Consumer Guide

The records worth hating located by this annual Thanksgiving anticelebration are generally turkeys on the run, not fish in a barrel. Cynicism saps criticism, and only by going in with my hopes up can I muster enough hurt feelings to get mean when the argument requires it. So I really believed those Latin lovers would be hot, those Puffy toughs street realists. You gotta believe.

CAT POWER: Moon Pix (Matador) At least Chan Marshall's not trying to fool anybody. From "she plays the difficult parts and I play difficult" to "the music is boring me to death," she's an honest heroine of the new indie staple—not noise-tune and certainly not irony, both as passé as the guilty pop dreams they kept at bay, but sadness. Slow sadness. Slow sadness about one's inability to relate. And not to audiences. Hell is other people. C PLUS

EAGLE-EYE CHERRY: Desireless (Work) Watch out for this mild-mannered simp: underneath his lite croon, refabricated truisms, and avant-garde pedigree, he's got the tunes. The title track, an instrumental-with-chant composed by his trumpeter dad, points up how flimsy they are. B MINUS

MUST TO AVOID: Brian Setzer
MUST TO AVOID: Brian Setzer

DC TALK: Supernatural (Virgin) If the scruffy yokels of Jars of Clay are tent preachers, these hunky moderns are televangelists, their well-riffed Queen homage the musical equivalent of Tammy Faye Bakker's false eyelashes—considered sinful excess in an earlier era, but claimed for Christ now that it is known not to herald the end time. Reports that they have something—anything—to do with rap are apparently based on the presence of a certified Black Person in the group. Instead, they do up a jolly ska tune whose love object is, shall we say, not female, and address a generically whiny-sarcastic selling-out put-down to Collective Soul, trumping their assertion of spiritual superiority by insisting that they still "love" their backsliding brothers. They should remember I Corinthians 13:4: "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." C

JOHNNY DOWD: Wrong Side of Memphis (Checkered Past) The vitae that mark this middle-aged Ithaca moving man as a genuwine everyman reduce just as readily to boho-with-a-day-job, and lest you look down on him he's careful to stick an "existential" into the one about the "Average Guy," so-called. When he finds "tender love," his tropes pick up considerable—"Like beans and rice she's a total plateful," nice and homely. But soon it's back to murder and misery in the dismal swamp quote unquote, with malnourished blues to match. Gangsta folk—not only are the stories old hat, the beats suck. B MINUS

FASTBALL: All the Pain Money Can Buy (Hollywood) "We just wanted to make a personal statement with our music," aver these three Austinites with a sincere look in their eyes. And so they yoke popcraft worthy of Three Dog Night, the Doobie Brothers, perhaps even Matchbox 20, to lyrics that speak of the dark things—institutionalization, methadone, lovers left bleeding, highways going nowhere, and, quite a few times, their own inordinate careerism. Is that personal enough for you? C PLUS

GOLDIE: Saturnzreturn (London/ FFRR) The only one fooled for a minute by this 152-minute time-stretch was Goldie's mom, who occasioned the more candidly textural of the two CDs, a movementless, and motionless, "symphony." But why was anyone surprised? He was an instant figurehead because he was pretentious enough to poke his head out of jungle's welter of beats. Having fallen flat on his face with a lifetime's worth of self-expression, he can now proceed to the soundtrack work he was born for. C MINUS

HOT LATIN HITS/EXITOS LATINOS CALIENTES: The '90s (Rhino) Doing my bit to nip a world-lounge fad in the bud, I hereby deplore not just a record but an entire sensibility—the florid Spanish-language romanticism at the root of the international ballad style. Performed mostly by one-named singers like Mijares, Lucero, Cristian, and Julian, these early-'90s cris de coeur are all the excuse any young Spanish speaker needs to believe Los Fabulosos Cadillacs are the Beatles. Emotion so deeply in love with itself is why irony was invented. D PLUS

NATALIE IMBRUGLIA: Left of the Middle (RCA) Compared to the diluted simple syrup of Swirl 360 or the teen-idol rappa-billy of Jimmy Ray, Imbruglia's modern pop is Rumours. Not only is she extraordinarily pretty without being too blatant in her babitude, she's got the brains and will to make up her own songs (and did I mention how pretty she is?). Thus she's earned our respect. But under all their state-of-the-studio-art, her competent songs are no more distinctive than the competent songs of hundreds of less pretty women. This was no stiff—RCA milked platinum and a follow-up single out of the sure shot she didn't write herself. But we should be proud that iconicity proved beyond Imbruglia's means. It's three cheers for democracy every time someone goes even a little broke underestimating the taste of the American public. C PLUS

THE LOOK OF LOVE: THE BURT BACHARACH COLLECTION (Rhino) Now it's official: Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach were the best things ever to happen to each other. She's a bore without him, and he brings out the best in none of the other singers here. If anything, his fancy hackwork diminishes them—whether it's starters like the Drifters, the Shirelles, and Dusty Springfield or second-stringers like Gene Pitney, Jackie DeShannon, and end-of-the-bencher Chuck Jackson, all sound about as good as you'd expect and all peaked elsewhere. Then there are Lou Johnson, B.J. Thomas, Bobby Vinton, and the hapless Bacharach himself, not to mention horrid one-shots by Richard Chamberlain, Bobby Goldsboro, Trini Lopez, Jill O'Hara, gad. It's enough to renew your faith in Elvis Costello.

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