Turkey Shoot

Ricky Martin

The boy-group boom is harmless-if-bad. Martin is more like bad-if-not-worse. Since he was already marked for death with Menudo, don't be so sure his rebirth is a one-shot. But don't make him a Latin-pride poster boy either. Slicked-up rhythm workouts and romantic pap were tokens of progress circa Xavier Cugat and Desi Arnaz. In an America where Spanish is a second language, they're the reactionary strategems of one more crappy pop star. C

Mobb Deep
Murda Muzik

"Guns, money, pussy, cars, drugs, jewels, clothes, brawls, killings, buroughs, buildings, diseases, stress, the D's." And then: "Straight reality." Yeah, right. B MINUS

Come On Die Young

Young Glaswegians extolled by those weary of verse-chorus-verse as "radical," "beautiful," and other things that would never occur to the rest of us, they mutate the forgettable mess of their debut into something altogether more deliberate and kempt—occasionally tuneful, invariably slow. Only on the oceanbound land mass where acid house was Beatlemania would anyone sit still for such earnest post-rock tripe. C

The Olivia Tremor Control
Black Foliage: Animation Music by the Olivia Tremor Control

This division of the Elephant 6 consortium loves tunes, and its soundscaping has few equals in indiedom. When it mixes the two, the result is often kinda beautiful even though the lyrics are avowedly "not going to shed any new light on humanity," and even though the sonics tend toward the perverse—disembodied outtake snippets, mechanical malfunctions, and tape fuckups that their hip-hop counterparts would bury in beats or declare inimical to organic life. But as the album goes on (and on), the strategy becomes not noize-toon synthesis, but weird song as reward for unpleasant sound. At its most generous, this may be the music of the young Brian Wilson's dysfunctional dreams. But at its most pretentious it's his bad trip. And bad trips weren't the main reason the psychedelic worldview fell into disrepute. The main reason was that it was full of shit. B MINUS

Iggy Pop
Avenue B

Unless "A masterpiece without a frame" and "I want to fuck her on the floor/Among my books of ancient lore" are jokes no one gets, the sole compliment one can pay this confessional poetry by a fiftysomething cocksman who Cannot Love is that at least he's willing to look like a fool. But that's been his shtick since he was bleeding himself with broken Skippy jars. Right, Ig, you're "corrupt"—no news there. Unfortunately, blaming "the paranoia of the age" and bitching "I gave em every part of me" is also corrupt. Plus one more thing: Until you learn to sing a little better, maybe you'd better say goodbye to Medeski Martin and Wood and put in a call to the Sales brothers. C

Professor Griff
Blood of the Profit

Begins with indisputable documentary evidence that race-mixing is a Communist Party plot. Gets worse. D

Virginia Rodrigues
Sol Negro

Notes by Caetano Veloso, who's clearly stunned at the ability of the daughter of a street vendor to evoke "operas, masses, lieder, and spirituals," a response shared by many Lusophiles and every fan of the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir who's in on the story. The rest of us will be stupefied that such a "celestial" voice can exist at all. She never stretches her rich, Ella-like highs into a scat—though the few midtempo numbers have a nice jazzy lilt (dig that berimbau), her instincts are exceedingly solemn. Veloso is Veloso, which means he "transcends the distinction between erudite and popular" far more vividly than he thinks Rodrigues does. High middlebrows Djavan and Milton Nascimento don't, and their cameos give the game away. B MINUS

The Whole Shebang
(Lyric Street)

Here's something you don't know how much you don't need—Dixie Chicks imitators. I do, because I also played the Lace album. The best-selling Osborn sisters have more jam. But although they swear they "won't wear stiletto heels" (unlike all those hussies at the Wal-Mart?), they definitely make nicer to men than Dolly and Loretta if not Tammy and Reba. Nothing in "Still Holding Out for You," cowritten by none other than Richard Marx, suggests that smart sister Kristyn wouldn't dress like a slut to get him back. Somebody send that lovelorn lass a Victoria's Secret catalogue. C PLUS

Sixpence None The Richer
(Squint Entertainment)

If you hold your breath and are very good, maybe "Kiss Me" will prove a fluke even though it's been the most durable single of 1999—in the end, only the innocent invitation to making out a deserving teen subdemographic craved. But don't tell yourself stories about biz or fundamentalist plots. Christians not proselytizers, they're an indie-rock success story who come by their limpid sound more organically than the Sundays or the Innocence Mission, both of whom they sincerely admire. Leigh Nash's clear little voice, like a young Natalie Merchant without the neurotic undertow? Her own. Matt Slocum's classed-up minor-key arrangements, like an acoustic Radiohead without the existential foofaraw? His own. They hope to create pretty, well-meaning stuff like this in perpetuity, for the sheer joy of it. Which means they could be nauseating urban skeptics for years. C PLUS

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