Happy You Near

Millennium Hip-Hop Party
(Rhino)

Following rap crossover from Flash to Dre, this deflates big time. Hard to believe some find "Baby Got Back" and "Now That We've Found Love" as much fun as, not "It Takes Two" (what is?), but "Bust a Move" or "U Can't Touch This." Circa 1991, as aspiration gives way to calculation and entertainment becomes subculturally suspect, shame enters game—though if the compilers had stuck in "Jump" and "Shoop," who'd notice? A MINUS

Modest Mouse
Building Nothing Out of Something
(Up)

Having once left Tramps deeming them utter wankers after five songs—maybe four, wandered so much I couldn't tell—I harbored few hopes for this catchall of singles, one-offs, and out-of-print EP. But if Pavement has truly checked out, these Washington State youngsters can carry the noize-toon torch. Although "Sleepwalkin' " is kinda sexy, we understand why Up never released that "Never Ending Math Equation" video. As noize-toon, however, they're irreproachable—dissonant, vulnerable, geeky, and, crucially, sweet where so many other dissonantly vulnerable geeks arm themselves with sarcasm. Maybe that's how they got signed to Epic just when all their club buddies were refurbishing their computer skills. A MINUS

Ali Farka Toure
Niafunké
(Hannibal)

In Mali a little goes a long way, so after his harrowing experience with Ry Cooder's sense of rhythm the artfully primeval guitarist-vocalist took his modest winnings back to the well-named title village, where he devoted himself to making green things grow. Finally, after five years, he surrounds himself entirely with homeboys and reemerges with a record "full of important messages for Africans." Over here he doesn't "expect people to understand," and of course we don't. But when it comes to evoking a sun-baked place where a little goes a long way, you couldn't beat these hymns, homilies, wedding songs, dance tunes, and we-are-what-we-are apostrophes with a trap set. A MINUS

A Tribe Called Quest
Anthology
(Jive)

"They provided the soundtrack for your life," annotator Selwyn Seyfu Hinds reminds the collegiate hip hoppers for whom Quest was the great crew of the '90s, politely failing to mention that for just that reason they don't need this record except to reconceive a catalogue they know by heart. But then there's the rest of us, for whom they've always been background music two ways—as the atmospheric stuff so many hip hoppers make of jazz and as the soundtrack to someone else's life. For us, these nonstop highlights are a godsend. Quest's swinging conversation unifies a sequence subtler and more musical than strict chronology would allow—the way two horny debut cuts poke in toward the end, say. Having added jazz bass to funky drum programmers to quiet flow to hooks-to-go to matter-of-fact realism-not-"reality," they convince our viscera what our brains allowed—that Quest was a great band. So if they want Roy Ayers, they can have him too. A


PICK HIT

Q-Tip
Amplified
(Arista)

Q-Tip's agenda is the hundred or so electrobeats that pulse identically for the first 20 seconds of the lead "Wait Up," before he opens his mouth to announce a "brand new page." Thus does the man who made Ron Carter the embodiment of hip hop humanism assert his solo personality, and let the Quest fans who'll never forgive him catch arthritis and die. He gets stronger music out of hard beats than he ever did out of soft jazz, and those surprised by how much he likes sex are in denial. He's his own man, and vivrant for it. A


DUD OF THE MONTH

The Flaming Lips
The Soft Bulletin
(Warner Bros.)

Tiptoeing along the precipice that divides the charmingly serious from the hopelessly ridiculous, this year's Prestigious Pink Floyd Tribute by a Long-Running Band of Some Repute and Less Distinction enjoys two advantages over O.K. Computer and Deserter's Songs. Not only does it map out a sonic identity, the chief selling point of all these records, but it's not above pretty. And lead genius Wayne Coyne mixes up the quotidian and the cosmic in the best American psychedelic tradition, with a social dimension more grounded than the usual dystopian mishmash—heroic scientists, gosh. All that granted, however, listeners with no generational stake in how old alt bands impact history are obliged not only to contend with Coyne's wispy voice and chronic confusion, but to stifle their giggles when Steven Drozd bangs his drums all over a song mixing up summer love and mosquito bites. That is,these guys are Not Joking. Ever. Which makes them hopelessly ridiculous. B

Additional Consumer News


HONORABLE MENTION:
Stereolab
, Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night(Elektra): yeah! appropriate that vibraphone! and definitely that Glasstinato! ("Blue Milk," "Blips Drips and Strips"); the Clash,From Here to Eternity Live(Epic): "I'd like to hear 'Wooly Bully,' by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs—yes, not Sham 69, but Sam the Sham" ("Capital Radio," "Know Your Rights"); Method Man/Redman,Blackout! (Def Jam): "Turn the rap game into WCW" ("Blackout," "Run 4 Cover"); Ramata Diakité,Na(Cobalt import): hews so close to girl-of-Wassoulou verities she's lucky her musicians don't ("Na," "Aye Yafama"); Macy Gray,On How Life Is(Epic): if only Esther Phillips had written her own songs, she would have sung worse ones ("I've Committed Murder," "Caligula"); Ol' Dirty Bastard,N***a Please(Elektra): that n***a'z crazy ("I Can't Wait," "Recognize"); Kool Keith,Black Elvis/Lost in Space(Ruffhouse/Columbia): you know, space—where he rules the world ("Fine Girls," "Intro"); Inspectah Deck,Uncontrolled Substance(Loud): foot soldiers' tales ("Movas & Shakers," "Elevation"); Alanis Morissette,MTV Unplugged(Maverick): why do you think they love her? because she's lovable, stupid ("Princes Familiar," "You Learn"); Tin Huey,Disinformation(Future Fossil): lost postpunk album, more pop and less art than anyone knew at the time ("Seeing," "Cheap Machines"); the Band,The Best of Volume II (Paradox): pretty fair country bar group/cover band ("Blind Willie McTell," "Atlantic City"); The Funky Precedent(Loosegroove/No Mayo): underground hip hop at its warmest, most multiculti, and least hip hop (the Breakestra, "Getcho Soul Together"; Dilated Peoples, "Triple Optics [Live Funky Precedent Mix]"); Paul Westerberg,Suicaine Gratification(Capitol): what gives this fool the right to ruminate all over your earhole? his trick cocktail piano ("Whatever Makes You Happy," "Final Hurrah").

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