Consumer Guide

PAVEMENT: Terror Twilight (Matador) Since I was fooled myself until I saw them live and knew every riff, I'm wondering why some believe there are no songs here. Probably the explanation is tempo. There's never that frantic hang-on-for-your-life moment when you either pay attention or embrace brain death— when you engage at gunpoint. And though the music seems stitched together rather than wound tight, it's never in any apparent danger of falling apart; it isn't riven or driven by internal contradictions. Thus, too much meaning is left up to the words. But that's not the same as the songs not being there— or as the meanings not being there either. A Minus

ROOTS ROCK GUITAR PARTY: ZIMBABWE FRONTLINE 3 (Stern's/Earthworks) Chimurenga and its vaguely soukous-inflected descendants are liberation music no longer. Mugabe's the new boss, and though he isn't the same as the old boss— they never are, and at least he's not white— he is certainly a tyrant, dividing-and-plundering along tribal and sexual lines. But where Afropop surrendered lilt and intraband debate for escapist desperation and automatic virtuosity as nationhood bore down on the material lives of the people, these 12 tracks, all but one recent, maintain an illusion of communal jollity and balanced progress. Past kisses future as guitars articulate thumb-piano scales into a language all their own, an endeavor spiritually engrossing enough to keep everybody involved occupied. When you read the translated lyrical snippets, you can infer how much the all-male Shona choruses aren't saying. When you listen to the music, you give everybody involved credit for tending their bit of human space. A Minus

RZA: The RZA Hits (Razor Sharp/Epic) If Enter the Wu-Tang is a block party mythologized into a masterwork, most of its endless spinoffs are soirees in smoke-filled rooms, where intimates tender messages and crack jokes newcomers can only pretend to understand. So this public work is a public service. Never mind that it pulls three tracks from the source and two each from the most obvious solo exceptions, by ODB and Ghostface Killah. Just be grateful that for once they're celebrating the obvious— the anthemic, the obscene, the braggadocious. In this context, even Raekwon sounds like a regular guy. Says the produceur: "That's enough information right there to get you involved, get you inside the system." Whereupon he sets off a three-minute bonus track cum Wu Wear ad. A Minus

Pick Hit: Moby

SOURCE DIRECT: Exorcise the Demons (Astralwerks) I make no pretense to caring what the junglists think they're up to at this late date. But maybe my fellow dabblers will enjoy this particular U.K. concoction. You will hear beats developed in perceptible patterns, cannily minimalist middle registers, fun vrooms and slams as musical content. You will not hear strings, jazz, extreme lassitude, the ocean's murky depths, continental drift, and Conlon Nancarrow homages. Light instrumental music at its diverting best— which is just good enough. A Minus

Dud of the Month:

INSANE CLOWN POSSE: The Amazing Jeckel Brothers (Island) Refreshing for white guys, especially white guys as dumb as these two, to complain about the slave owner on the dollar bill— simpleminded, but an act of cultural nonconformity nonetheless. Cool to give away a special-offer CD where you rap over stolen gangsta tracks, too. But when a real gangsta's bitch fucks his homey he kills everybody in sight. These kiss-offs just kill the girl, every chance they get. And though they claim clown, they rarely get funnier than "I'd cut my head off but then I would be dead," and that on the cut everybody uses to prove how dumb they are. Personally, I think saying fuck 93 times in one song is a riot. Tell Fatboy Slim the news. C PLUS

Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention:

Blur, 13 (Virgin): halfway there, it sits down in the middle of the road and won't budge ("Tender," "B.L.U.R.E.M.I."); Fountains of

Wayne, Utopia Parkway (Atlantic): retro popcraft as the pursuit of doomed happiness ("Prom Theme," "Red Dragon Tattoo"); Smash Mouth, Astro Lounge (Interscope): surveying the world from a temporary star ("Then the Morning Comes," "I Just Wanna See"); Speech, Hoopla (TVT): Lauryn wannabe unearths apposite folk-rock tunelets ("Slave to It All," "The Hey Song"); Kandia Kouyate, Kita Kam (Stern's Africa): female pride, Malian and Islamic style ("Doninké," "Douwawou"); Miles Davis/Various DJs, Panthalassa: The Remixes (Columbia): ambient techno goes to heaven, or hell— anyway, steals trumpeter ("On the Corner [Subterranean Channel Mix]," "Shhh [Sea4 Miles Remix]"); the Wild Magnolias, Life Is a Carnival (Metro Blue): the New Orleans Funk Repertory Orchestra ("Pocket Change," "Pock-a-Nae"); Chic, Live at the Budokan (Sumthing Else): featuring Sister Sledge, Slash&WinwoodDoJimi, and the great Bernard Edwards on the night he died ("Good Times/Rapper's Delight," "We Are Family"); Ani DiFranco & Utah Phillips, Fellow Workers (Righteous Babe): old Wobbly tells war stories, young CEO watches his back ("Direct Action," "Pie in the Sky"); We, Square Root of Negative One (Asphodel): sounds from the dark side ("Diablos," "Gaya's Kids"); Genius/GZA, Beneath the Surface (MCA): he means the surface of a frozen lake, if I'm not mistaken ("Victim," "Crash Your Crew"); Austin Powers— The Spy Who Shagged Me (Maverick): genuine simulated psychedoolic Velveeta (Madonna, "Beautiful Stranger"; Dr. Evil, "Just the Two of Us"); Loudon Wainwright III, Social Studies (Hannibal): commentary not protest, and usually worse for it ("Tonya's Twirls," "Pretty Good Day"); the Chemical Brothers, Surrender (Astralwerks): nostalgic— for futurism past, yet— at, what, 29? ("Hey Boy Hey Girl," "Let Forever Be").

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