Turkey Shoot

It's barf time once again at rock's big table, and I've got a question for the ipecac people. Do all the indie labels in the binge-and-purge below reflect alt's compromised preparation standards? Or has the biz gotten so disgusting there's no place else to eat?

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Grow Fins: Rarities (1965-1982)
(Revenant)

If you have any doubts about needing this handsome $94-list package, you don't. If you're moved to ask pop-friendly me, you don't. Every CD box is larded with marginalia, but the good folks at Revenant—who last year reckoned Charlie Feathers cut 42 "essential" tracks between 1954 and 1969—live for it. They believe consumers should share the thrill of digging through the crates, palpitating as the voice of genius emanates from a dusty reel of tape. So instead of winnowing out an hour or so of lost songs, jelled jams, and unjust outtakes, they throw in a 13-minute CD of dim studio chatter, a minute of Don Van Vliet playing the harmonica over the telephone, etc. Take it from pop-friendly me—if you've spent more time with the Captain's free sessions than with Ornette Coleman's, you need to get your priorities in order. C PLUS

Chris Cornell
Euphoria Morning
(A&M)

For years Cornell struggled to claim the class rage and overgrown-adolescent angst that is every metalman's birthright—only in Soundgarden's last years did he find the macho muscle to fully inhabit that role. Now, as if to prove he's perpetually dissatisfied, he sets his solo sights on the manly empathy and world-weary remorse of the big-rock balladeer. Here's hoping he never gets there. C PLUS

Creed
Human Clay
(Wind-Up)

In the year rock died again, what should come storming back but metal—d/b/a "hard" or "loud" rock and, as Syracuse demonstrated, uglier than ever. Yet these God-fearing grunge babies sound falser than rape-inciting Limp Bizkit, abuse-tripping Static-X, party animals Buckcherry, or even world-dance Days of the New. Because their songs address universals, they don't debase women, a plus. But their spirituality is as sodden as their sonics. I mean, it's not as if familial oppression isn't real. It's the main thing that turns the hard and loud into truth-seekers and revenge-seekers both. So after years of Marilyn Manson lies, young bands seem to have found a psychic space where such themes open up the musical imagination. By contrast, these guys are still in denial, bellowing regressive circumlocutions to drown out the truth inside. Which is what? Maybe lust. C

Lee Hazlewood
Cowboy in Sweden
(Smells Like)

Hazlewood is an "interesting" figure, always was. A natural hipster, in the biz but not of it, pop and rock and country and just plain weird—Duane Eddy, Nancy Sinatra, and Gram Parsons is quite a trifecta. Problem is he'snever been all that good. There's a nice best-of hiding in his collected works, including the new standards collection. But his vogue transcends crass track-by-track quality controls, combining the usual convolutional one-upsmanship, a visceral distaste for roots-rock's sonic canon, and a generation of aging slackers' discovery that doing bizness needn't deaden your mind or rot your soul. If slick blues licks make you sick, Hazlewood's studio hacks and string-section dreck will be some kind of change. If you like Nancy Sinatra almost as much as Karen Carpenter, thin-piped Nina Lizell will clean away enough Janis-and-Bonnie grit. If you doubt all shows of soul, the flaccid sentimentality of "Easy and Me" will be one more trope as far as you're concerned. But without opening a book I can recall half a dozen unreissued singer-songwriter albums that do more with their varied conventions than this Europe-only 1970 rarity—by Thomas Jefferson Kaye, Nolan Porter, Marc Benno, Hirth Martinez, Alice Stuart, Mississippi Charles Bevel. And I shudder to think of the unreasonable claims to be made when their time comes around again. B MINUS

Jamiroquai
Synkronized
(Work)

Hoping to prepare for future outbreaks of rhythm pap by discovering what put these London clotheshorses over, I found but two clues: acid jazz and Heatwave. Both of these apply only in Britannia. How the band secured its Grammy I defy Fredric Dannen to determine. C MINUS

Lenny Kravitz
5
(Virgin)

His racially convoluted formalism having long since come clean as a total absence of original ideas, he grabs the brass ring from the back of a tacked-on Guess Who cover best heard on the far more imaginative Austin Powers soundtrack. Lenny, your work here on earth is done. We've got Derek Jeter now. C

Les Nubians
Princesses Nubians
(OmTown)

Certainly not "Nubian." Biology not being destiny, not "Cameroonian" either. "Princesses" metaphorically if at all. Not "Miriam Makeba meets Wyclef Jean" or any half of same. "Soul II Soul meets Zap Mama" a smidgen. "Sisters" if they say so, "soul" if the "5th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards" says so. "French" definitely, "hip-hop" forget about it. Coverers of Sade with rhythmic spoken-word interlude indubitably. Blander than their bass lines you bet. French definitely. C PLUS

Lit
A Place in the Sun
(RCA)

Led by two Orange County lads whose dad was a pop DJ, they like Vegas and old Cadillacs, make too much of their play on "come," "complete," and "completely miserable," and serve as a dull-dull-dull reminder to anyone besotted with Blink 182 that punk in itself guaranteed nothing even in the days of the Real Kids and the Suicide Commandos. C

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