Music reviews from the pages of Think Magazine ... firstly on the poppy side three of the world's hugest band have dropped new product targetted for the slow or the obsessed.
Roseland NYC Live (Go Beat)
This is by far the most important of their work.
All the hits are fleshed out, and more nuances and human shades are displayed by the group, which is backed by an orchestra, and topss the album versions on at least four tracks.
The Sour Times version can paralyze, and Beth's voice is all that and more live. Be even more envious of those you know who have seen this tour.
The Best Of 1980-1990 & B-Sides (Island)
This collection by U2 will not add much for folks who grew up listening to the group, although it is an impressive set of singles.
New fans will be able to catch up in a jiffy, and shop owners and restauranteurs alike will appreciate it's ability to crowd please.
Those days were leaps and bounds better than their new stuff.
A Little South of Sanity (Geffen)
Aerosmith has cobbled together the precious few moments of 50-year old Steven Tyler being able to keep his voice together (live!), which have been compiled on this double CD.
As the build-up of Back in the Saddle winds its way to its initial screaming verse, a perverted curiousity hangs over the listener, culminating in one ugly phlegmatic howl.
Beware, this can make one feel ancient, better to wait for the Apollo 440 remixes, or whenever Stevie croaks.
The Offspring's brand of punk rock is as American as cheese-burgers and as reliable as Old Faithful, so calling its new album Americana is both funny (it's hardly "Americana" in the radio programming sense of the word) and strangely true (punk might actually be the "roots" music of the late 20th century). In line with the patriotically titled album, the band has gotten back to the core of its constituency.
The songs on Americana are classic Offspring, not just because they're marked by thick guitar chords and the familiar tone of Dexter Holland's voice, but also because they're packed with the cheeky humor that made the band's breakthrough, Smash, such a hit.
The first single, "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)," is loaded with smart-aleck jabs at suburban gangstas, and other cuts like "She's Got Issues" feature enough clever couplets to keep adolescent skater miscreants entertained for months. Most important of all, though, Americana proves that "career bands" really do exist in the brutally fast-paced music industry - you just have to give the people what they want.
Live on Two Legs (Epic)
The Seattle-based grunge alums Pearl Jam are overachievers. It seems like they've rarely taken it easy on themselves: consider their tour-stifling stance against TicketMaster, their focus on public activism and their intricate overtures to fans in the form of album packaging, concert posters and pirate radio broadcasts.
It's easy, then, to picture Pearl Jam making a big deal out of their first-ever official live release Live on Two Legs, Just imagine Vedder & Co. huddled around a massive mixing board, sifting through bucket-loads of concert recordings made since their 1990 inception.
It's certainly no stretch to see the band waiting to release what they hope will be the perfect multidisc set. Thank God they nixed that idea and instead decided to release Live on Two Legs a scant 62 days after completing the American tour that provided the recordings. By catching everyone unaware, the band imbues the album with the actual feeling of a concert souvenir and avoids the inevitable anticipation for "the next Pearl Jam album."
If the new PJ is not quite "Shit Hot And Rockin'", most of its 16 songs land enough strong, solid punches to make Live on Two Legs a satisfying alternative to the scores of expensive, live Pearl Jam boots out there.
The album's name says Up, but R.E.M. also seems to be traveling outside its realm, inside itself and beyond its expectations on its 14th album. The record's dense, often dark layers signal that the band has chosen this moment as a career crossroads to rethink it's sound.
The departure of long-time drummer Bill Berry has forced Michael Stipe, Pete Buck and Mike Mills to use new muscles as well as new drummers (including Tuatara's Barrett Martin and Beck's Joey Waronker). Though Buck's trademark strumming shows up on "Daysleeper" (the album's most R.E.M.-like single), the band veers more towards hazy clouds of guitar, warbling keyboards and treated backing vocals to state its case.
"Airport Man" leads the album, with Stipe whispering over a cold, ticking drum machine and slow, amorphous feedback. "At My Most Beautiful" channels Brian Wilson circa 1967, complete with sleigh bell percussion and other "pocket symphony" concepts.
The music on Up is often pretty and strange at the same time, exhibiting qualities generally associated with Stipe's voice — enigmatic, poetic and somehow still innocent after 30 years.
Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (Maverick)
Alanis Morissette's follow-up to the post-teen angst of 1995's Jagged Little Pill exhibits a level of maturity and self-awareness far beyond the artist's 24 years.
Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is an ambitious album that, through a stream-of-consciousness lyrical style. Compared to Jagged Little Pill, it's like the return phone call from the psychotic girlfriend seeking understanding.
With a lush, multi-layered backdrop of Eastern-influenced music and intricate rhythmic foundations, Junkie moves beyond the pain and bitterness of Morissette's last album and reveals her newfound sense of spirituality.
Rialto's sexual undertones and melodramatic tales of mundane existence ("I blew my chances, as you blowdried your hair") will draw comparisons to albums like Pulp's This Is Hardcore.
But Rialto isn't quite as subversive as Jarvis Cocker and company, which bodes well for fans of lush, unabashed pop music. Prior to the release of Rialto, the band had several hit singles in the U.K., and this impressive debut is full of hummable melodies and swelling choruses that would make Phil Spector proud.
The six-member band turns out fully saturated pop songs that include reverby guitar, keyboards, harpsichords, tambourines, strings and horns. Frontman Louis Eliot offers lyrics filled with agony and irony, adding a wonderfully tart filling to Rialto's sugar-coated songs.
Gran Turismo (Stockholm)
On its previous two albums, Swedish pop comets the Cardigans proved they had all but mastered their retro-heavy, sanguine style of pop, culminating in the irresistible radio smash, "Lovefool."
With both fans and critics in its hip pocket, the band reinvents its sound on Gran Turismo, proving itself to be much more than a one-trick pony.
The Cardigans update their musical wardrobe by trading in flowery accoutrements for a darker, more modern and spacey feel without sacrificing the crispness of its melodies or razor-sharp arrangements. The peppy first single, "My Favourite Game," recalls the toothy pop of Garbage (though less sonically dense), with vocalist/lyricist Nina Persson's airy, sweet voice remaining the Cardigans' most endearing sonic quality.
Slow Down (OKeh)
Keb' Mo's third album Slow Down, is a beautiful blend of Mississippi Blues and contemporary pop, the two styles he's gone back and forth between on his last two releases.
His warm baritone, acoustic slide and downright addictive hooks make him one of today's rising blues stars.
His powerful charisma also goes a long way here, making his songs about cheating ("I Was Wrong") and dodging creditors ("Soon As I Get Paid") seem as innocuous as sugar in a candy factory.
One Love (Go Beat)
The only one sub-standard thing about this whole debut album is the title, One Love. Surely if a title has been used by both Bob Marley and the Stone Roses you'd get the hint. But that said, this is one of the finest, most complete albums, to come out this year. It oozes listenability.
And like a good film you get more from it the more you involve yourself in its multifaceted sounds. "The Rock" takes the listener off to the Arizona desert with a tale of Gram Parsons and Keith Richards tripping their bollocks off searching the night for UFO's.
While the latest single, "C'mon Cincinnati" is a wash with samples and break beats. This is an album, and duo, that has soaked up so many influences that they can successfully produce an album that manages to pull in so many different directions without sounding at all thin on the ground.
Though there is everything from samples and beats on the one hand, to simplistic Beatlesque pop tones on the other, there are visible strands throughout the album that give each track its own branding of 'Delakota-ism'.
Wormwood: Curious Stories from the Bible (Ralph)
The Residents first new album since 1991's Freak Show. The seven years between saw the production of a number of multimedia works, but nothing which was conceived of, from beginning to end, as an album.
In Wormwood: Curious Stories from the Bible, The Residents expore the dark side of the Christian Holy Book with songs based on twenty of its most disturbing tales. Each of the songs (except the two instrumental ones, the first and last tracks) is sung from the point of view of a Biblical character, and most of the songs are from the Old Testament, with its short-tempered and vindictive [YHWH] visiting all sorts of unpleasantness on the Israelites and their neighbours.
The Residents' own religeous beliefs are, of course, unknown, but they do illuminate the tales of human sacrifice, incest, mass murder, torture, and various other anti-social activities going on in the 'Good Book'. This is awesome.
House Party 10 (Next Era)
Next Era's latest compilation of house jams House Party 10 mixed by resident DJ Kristian shows that he has listened to a lot of compilations. His experience producing them makes his hand more than steady, delivering astonishing turns of phrase and tempo, just when you were nodding a little or focussing on that very difficult chapter.
Kristian uses tracks from the funk d'void's, Bobby Herbie on Rhodes to the pump up the volume fist pounding Fly Life from Basement Jaxx to say, always pleasantly (like a waitress in the sky), hello as you zoom five feet above your sloppy mortality. The best yet!
From the days he could be found running around London's Covent Garden every weekend with a Roland 303, much to the annoyance of other, less innovative buskers, Jonny L has been obsessed with beats. Unfortunately he was forced to stop playing soon afterwards when a car accident left him with no feeling in his left hand.
But his busking sessions were just a stone's throw away from the infamous Covent Garden B-boy clashes of the eighties, and Jonny soon found himself immersed in that whole culture through his love of hip-hop and electro.
After studying jazz at college he got his earliest musical break working on house projects, but his explosion into the hard step drum and bass scene with the single Viper paved the way for albums like his intense new disc Magnetic, as a follow up to the highly acclaimed 1997 Sawtooth. He collaborates with Miss Lady Kier (Delite) and Optical and his touch is metallic and surgically precise.
Grooverider fans take note.
Don't Stay Too Long (Kranky)
From the initial warmth of the Wurlitzer electric piano, Don't Stay Too Long announces that Jessamine have distilled their experimental sounds into song craft creating a low flying, groove oriented record, with soulful emphasis on the vocals.
Clocking in at a concise 40 minutes, the band have linked the instrumental forays of The Long Arm of Coincidence to the melodic invention of their singles (as chronicled on last year's Another Fictionalized History).
Lot's of tube amplifiers, 60's style Moog synthesizers and spooky vocals.
If you are intrigued by the new sounds coming out of Chicago, home of the Kranky label which hosts Jessamine as well as other experimental ambient analog groups, they have just released an excellent sampler simply entitled Kompilation (Kranky).
It says 76 minutes of music for less than than the price of a CD single, and it's is a very spacey and subtly uplifting set of tracks.
You won't have heard of most of the acts since this is the new American underground, which for all the crap we get from there still is very innovative under the surface. The most interesting new label to come along for awhile. It's like a roomful of candles on a cold night.