By Gili Malinsky
By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
El Captain Funkaho "My 2600"/"Evil Goat Interlude"/"Space Slut"/"Bootay" (Stones Throw, 530 Divisadero Street #208, San Francisco, CA 94117) » Another six-feet-deep bassman mouth harking back to early Funkadelic, which is where Chicago acid-house weirdo Bam Bam seemed to get the voice he used in his scary 1988 "Where's Your Child?"the record Razor-n-Guido's grumbling most recalls. But mostly this vinyl seven-inch (from an alter ego of undie-hip-hopper Peanut Butter Wolf) walks a line only Jimmy Castor ever trod before: Big Bertha butts and Billy Squier big beats and Black Sabbath guitars as osmium as the basslines, free-jazz blowing and Atari beeps and odes to Pac-Man fever, backward masking and an obsession with Satanic hooved mammals. All of which exist at extremesas heavy and geeky as funk ever gets, both at the same time.
2Gether "U + Me = Us (Calculus)" (TVT) » Tracks two through five on the 2Ge+hersoundtrack (a treatise on math, masturbation, salivating groupies, getting lucky with your ex, and big fat books in Hebrew) add up to every bit as "eclectic" a four-song sequence as El Captain Funkaho's EP, yet one put together with such logarithmically calculated seamlessness that the eclecticism never calls attention to itself. The model for "U + Me = Us" is "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls: rocking rap part, fistpumping oi! oi oi! gang shouts, mushy parts, robot interjections, call-and-response climax. The last time an airwave hit this good mentioned algebra and trigonometry by name was "Wonderful World" four decades ago by Sam Cooke, who never got around to studying cosines (much less not giving "a crap about Robert E. Lee"). And 2Gether's true predecessors, Spi¨nal Tap and the Rutles, were neither this musically adept nor this uproarious: "I'm losing my hair/And my vision is shady/Last night I dreamt of an overweight lady/But I need a young thing to keep up with my pace/to hold me in her arms and take me straight to second base," crooned with such heartmelting sweetness that, if you're not paying close attention, you'll mistake it for merely the catchiest Backstreet or 'N Sync ditty of the millennium.
Phil Vassar "Carlene" (Arista Nashville) » First line says Phil "was lousy at math," just like Sylvia Plath in the old Peter Laughner ballad; maybe 2Gether should've tutored them. Or maybe Carlene should've, since when Phil was quarterbacking she was valedictorianthough, oddly, not the most popular valedictorian in the country countdown right now: That'd be the starlet of Toby Keith's chart-toppingly achy-breaky-testosteroned "How Do You Like Me Now?!" The title of which would maybe fit the coincidentally women's-college-surnamed Vassar's hit more, since here it's class reunion time in the old school yard, and you're wanting him to tell "little miss 4.0," now a redheaded Voguecover girl in a blue sports car, that he's a hired killer (see Grosse Point Blank) who invented Post-it notes (see Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion),or at least that he's flying in his taxi taking tips and getting stoned (see Harry Chapin). But all he can say is he writes songs in Nashvillebefore his newest Muscle Shoals-lilted shrimp boat, the best one he penned was "I'm Alright" in 1998 for Bostonbilly Jo Dee Messina. Which, like "Carlene" itself, owes its stuttering hook to Slade's lousy-at-spelling "Mama Weer All Crazee Now."
3 Doors Down "Kryptonite" (Republic) » Modern country still doesn't boogie hard enough to get Sweet Home Alabama krunk; David Allen Coe just decided to remake Kid Rock's astounding "Only God Knows Why" (Al Green baptism- ending and all), which rambles more transcendently than any Southern rock ballad on the FM since Marshall Tucker's 1977 "Heard It in a Love Song," and Kid's a dadburn Yankee. The Confederacy's real rock sound now is an intricate, usually secretly Christian-themed prog-grunge: Collective Soul, Creed, the beautifully weird Days of the New, and now suburban Biloxi's almost-as-intriguing 3 Doors Down, all four members of whom "thank God" first in their liner note lists. So "Kryptonite" 's hero is probably Jesus Christ Superman, but what took it to the AOR-chart zenith was its undulating opening twang (think "House of the Rising Sun"or "Suicide Is Painless" from M*A*S*Has done by Ennio Morricone) and the confidently muscular drawl of it all. The words keep mentioning the dark side of the moon, and the music's dark for sure, but the angular chug is thankfully more Golden Earring than Pink Floyd. It's half past four, and they're shifting gear.
95 South "Tightwork (Dat's Dat Sshhh)" (RCA) » Their whoots-where-it-was long since replaced by bling-bling and Aqueminis except at sports events, interstate fans 95 South drive Cadillac Broughams and Coupe de Villes through whole bowlegged hush-yo-mouth generations of mostly sub-Mason-Dixon funkthey switch voices almost every line (realold school), and the yells might as well be marching cadences at Fort Bragg. Their "work! work! work!" chant is the sound of men on Sam Cooke's chain gang, or at least Rose Royce's car wash, and the guy "running down the tracks" is riding the underground railroad as much as the midnight train to Georgia. The even more lawdy-lawd-drawled "Radio Edit" sounds like an entirely different song: car-horn percussion breaks like a traffic jam of arm-branded Omegas and Alphas impatient to get to the Freaknik frat-bash in Miami (where else could you refer to "up in Jacksonville"?); a girl-in-blue-whatcha-gonna-do working her thang like on Soul Train. Hip-hop gets no more downhome than this.