is tougher and the material thinner, but you have to love it
for not falling flat on its heightened expectations. Two albums in, these
three young things still aren’t rich—not with their “dresser drawer full of
broken cellphones” and their homeboy who’ll “rob Mickey D’s for
condiments”—and that still hasn’t taken them down. With electroclash a dead
delusion, what sells their handlers’ beats is the girls’ faith in the sacred
mission of growing up and having fun at the same time, which in case you’ve
been away is no gimme these days. A MINUS

Sample Album

THE HOLD STEADY

Separation Sunday

(Frenchkiss)

Confession booths are for rosary twiddlers, but Bible lore is as American
as Sunday school, so I take the scriptural references as tokens of Craig
Finn’s quality education. And since in my Sunday school, papists like my
grandpa were going to burn forever because they never got “born again,” I’m
glad Finn’s guys and gals get “born again” too. At bottom, his people are my
people, and I wish them the same shot at heaven my adolescent Billy Graham
experience guarantees my reprobate ass. Which is to say that this literature
with power chords addresses not only the crucial matter of vanishing
bohemias as cultural myth but also the crucial matter of re-emerging
spiritualities as cultural fact. From “Lord to be 17 forever” to “Lord to be
33 forever” is a long road, and Finn is old enough now to know it keeps
getting longer—and to spread the living gospel that 33 is too good to throw
away on myths. A MINUS

Download “Stevie Nix” (MP3)

KINGS OF LEON

Aha Shake Heartbreak

(RCA)

There’s an early-Stones feel here it would be perverse to deny: 12 songs
in 36 minutes, each with an indelible identiriff and its own seductive
rhythmic shape. Caleb Hollowill’s slippery wiles recall Jagger’s without
grasping Jagger’s gift for the pungent phrase. That Hollowill avoids
cock-rock clichés hardly means he’s come to terms with the jezebels
who were driving backsliding Southern boys past their intellectual limits
long before Elvis paid Mr. Phillips to record his love song to Gladys. B
PLUS

View “The Bucket” (Windows Media)

LYRICS BORN

Same !@#$ Different Day

(Quannum Projects)

Unlike most remix albums, not a fanbase-only ripoff. None of the eight
remakes is inferior to the Later That Day . . . version; Evidence and
KRS-One’s “Pack It Up” and a funked-up “Hello” constitute clear
improvements, “Do That There” piles on ridiculous rhyme, and the standout “I
Changed My Mind” was a 12-inch. Nor is that all—the five new titles include
a Bay Area praisesong, a motormouth “capping” dis, and just one too many
showcases for LB’s quasi-operatic helpmate Joyo Velarde. In short, had
Later That Day . . . come second, you might well prefer this
reinterpretation. A MINUS

Stream “Pack Up (Remix)” feat. Evidence and KRS-One

Stream “I’m Just Raw”

THE PONYS

Celebration Castle

(In the Red)

Like so many unpretentious young bands-with-a-knack, the Ponys are
assumed by their contemporaries to bring nothing new to the party even
though their sound is theirs alone—an object lesson in the primacy of
timbre. Their second album isn’t quite as good as their first album because
its hooks are slightly less inescapable, which you can blame on Steve Albini
if you want. But the difference is slight, and other differences are
positive: more momentum, the girls get to sing one, and the Richard Hell guy
sounds as weedy as the Peter Perrett guy, hence more like himself. A
MINUS

Download “Glass Conversation” (MP3)


Dud of the
Month

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979

You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine

(Vice)

Idon’t get this. We listen to a Snoop or Lil Jon record—I do, anyway—and
say, Yeah, the music is pretty good, but it’s really no fun hearing women
degraded that way, so the hell with those guys. Maybe if the funk is
terrific (Cam’ron, or the new improved—and somewhat more mild-mannered—50)
or the rhymes acute (Jay-Z, Ghostface), we let down our guard and try to
hear how the other half feels. Otherwise no. So why is this tight, intense,
recidivist screech-and-crunch exempted from such complex responses?
Preferring funk to crunch as I do, maybe I’m merely insensible to the
guitars’ siren call. Or maybe its slaves are insensible to misogyny that
stops at cut-and-run man’s-gotta-do you-hurt-me-too, rather than claiming to
control that ‘ho. B MINUS


Additional
Consumer News

Honorable Mention

JOHN PRINE

Fair and Square

(Oh Boy)

“Old Faithful’s just a fountain/Compared to the glory of true love” (“She
Is My Everything,” “Some Humans Ain’t Human”).

Stream “She Is My Everything” (Real Audio)

Stream “Some Humans Ain’t Human” (Real Audio)

POP-O-PIES

Pop-O-Anthology 1984-1993

(www.pop-o-pie.com)

Sans their famed debut EP, San Francisco weirdos prove it’s not so hard
to make entertaining straight-ahead guitar rock—only now try and imitate it
(“Truckin’
Stream “In Frisco” (MP3)

AMY RAY

Prom

(Daemon)

Indigo Girl’s solo sober Southern identity (“Rural Faggot,” “Let It
Ring”).

Download “Put It Out For Good” (MP3)

Download “Driver Education” (MP3)

MOBY

Hotel

(V2)

Prefer him to Julian Cope, not to mention Phil Oakey, and she holds up
fine against Sarah Cracknell, never mind Martha Wash (“I Like It,” “Where
You End”).

Sample Album (Windows Media)

BRAIN FAILURE

American Dreamer

(Thorp)

Four-billionths of the vastest nation on earth nail pro-American Clash
imitation (“That’s What I Know,” “New York City”).

Download “That’s What I Know” (MP3)

WILL SMITH

Lost and Found

(Interscope/Overbrook)

Raps better than Rodney Dangerfield (even when he was alive), and funnier
to boot (“If You Can’t Dance [Slide],” “Ms. Holy Roller”).

Stream “If You Can’t Dance (Slide)” (Windows Media)

Stream “Ms. Holy Roller” (Windows Media)

ULTRA LOUNGE: COCKTAILS WITH COLE PORTER

(Capitol)

He’s hard to ruin, which doesn’t stop Steve Lawrence and Sammy Davis Jr.
from trying (Ella Fitzgerald With the Duke Ellington Orchestra, “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)”; Sarah Vaughan, “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”; Louis Prima and Keely
Smith, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”).

Stream “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” (Windows Media)

Stream “Night and Day” (Windows Media)

Stream “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (Windows Media)

JOHN LENNON

Acoustic

(Capitol)

Nirvana unplugged it ain’t, and a precious resource he remains (“God,”
“What You Got”).

Stream “God” (Windows Media)

Stream “What You Got” (Windows Media)

BLOC PARTY

Silent Alarm

(Vice)

Benetton boys adrift on Tony Blair’s morass of neoliberal compromise
(“Helicopter,” “Pioneer”).

Download “Banquet” (MP3)

NOUVELLE VAGUE

(Luaka Bop)

At long last bossa newwavo (“Guns of Brixton,” “Too Drunk to Fuck”).

Stream “Teenage Kicks

Sample Album

LITTLE CHARLIE AND THE NIGHTCATS

Nine Lives

(Alligator)

Cool cats confront or deny their own inevitable decreptitude (“Circling
the Drain,” “Quittin’ Time”).

MAROONS

Ambush

(Quannum Projects)

Latyrx-Blackalicious alliance plots next move (“If,” “Best of Me”).

Stream “If” (Windows Media)

Stream “Best Of Me” (Windows Media)

TEGAN AND SARA

So Jealous

(Vapor)

Believe your old dad<“What I figured out was I needed more time to figure
you out” ain’t gonna work (“Take Me Anywhere,” “You Wouldn’t Like Me”).

Download “I Bet It Stung” (MP3)

Download “I Know I Know I Know” (MP3)

KAISER CHIEFS

Employment

(Universal)

Provincial lads make a go of Tony Blair’s morass of neoliberal compromise
(“Saturday Night,” “Born to Be a Dancer”).

Stream “Saturday Night” (Windows Media)

Stream “Born to Be a Dancer” (Windows Media)

THE MOANERS

Dark Snack

(Yep Roc)

Melissa Swingle’s slide attack carries lyrics that deserve better,
sometimes (“Talk About It,” “Hard Times”).

Stream “Terrier” (Windows Media)


Choice Cuts

JOHN LENNON

“My Baby Left Me,” “Angel Baby”

(Rock ‘n’ Roll, Capitol)


LIVING THINGS

“A.D.D.”

(Resight Your Rights EP, DreamWorks)


MY SO-CALLED BAND

“Patriot Act,” “Message Board”

(Weapons of Mass Distortion, SW)


GARBAGE

“Bleed Like Me,” “Why Don’t You Come Over”

(Bleed Like Me, Geffen)


FATBOY SLIM

“The Joker”

(Palooka-ville, Astralwerks)


Duds

BRITISH SEA POWER

Open Season

(Rough Trade)


DAFT PUNK

Human After All

(Virgin)


SNOOP DOGG

R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece

(Doggy Style/Geffen/Star Trak)


THE USED

In Love and Death (Reprise)


THE WALKMEN

Bows and Arrows

(Record Collection)

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook Listings Living MUSIC ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Ignorants and Know-Alls Keep Out

Pick Hits

BLUEPRINT

1988

(Rhymesayers Entertainment)

This Ohio double threat produced for his Weightless crew and rapped for RJD2 before putting one and one together. Though he’s the kind of rhymer who scans “another good record with bad distribution” all too swimmingly, the hip-hop don’t stop even when it’s about some hip-hop-writing “Boom-Box” for Radio Rahiem (of Do the Right Thing, kids) does back-in-the-day prouder than usual. “Big Girls Need Love Too” has a whole lotta heart. “Inner City Native Son” is a straightforward narrative with beats and moral to match. “Kill Me First” makes police violence musical and chipmunks Richard Pryor. “Liberated” respects the dimensions of its theme. A MINUS

LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III

Here Come the Choppers!

(Sovereign Artists)

For a decade Wainwright has been keeping it real with songs about family trauma and songs about what a shit he is—themes sometimes addressed simultaneously, as in “Year,” where he first meets his latest daughter on her first birthday. Once his political songs fell flat because he wasn’t scared or angry enough. Now when he’s a shit you wonder why you should care—which is kind of hip-hop, don’t you think?—but Bush has him so scared and angry he makes up for it, with a dedicated posse of El Lay studio vets getting in their licks. “No Sure Way” mourns the WTC, “God’s Country” renounces Nashville, and “Choppers” imagines a bombed Los Angeles devastated as logically and surreally as a bombed Baghdad. And “Choppers” is no more disturbing than “My Biggest Fan,” which could inspire any singer-songwriter to do an emotional cost-benefit analysis on the touring life—and leave a 400-pound aficionado feeling flattered anyway. A MINUS

ATMOSPHERE

Headshots: Se7en

(Rhymesayers Entertainment)

Nearly two hours of 1997-99 cassette-only rarely peak and never drag. A battle rapper already touching on the conscience-stricken sexual and relationship issues that would move shysters to slot him emo, Slug is so excited to discover how much rhyme he has in him that his creative optimism revs Ant’s subtle tracks. He’s not inventing alt-rap. But he might as well be. B PLUS

BANG ON A CAN

Bang on a Can Meets Kyaw Kyaw Naing

(Cantaloupe)

Kyaw Kyaw Naing is a virtuoso percussionist from a Burmese family so distinguished that the last Burmese ensemble to play New York before his own, back in 1975, was led by his father. Myanmar being a very special military dictatorship, Kyaw Kyaw Naing now lives in Sunnyside, and his first recording with Western musicians is the best kind of fusion—our guys trying to execute his scales, melodies, and structures rather than him trying to adapt. The result is brighter and livelier than most of the indigenous Asian stuff I hear. Though it’s chamber music rather than any kind of pop or jazz, it’s more accessible and enjoyable than any similarly sourced Rough Guide or Sublime Frequencies comp. Inauthenticity rools. A MINUS

50 CENT

The Massacre

(Shady/Aftermath/Interscope)

He’s impossible to love but hard to resist, and though that may not be what he’d prefer, hard to resist will do. All the ugly gangsta lies are here, especially as regards the brutalization of women and the business of death. But they’re incidental to the mood of the piece, which is friendly, relaxed, good-humored, and in the groove. As cute as Jay-Z if somewhat less intelligent, 50 throws a party that doesn’t quit. I note for the record that Dr. Dre claims production on just two tracks while Eminem takes four, and that “Candy Shop” and “Just a Lil Bit” are both by “Scott Storch for Tuff Jew Productions.” A MINUS

RACHID TAHA

Tékitoi

(Wrasse)

Arabic “Rock the Casbah” or no Arabic “Rock the Casbah,” this doesn’t bite down as fast and hard as Made in Medina, and it’ll take more than the crib sheet to hold Francophone and Anglophone attention when it gets all lyrical in the middle. Nevertheless, Taha transcends translation when he snarls—to quote the booklet, crude though it may be—”Bores, racists, the undecided, ignorants, know-alls, winners, show-offs.” If you doubt his righteous rage, the beat and the rai subtext and the ululating hangers-on ratchet his cred. “Get rid of them! Ask them for an explanation!” Yeah! A MINUS

BOUBACAR TRAORÉ

The Best of Boubacar Traoré: The Bluesman From Mali

(Wrasse)

Though his thoughtful melancholy is his own, Traoré is one of those Africans so indigenously immersed that he sounds like a sage to us—the chorus on “Kar Kar Madison” could be chanting “Honor thy father and thy mother” until you learn that Kar Kar is Traoré’s nickname and the Madison the old dance novelty gone Malian. Because he’s a sage, you have to be in the mood for him, so I figure 1990’s Mariama caught me at the right time. I now prefer this post-1996 sampler while recognizing that it won’t be for everyone. Eternal recurrence only goes so far. B PLUS

[

WORLD PSYCHEDELIC CLASSICS 3: LOVE’S A REAL THING

(Luaka Bop)

A canny idea, packaging vaguely countercultural early-’70s Afropop as psychedelia rather than funk. That way the shambling trap drums and casual solos are part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And though none of these bands could have rocked Woodstock’s socks off like the Family Stone or Ten Years After, nobody wore socks at Woodstock anyway. Charming at worst and captivating at best, sometimes mild and sometimes wild, the sources range from Cameroon and Nigeria up to Mali, crossing the treacherous boundaries between Anglophone and Francophone, jungle and desert—as if west-central Africa, at least, is all one place. Not that the music’s homogeneous, although there’s a cheesiness to the guitars that the hotshots down in Kinshasa would have laughed out of town. But it shares a mood—postcolonial hopes inflamed by news of a world cultural revolution that would soon succumb to the economics of enforced scarcity. The high point is William Onyeabor’s “Better Change Your Mind,” which calmly warns Western nations including Canada and Cuba not to “think this world is yours.” It seems Africa didn’t have what it took to back Onyeabor up. We shall see. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

THE GAME

The Documentary

(Aftermath/G Unit/Interscope)

Shout-outs are one thing, name-dropping is another: on “Dreams” alone, Dre, 50, Pac, Biggie, Snoop, Eazy, Kanye, Whitney, Jam Master Jay, Marvin Gaye, Frankie Beverly, Aaliyah, Left Eye, Mya, Viveca, Yetunde Price, Venus and Serena Williams, Huey Newton, Martin Luther King, Marshall Mathers, “Vibe magazine,” and Dave Mays. Now permit me to refrain from listing the titles from which the title track is constructed. Dull even when he isn’t describing his medical problems, this no-talent is masscult rock at its most brazen, as certain to fall as Tom DeLay (meaning it looks that way and I hope the fuck). He’s not Asia or Whitesnake, who reconstituted known elements. Even Nelson had a pedigree, although you could say Game’s Crip mom equals their cokehead dad. Eddie Money, maybe? Lasted too long, but an ex-cop—perfect. C MINUS


Additional Consumer News


Honorable Mention

BECK

Guero

Interscope

Is that the world ending in his rearview mirror, or just his career? (“Rental Car,” “Earthquake Weather,” “Qué Onda‚ Guero”).

SOUL POSITION

8 Million Stories

Rhymesayers/Fat Beats

Blueprint free-associates at his own risk, RJD2 distracts on principle (“Fuckajob,” “The Jerry Springer Episode”).

DEVIN THE DUDE

To tha X-Treme

Rap-A-Lot

Languid Houston rapper makes love and jokes out of how hard meaning no harm can be (“Briarpatch,” “What?”).

BREAK BREAD

Peanuts and Corn

McEnroe All-Stars trade EP cameos (“Breakfast All Day,” “No Other MC”).

AZZDDINE WITH BILL LASWELL

Massafat

Barbarity

Techno in Morocco, Morocco here (“Srir F’ Al Houbb,” “Fine”).

ELVIS COSTELLO

The Delivery Man

Lost Highway

The Impostors sound even more pissed off than Elvis, who seems less embittered as a result (“Button My Lip,” “There’s a Story in Your Voice”).

LOS CAMPEROS DE VALLES

El Ave de Mi Soñar

Smithsonian Folkways

Curated specimens of Veracruz style captured all the way live on Corason’s El Caimán: Sones Huastecos (“El Aguanieve,” “El Llorar”).

THE KLEZMATICS

Brother Moses Smote the Water

Piranha

Like the Lord God Jahweh, gospel-klezmer collaboration can be awesome or awful (“Elijah Rock,” “Didn’t It Rain”).

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO THE MUSIC OF CENTRAL ASIA

World Music Network

Bands from the ‘stans, where traditional meets classical and rock is as modern as hip-hop (Ashkabad, “From the Station to the Mill”; Sherali Juraev, “Oz’begim”; National Assembly of the Presidential Orchestra, “Zhez-kiik”).

WORLD 2004

Wrasse

Charlie Gillett presents songs from 28 lands, including five Afro-Euro collabs (DJ Dolores y Orchestra Santa Massa, “A Dance da Moda”; Aïwa, “Oudïwa”).

SÍ, SOY LLANERO: JOROPO MUSIC FROM THE ORINOCO PLAINS OF COLOMBIA

Smithsonian Folkways

Harp and bandola cowboy songs dressed up with the occasional vocal (Ana Veydó, “Un Llanero de Verdad”; Carlos Quintero, “Los Diamantes”).

CAM’RON

Purple Haze

Roc-a-Fella

Musicality covers over only so much gunrunning and sexual exploitation, though more than I would have figured (“Girls,” “Get Down”).

NELLY

Suit

Universal

Representing for treating women decent (“Paradise,” “My Place”).

BATS’I SON

Latitude

Thirty-year-old Smithsonian recordings from Chiapas, including trumpets, Christmas songs, and childlike voices (“Fiesta de San Sebastian—Venustiano Carranza,” “Danza de Mujeres-Tenejapa”).

[


Choice Cuts

PREFUSE 73

“Hideyaface”
(Surrounded by Silence, Warp)

SAGE FRANCIS

“Gunz Yo”

(A Healthy Distrust, Epitaph)

AESOP ROCK

“Holy Smoke”

(Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives, Definitive Jux)


Duds

CLASSIC FOLK MUSIC

(Smithsonian Folkways)

ROBERT DOWNEY JR

The Futurist

(Sony Classical)

MARIANNE FAITHFULL

Before the Poison

(Anti-)

THE GAME

West Coast Resurrection

(Getlow)

K-OS

Joyful Rebellion

(Astralwerks)

MALI

(Putumayo World Music)

PEDESTRIAN

Volume One: unIndian songs
(Anticon)

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Datebook Listings MUSIC ARCHIVES

DJ Kicks

Pick Hits

ASTOR PIAZZOLLA

The Rough Guide to Astor Piazzolla

(World Music Network)

The tango master cut a lot of pro forma music for Milan, the French soundtrack-electronica-semiclassical outfit that claims to “represent” Piazzolla’s “complete catalog” and doesn’t come close—his great American Clave albums, for instance, are now with Nonesuch. But the half of this gratifying selection that started on Milan—including “Tanguedia 3” and “Los Sueños,” both reprised for American Clave—packs a full measure of dynamic sophistication and high drama, and as Grace Jones or Yo-Yo Ma could tell you, “Libertango” is just where to begin. Concentrating on his mature period—which strictly speaking means 1978 to 1988, although there are three 1975 tracks and one from the ’50s—this is as convincing an introduction as Tango: Zero Hour itself. A

CLEM SNIDE

End of Love

(SpinArt)

Since all the lines make sense, and almost all the stanzas almost make sense, you keep waiting for the songs to make sense. And waiting, and waiting, through calm, memorable arrangements that are never in a hurry. But they rarely come clear, perhaps because Eef Barzalay believes it isn’t just love that’s ending, it’s the world, and what exactly is sensible about that? As befits an Israeli in Nashville in the end times, he worries about his relationship with the Almighty, so it’s no surprise that “Jews for Jesus Blues” parses fine: “Now that I’m found I miss being lost” means what it says, with attendant explanations. The next song is called “God Answers Back”: “If you get everything you hope for/Then I will have to punish you.” Which really isn’t fair. But what can we mortals do? A MINUS

CLINIC

Winchester Cathedral

(Domino)

Decried for the sin of repeating themselves by those who once discerned the face of the Blessed Virgin in their surgical masks, these minor formalists find their calling. Really, children, they were never punky enough for fast-short-hard. Here, their structures adamantly circular and their tunes less catchy but more durable, they make dandy mystagogues on an album that begins inarticulate and attains the nirvana of total nonverbality. A MINUS

DADDY G

DJ-Kicks

(!K7)

Long on hooks and cameos, the Wild Bunch DJ’s mix tape connects by the crude expedient of not proving how obscure his crates are. Sure he showcases rare versions of Tricky’s “Karmacoma” and Aretha’s “Rock Steady,” but the songs you know—and if you don’t, you will. Think of it as Massive Attack dinner music, nothing more, nothing less. B PLUS

LINTON KWESI JOHNSON

Live in Paris With the Dennis Bovell Dub Band

(Wrasse)

Though he’s only released two albums since his last live one, 20 years ago now, LKJ retains the calm confidence with which savvy ideologues generate authority—so much more convincing in the long run than fervent rhetoric. With leftists everywhere twisting in anxiety or flailing out in defensive contempt, his voice alone is a comfort; announcing “a couple of old anti-fascist numbers” or matter-of-factly explaining the economic program that will bring everyone the precious gift of “more time,” he sounds so intelligent, decent, and uncompromised that you feel political struggle can be a sane and rewarding life choice. His voice quieter but undiminished, his band subtler but no less tricky or effective, he unblushingly repeats five songs from the 1985 set, and although I wish he’d tapped Tings an’ Times more—”Sense Outa Nansense,” certainly—I sure didn’t mind hearing the early material again. A MINUS

M.I.A. VS. DIPLO

Piracy Funds Terrorism, Vol. 1

(no label)

Aesthetically, the choice is more like M.I.A. vs. the world, and though I know it’s wrong of me, I’ll take M.I.A. I’ll take the conscious, autonomous individual artist, oppressive concept though that may be, over the welter of cultural forces from which she emerged. With a less complex and compelling artist I might make the opposite choice, though even the hippest mash-ups and mix tapes have less to say than they’re given credit for. But I find more fascination—and pleasure, if not variety—in M.I.A. juxtaposed against herself than in, for instance, favela funk juxtaposed against “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Which isn’t to deny I also find all these good things in favela funk juxtaposed against “Walk Like an Egyptian.” A MINUS

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO BOOGALOO

(World Music Network)

Living east of Avenue B from 1965 to 1975, I probably dismissed many of these songs out my window for the jerrybuilt noise they are—not like the salsa elders who resisted Nuyorican soul jive’s silly lyrics and simplified dance beats, but like the Anglophone rock snob I would have sworn I wasn’t. After all, I dug Jimmy Castor and Joe Cuba on AM radio, and no matter what hip-hoppers think, I consider soul jazz even cheesier now than I did then. But this stuff is—and, I’m sure, was—a gas. In Spanish, Spanglish, or English, enlisting Batman and covering the Rascals or luring the likes of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz into teen hits no more heartfelt than Perry Como’s “Hot Diggity,” boogaloo proves one of the purest party musics ever. I can’t dance to it even now—the crudest salsa is wiser than my hips, mano. But I love its spirit. A MINUS

[

RUN THE ROAD

(Vice/Atlantic)

One so wants to give British MCs the benefit of the doubt. They’re sincere, they’re determined, and they’ve paid their dues. So this useful little collection will be praised like The Harder They Come when it’s more African Underground Vol. 1: engaging yes, delightful no. As with African Underground, there’s a language barrier, albeit a less insuperable one. But with grime there’s also a music barrier: The beats are so squelchy (complexly squelchy here, but still) that when Dizzee Rascal and the Streets come on, they could be Just Blaze bum-rushing the permissions department. Three female voices also provide welcome illusions of grace. In fact, Lady Sovereign’s cheap, cute “Cha Ching” is delightful. A MINUS

SCISSOR SISTERS

(Universal)

Great start: two songs in which gender spirals down the rabbit hole are followed by a Pink Floyd cover done Bee Gees-style. These star-time party boys never get brasher, funnier, or better, and their midtempo Elton isn’t ironic enough. But this has more pride than competing gay masscult takeovers, which makes it more liberating for us all. Bless them for lending a queer ear to an ominously straight year. B PLUS


Dud of the Month

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT

Want Two

(Geffen)

Want One moved well-wishers to decry the evil corporation that forbade its prestige artiste to pile all the post-rehab “songs” he recorded with Björk hand Marius deVries onto one glorious double CD. But had any of them actually heard the lachrymosities he saved for part two? Get Jon Brion in here quick, Van Dyke Parks even, “The Art Teacher” is worth saving. His mom will still love him, that’s something—thank God for her cameo. For less sanguine admirers, however, this is too classical, too romantic, and too I-yam-what-I-yam all at once. B MINUS


Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL

Peace Love Death Metal

AntAcidAudio

Dark secrets of the counterculture revealed—sexism! greed! hooks! (“San Berdoo Sunburn,” “Kiss the Devil”).

WAR (IF IT FEELS GOOD, DO IT!)

Hiphop Slam

Mash up the bushit (Azeem, “Bush Is a Gangsta”; DJs of Mass Destruction, “Liberate the Children (Live)”; 4AM, “InDaClub”).

A.C. NEWMAN

The Slow Wonder

Matador

Compulsive craftsmen have feelings too—they’re just nervous about letting them show (“Miracle Drug,” “Come Crash”).

CYOD

Better Sh!*$ on the Way!

Trust Me

Sound kind of Giant Sand, think more Hold Steady (“Hey Moe—You Kicked Ass,” “Apt. K”).

THE REVEREND AL GREEN

Everything’s OK

Blue Note

Not great—OK (“I Can Make Music,” “I Wanna Hold You”).

BEMBEYA JAZZ NATIONAL

The Syliphone Years

Stern’s Africa

Guinea’s socialist dream in one decade and two CDs (“Armée Guinéene,” “Telephone”).

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO REBETIKA

World Music Network

From the sound of these old Mediterranean café songs, it could be Jews or North Africans singing, but it’s Greeks (Roza Eskenazi, “Enas Mangas Sto Teke Mou”; Markos Vamvakaris, “Antonis Varkaris Seretis”).

BLAKE SHELTON

Blake Shelton’s Barn & Grill

Warner Bros.

Humanist country, Bobby Braddock-style (“Cotton Pickin’ Time,” “The Bartender”).

DIPLO

Florida

Big Dada

Unlike true turntablism fans, I’m glad Shadow casts such a shadow (“Big Lost,” “Sarah”).

I CAN LICK ANY SONOFABITCH IN THE HOUSE

Menace

In Music We Trust

It’s the right historical moment for pissed-off catharsis and praise songs to your dead Christian grandma (“Westboro Baptist Church,” “Pauline”).

RAHSAAN PATTERSON

After Hours

Artistry Music

An hour of foreplay and he’s ready for more (“The One for Me,” “So Hot”).

THE HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS

Bird Song: Live 1971

Water

Different songs, good drummer (“Boobs a Lot/Willie & the Hand Jive,” “Smokey Joe’s Cafe”).

DE LA SOUL

The Grind Date

Sanctuary

Weary blues from waiting (“The Grind Date,” “Rock Co.Kane Flow”).

J-ZONE

A Job Ain’t Nuthin But Work

Fat Beats/Old Maid Entertainment

Rapper wants a tuna sandwich with all the fixings, hold the tuna, and can you supersize a tap water with that? (“Disco Ho,” “Kill Pretty”).

GIANT SAND

Giant Sand Is All Over the Map

Thrill Jockey

[

In Denmark and the desert, Howe Gelb lives and is ready to brag about it (“Classico,” “Remote”).


Choice Cuts

MICHAEL JACKSON

“Shake a Body,” “Monkey Business,” “Sunset Drive”

(The Ultimate Collection, Epic/Legacy)

SOLOMON BURKE

“I Need Your Love in My Life”

(Make Do With What You Got, Shout! Factory)

MARTHA WAINWRIGHT

“Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole”

(Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole, Zoe)

JOHN LEGEND

“I Can Change”

(Get Lifted, Getting Out Our Dreams/Sony Urban/Columbia)

THE EX

“In the Event,” “Listen to the Painters”

(Turn, Touch and Go)


Duds

DELAYS

Faded Seaside Glamour

(Rough Trade)

JOLIE HOLLAND

Escondida

(Anti-)

SHOOTER JENNINGS

Put the O Back in Country

(Universal South)

JIN

The Rest Is History

(Virgin)

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO WITH THE ENGLISH CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

No Boundaries

(Heads Up)