African Connection II

Streets Of Dakar: Generation Boul Falé
(Stern's Africa)

Under the rubric of a new piece of slang whose meaning is triangulated by "carefree," "fed up," and "whatever," young singers in a land where horns are no longer cost-effective make do with synthesizers. Though they use them well, there's a loss not just in color but in punch and ruckus, and though there are plenty of guitars and enough guitar hooks, the few solos never bust out. Leaving us with tama drums that don't-stop-and-they-don't-stop and a profusion of voices, tremendously varied within their penetrating West African attack—girl group and rap crew share space with blues growlers, trumpetless Gabriels, and other secular muezzins. These voices convey resoluteness, spirituality, spunk, moralism, humor—personality. They also convey good-to-great melodies. So, whatever. A MINUS

They Might Be Giants
Long Tall Weekend

The biggest problem with Net-music utopianism is that no matter how fast and convenient downloads get, music itself will continue to exist in, if you'll pardon the expression, real time. That's its very essence. If 1441 minutes of music go up on the Web today, that's a minute more than anyone can hear in that period, period. Might the Net be a useful way for consumers to sample their musical options? Sure. Might it help strapped artists get by? Conceivably. Are there good things there that are unavailable elsewhere? Certainly not as many as in the sum total of specialty shops in our metropolis, although the same may not hold in Wichita. This, however, is one of them. Human song generators whose metier is the miscellany, they're ideally suited to construct a download-only album that isn't an out file taking on airs. Although "They Got Lost" is on last year's live album and patrons of their live shows and dial-a-song service may recognize other tunes, this is as enjoyable a CD as they've released in the '90s. With love to the literal "Operators Are Standing By," it peaks with "Older," which is about real time. A MINUS

Papa Wemba
M'zée Fula-Ngenge
(Sonodisc import)

At his New York dates of the past few years, the soukous sapeur seemed both enervated and inflated by the labor of Anglophone crossover, and he puts out so many records in Paris that some doubt he can remember one from the other. But here, at greater length than on any '80s album, he rings in his 50th year with superabundant pizzazz. The new touch—there's generally a new touch—is a xylophone. The old touches are the now sweet, now rich, now cutting leads, the varisized choruses, the assured shifts of tempo and mood, the synths emulating flutes and horns and innerspring mattresses. In the right frame of mind, il reste toujours magnifique. A MINUS

Pick Hit

Le Tigre
(Mr. Lady)

In which Kathleen Hanna does the unprecedented—if not, apparently, impossible—and reinvents punk again. The first time seems a snap in retrospect, a straightforward seizure of formal strategy and emotional stance for grrrl rage and female discovery—between Hanna's instinct for the ditty and her big pipes, Bikini Kill was an instant sure shot. But she got too old for that, and maybe a little too fulfilled as well. So having passed through the woebegone "Ecriture Feminine" of her Julie Ruin project, she gets together with two arty girlfriends and makes deceptively simple music about her arty life. Topics include aesthetic theory, millenarian hippies, John Cassavetes, the pleasures of the Metro Card, who put the ram in the rama-lama-ding-dong, and "Hot Topics" ("Nina Simone!" "Ann Peebles!" "The Slits!" "James Baldwin!" "Mia X!" "Billy Tipton!" "Shirley Muldoon!"). Dynamic synthbeats. Spirited choruses. Even some trick guitar. A MINUS

Dud of the Month

Ben Folds Five
The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
(550 Music)

What jerks melody inflicts on us. With no connection to any human virtue of substance, the catchy tune ushers all manner of unpleasant personality traits into our lives. And if this smart aleck is less dangerous than Fred Durst, he also does less with what he was given. For sure he's less original musically (as opposed to melodically) no matter how many piano lessons he took, banging away like a garage guitarist with the occasional fancy stuff to prove he has a right—God, Joe Jackson was more fun. And although he also throws in the occasional well-turned sentiment to prove he has a right—"Don't Change Your Plans" and "Mess" are recommended to nice guys seeking covers—his basic program remains revenge-of-the-nerd. He al ways knew he was smarter than whoever and ever amen. He always knew there were people who'd admire him just because he was clever. And unfortunately, he was right. B

Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION: The Bicycle Thief, You Come and Go Like a Pop Song (Goldenvoice): Thelonious Monster's feckless leader explains what happened to his teeth ("Cereal Song," "Boy at a Bus Stop"); Aphrodite (Gee Street/V2): junglism simplified—at their most brazen, beats to jack your soul ("B.M. Funkster," "Woman That Rolls"); Samba Ngo, Metamorphosis (Compass): late soukous for Americans, somehow whole despite mbira, jujubeats, and circular breathing ("Midi Passé," "Mwana Congo"); Baaba Maal, Jombaajo (Sonodisc import): cut circa 1990, unreleased because it seemed too loose, and better for it ("Baydikacce," "Farma"); Slick Sixty, Nibs and Nabs (Mute): lounge r&b for the age of techno constructivism and Moog retro ("Hilary, Last of the Pool Sharks," "Dun Deal [Wrestler's Rematch]"); Basement Jaxx, Remedy (Astralwerks): like so much good house, more fun than reading the newspaper and less fun than advertised ("Red Alert," "Rendez-Vu"); Quasi, Field Studies (Up): if someone were to call Sam Coomes an archetypal indie whiner, how would you respond? what about if I did? ("A Fable With No Moral," "Empty Words"); John Linnell, State Songs (Zoë): darn—not 69, 50, or even 48, only 15, none of them up for legislative ratification ("The Songs of the 50 States," "New Hampshire"); Youssou Ndour & le super etoile, Spécial fin d'année plus (Pape Thiam import): could use more guitar—and songs, though the CD-only add-ons help ("Birima," "No méle"); Sally Timms, Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments...for Lost Buckaroos (Bloodshot): alt-country songbook ("Cry Cry Cry," "Rock Me to Sleep"); Rage Against the Machine, The Battle of Los Angeles (Epic): if only it promised as much for the future of rock leftism as for the future of rock guitar ("Calm Like a Bomb," "War Within a Breath"); Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication (Warner Bros.): New Age sex maniacs ("Scar Tissue," "Purple Stain"); Limp Bizkit, Significant Other (Flip/Interscope): give their image credit for having a sound ("Just Like This," "N 2 Gether Now"); Lady Saw, Raw: The Best of Lady Saw (VP): cock-rock lives inna dance hall stylee ("Find a Good Man," "Eh-Em").

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