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Stone Temple Pilots
No. 4
Atlantic

From the beginning strains of the opener "Down," STP abandons its experimental-rock sounds in favor of the schlock that first got it noticed. Like so many ZZ Tops before them, STP is reworking the same riffs all over again. If not for the drugs and ongoing drama-queenery of Weiland, STP could be the only true cock-rock band around. But this distorted bombast feels far too insincere to get props. STP sings about a whole lotta love with lots of distortion, banging, acoustic guitar and keyboard flourishes. The most interesting tracks are those furthest from the sonic muddle. "I Got You" is almost a country tune, albeit one with lyrics about wandering "to the spoon." The Doors come alive again on "Atlanta"; Weiland scoffs on "Sex & Violence." Here's some advice for ya, Scotty-boy: Leave the STP sound to Creed and all those other second-generation grunge outfits. Get on with it. Your David Bowie impersonation is much more pleasurable than your Jim Morrison.-Greg Hoy


Iggy Pop
Avenue B V
Virgin

Since his early days with the legendary Stooges three decades ago, Iggy Pop has always been unpredictable. On his latest outing, the godfather of punk tones down his nihilistic approach to rock, opting for personal, stripped-down arrangements that focus on relationships, middle age and the meaning of life. The opening track, "No Shit," sets the haunting mood, as Pop admits, "I was really alone. And there wasn't a hell of a lot of time left." Among the ballads, "Nazi Girlfriend" and "Miss Argentina" find him pouring his heart out with graphic and introspective songwriting. "Shakin' All Over" picks up the pace with a down-tempo, garage-rock anthem, while avant-garde jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood lends its talent on the beatnik-fused "Felt the Luxury" and the Spanish-sung "Ya Yo Hablo Espanol." Turning 50 hasn't softened Pop; it's only made this wild one wiser and more eager to experiment.-Kenyon Hopkin


Today is the Day
In the Eyes of God
Relapse

Today Is The Day is evil. Not evil in a kind of goofy, theatrical way like Marilyn Manson. And not evil in a kind of gory, hysterically ludicrous death-metal way. No, TITD has tapped into a more insidious vein of dark, human negativity. Case in point: song titles like "The Cold Harshness of Being Wrong Your Entire Life." Singer/guitarist Rev. Steve Austin sends his harsh, misanthropic vocals through a growling, electronic processor and sets them to a pummeling prog-metal power-trio assault full of flailing drums, odd rhythms and angular guitars. One or two songs of this stuff provide the perfect scarifying jolt. But soon the thin, reedy production and unwavering musical style begin to grate and annoy, dulling the initial blast of malignant badness. It's a good album, but only in small doses. Those interested in TITD should hunt down earlier, more captivating releases like Willpower.-Theo Cateforis


311
Soundsystem
Capricorn

The golden boys from Omaha-by-way-of-LA are back, but does anyone still care? Following a disappointing fourth album, Transistor, on which the band's dub-dabbling went a step too far, Soundsystem finds this rock/rap/funk hybrid returning to its trademark sound of gritty guitar squalls and P-Nut's omnipresent head-nod bass grooves. The lush soundscapes of "Eons" show innovation similar to 1994's Grassroots, while "Evolution" gives 311's take on the digital age. The band's forte has always been on stage and, fortunately, the sheer fury of its live show is captured on the album-closer "Livin' and Rockin'." The annoying, too-catchy "Come Original" was a poor choice as a first single, turning curious parties away from an otherwise respectable album. Although it won't impress critics, this new record will have the kids lighting up spliffs and pogoing until the house lights come up. And that's quintessential 311.-Akash Goyal


LI Sounds

The Montgomery Cliffs
Millenium/A Pop Opera
RPM USA Records

Recordings of the lost collaboration between Elvis Costello and Rush have finally been found! But for some strange reason, it's billed as the Montgomery Cliffs. Like Rush's juggernaut 2112, Millennium has lots of six-string tidbits and synthesized strings. There are even a few paragraphs about dreams written on the sleeve to set you up for the conceptual stuff. "2000 Years" kicks off this 20-song collection. "They brought us here in a spaceship...," sings Joey Silva, in his best Costello voice. "Leave your fears at home with your bigotry and your sticks and stones." And that's just song one! Dennis Carollo's Neil Peart had an off day as far as drumming goes, though guitarist Wayne Thomas Kurtz' Alex Lifeson rings strong. "The New Horizon" might be the theme to the next Friends spinoff. "Only" is a pretty great pop song, but sounds ruefully odd here. Indeed, there's no one quite like Rush. The Montgomery Cliffs should remember that.-GH

 
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