Consumer Guide

MTV'S AMP 2 (MTV/Astralwerks) Defined by a new Fatboy Slim opener, this is rap-techno fusion in the great tradition of Snap's "The Power," which is best at its cheapest--Chuck D sounds disoriented, while KRS-One is saved by, of all people, Goldie. And if you think Fatboy Slim gets boring pretty fast, that's the beauty part. After all, Roni Size gets boring pretty fast too. But with the concept providing unity as the multiple choice provides variety, you can enjoy these obvious macho beatfests for as long as they're worth. Here we go, let's rock and roll. A MINUS

AMY RIGBY: Middlescence (Koch) What's most original about Rigby isn't her analysis of the men who fail to provide the kind of love she demands so sanely and evokes so hotly. Nor is it her designated theme, age, although I wonder how many 23-year-olds will learn as much about fun from "The Summer of My Wasted Youth" as she wants them to. It's class, which she's old enough to understand for the simple reason that she doesn't have enough money--not the way the executive mom who covets a bigger co-op doesn't have enough money, the way the temp mom who buys back-to-school outfits at Goodwill doesn't have enough money. Her voice as real as Roxanne Shanté's, Rigby sings in a material world. So Trisha Yearwood, I'm begging: cover "All I Want" if not "What I Need." A MINUS

RACHID TAHA: Diwân (Island) On his U.S. debut, the Oran-born Eurodance phenom was so ethnotechno that few Anglophones guessed his politics were tougher than his beats. Lucky for us, here he elects to catch his breath, retreating from message disco into an Algerian equivalent of Bowie's Pin Ups or G'N'R's Spaghetti Incident. An instant touchstone of Arab song and a Taha-composed tour of rai history pitch the collection higher than it can remain if it's gonna be as trad as the artist thinks decent. But throughout, the tunes, choruses, instrumental parts, and Taha's raw vocals invoke a cultural identity that any moderately adventurous tourist will find more entrancing than ethnotechno. A MINUS

Pick Hit: Beastie Boys Hello Nasty
Pick Hit: Beastie Boys Hello Nasty

WARDA: Lebanon/Algeria (Metro Blue) The Parisian-born daughter of an Algerian nightclub owner who fled to Lebanon in 1956, she shed most of her Algerian accent before hitting the Egyptian studios in 1960 and is now tabbed by an informed source as "one of the Arab world's great musical hacks." But for most Americans, this CD ain't really about Warda. Rather, her richly generic pan-Arab emotionality provides a way into Cairo's pop mysteries. Hyped up by the beats modern taste demands, the string sections of what used to be called ughniyah sound a lot fresher than TSOP's or Goldie's. And the beats have more uses than the belly-dancing Web sites her lyrics show up on. A MINUS

DUD OF THE MONTH:

JULIE RUIN (Kill Rock Stars) "What would 'L'Ecriture Feminine' sound like as music?" the once and future Kathleen Hanna asked herself, and if this is the answer we're in trouble. It sounds like Calvin Johnson prattle, it sounds like she needs all that sound equipment she says she can't afford, it sounds like she took her bat and went home. It's fine to reject confessional for narrative if you have some fictional craft, fine to let machines do the playing if you can figure out how to make them sing, but so far Hanna doesn't and hasn't. Instead she takes the obscure rants that were so compelling at Bikini Kill decibels and murmurs them into her cheap mike at two in the morning--if we're lucky, to one of the simple tunes that provide meaning in a band context and relief in this. "I don't expect people to like it or anything," she told some zine, and here's hoping they don't. She's 29, and she needs to move on. B MINUS

Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION:

Stella Chiweshe, The Healing Tree (Shanachie): even with a best-of, healing don't make humming, especially on a thumb piano ("Huya Uzoona," "Mudzimu Dzoka"); the Hangovers, Slow Dirty Tears (Kill Rock Stars): love life of an ex-Raincoat with bad habits and a new sampler ("Sorry," "We Had a Really Smashing Time"); Thomas Anderson, Bolide (Red River import): weird tales from many badlands ("Come Back to America," "Theremin Cider"); NOFX, So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes (Epitaph): "All Outta Angst," so "The Desperation's Gone" ("Monosyllabic Girl," "All His Suits Are Torn"); Holding Up Half the Sky: Voices of African Women (Shanachie): from the Sahara to the Cape, from pop candy to folk porridge, they have one thing in common: vaginas (Netsennet Mellesse, "Yellew Wekesa"; Kiné Lam, "Souma Sagnone"); Lukas Ligeti & Beta Foly (Intuition Music import): avant German trap drummer and eager Ivoirians with something to teach Mick Fleetwood, Byrne & Eno, and all too many patronizing jazzmen ("René," "African Loops"); Hole, Celebrity Skin (Geffen): better punk than actress, better actress than popster ("Celebrity Skin," "Awful"); Lesbian Favorites (Rhino): big solid emotions, woman to woman, easiest to take cut down to size (Gretchen Phillips, "Swimming"; Jill Sobule, "I Kissed a Girl"); Big Beat Conspiracy: BBC 1 (Pagan): as much fun as a new chemistry set (Laidback, "International"; J Knights, "Catch a Break"; Surreal Madrid, "Insanity Sauce"); Mem Shannon, Mem Shannon's 2nd Blues Album (Hannibal): the saddest sound he ever heard ("Old Men," "One Thin Dime"); Queens of African Music (Music Club): like most continents, Africa still has more kings than queens (Amy Koîta, "Soman"; Oumou Dioubate, "Christiana"); Fantcha, Criolinha (Tinder): ingenue saudade ("Sonho d'um criôl," "Mi é dodo na bô Cabo Verde"); Jermaine Dupri, Life in 1472 (So So Def): why hoochies give coochie ("Get Your Shit Right," "All That's Got To Go"); Maryam Mursal, The Journey (RealWorld): a Somalian with a parlor trick--making Danes sound Ethiopian ("Qax," "Fejigno"); Trisha Yearwood, Songbook (A Collection of Hits) (MCA): precisely as good as her material, which gets stuffier all the time ("Walkaway Joe," "She's in Love With the Boy").

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