Dub for Dummies

THE WACO BROTHERS
Electric Waco Chair
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Loving Sally Timms as I do, I take no pleasure in noting that the Wacos have supplanted the Mekons as Jon Langford's main squeeze. On their fifth and best album, a questionable vision of country music that dates back to Fear and Whiskeygoes around and comes around as Langford and company realize that they've hung around long enough to turn into the desperate working stiffs their faux honky-tonk imagines. "I took this job in the summer/Never saw the winter rollin' on," Langford spits out as the autumn of his years hits November, and soon Dino Schlabowske is a traveling salesman doing cold calls on a circle tour he's afraid will never end. Me, I hope business picks up, which seems a nicer way of requesting more records this bitter and bracing than wondering whether alternate career opportunities are really any better. A MINUS

NEIL YOUNG
Road Rock V 1(Reprise)
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Only one of the six 1969-1978 oldies that dominate this contract-conscious holding action is on any previous live album—"Tonight's the Night," which admittedly had more get-up-and-go on Weld in 1990. The two new titles are a girl-group hoot too good for Silver and Goldand a bitter, climactic, Chrissie Hynde-enhanced "All Along the Watchtower." The Keith-Oldham-Dunn-Keltner band rocks different than Crazy Horse. Definitely not dead yet. B PLUS


Picks Hits

ERYKAH BADU
Mama's Gun(Motown)
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Ms. Badu–to-you could have ridden her photogenic witchy-rootsy ambience/attitude down a flexigroove to iconicity. Instead she determined to rise up, doing for her songcraft what D’Angelo did for his funk. From "Here's my philosophy/We're living in a penitentiary" to "My eyes are green/Because I eat a lot of vegetables," she scores over and over on 14-tracks-in-72-minutes that miss maybe twice and only seem long-winded when she gives the flautist some. Maybe her sources are autobiographical, but she’s here to inspire all black-identified women and the men who admire them. On "Cleva," she predicts you'll love her for her mind as her ninnies sag; on "Booty," she pulls more good stuff with her G.E.D. than you can with your Ph.D. And to prove how smart she is once and for all, she accentchuates her word power with structures, arrangements, hooks, the works. A

WU-TANG CLAN
The W(Loud)
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Can't swear they've taken their moral vision much beyond "Handle your bid and kill no kids," although only rarely does it get worse and I like the bit where Yacub talk segues into doo-wop cliché as if it’s all the same old song—which song then segues into tales of chattel slavery. But for all its rapped W-Unity, this is RZA's record almost as much as the so-hypnotic-it's-slept-on Ghost Dog. He serves up a bounty of song-centered musique trouvée and stomach-churning beats from anywhere—sleigh bells and box-cutters and moans and explosions and drums and horns and huh? and violins and Esther Phillips coming in at the right wrong moment every goddamn time. Far from straining, he's gone sensei, achieving a craft in which the hand leads the mind. Anyway, that’s how it sounds—which since this is music is what counts. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

JAY-Z
The Dynasty Roc La Familia(Roc-A-Fella)
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His arrogance is earned, but that doesn't make it interesting, especially since his whine isn't—the same habit of childish self-pity that generated cognitive dissonance when he was coming up on the snazziest swizzbeats in the kingdom is annoying pathology with knockoff protégés sending in productions by cellular. And wouldn't Memphis Bleek be more, I dunno, affectingcontributing a few answering-machine cameos, from upstate maybe? Right, "Jigga" 's still got "skills." So does LL Cool J, whose more accomplished record means nothing to nobody. This is a major falloff, a lazy cash-in no matter who won't admit it. B


Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION: King Tubby, The Best of King Tubby: King Dub(Music Club): simple suffices, 1973-1977 ("Dub From the Roots," "Keep On Dubbing"); Jill Scott, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1(Hidden Beach): too classy for me, I figured, but she's nicer, funnier, and sexier than that—and too young for me isn't her fault ("Exclusively," "Love Rain"); Kevin Coyne, Room Full of Fools(Ruf import): rocking on the edge of everything for 30 years, and how many margin mavens know his name? ("I'm Wild," "More Than Enough"); Johnny Cash, American III: Solitary Man(American): the song alone ("Nobody," "Before My Time," "Would You Lay With Me [In a Field of Stone]"); Thievery Corporation, The Mirror Conspiracy (ESL): processed chèvre avec nutmeg and a soupçon of Scotch bonnet ("Indra," "Treasures"); Red Star Belgrade, Telescope(Checkered Past): aptest alt-country band name yet devised ("Nixon Stamp," "After the Revolution"); Shelby Lynne, Epic Recordings(Lucky Dog): as a young comer, she sounds most herself swinging the classics ("Lonely Weekends," "Don't Mind If I Do"); Lifter Puller, Fiestas and Fiascos(Frenchkiss): postpunk E Street for fuckups clocking e-dollars ("Touch My Stuff," "Lie Down on Landsdowne"); Everclear, Songs From an American Movie: Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude(Capitol): not as mad as he says he is ("The Good Witch of the North," "Rock Star"); Rachelle Ferrell, Individuality (Can I Be Me?)(Capitol): making up in musicianship (i.e., jazz) what she lacks in songwriting (i.e., pop) ("Will You Remember Me?" "Individuality [Can I Be Me?]"); Ja Rule, Rule 3:36(Murder Inc./Def Jam): gravel-pop hip-hop—the Mystikal trick ("It's Your Life," "Between You and Me"); Air, The Virgin Suicides(Astralwerks): already de facto soundtrack, they didn't need a real movie to distract them from meaning something ("Ghost Song," "Dirty Trip").

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