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Sex Workers and Alcoholics Dominate Popular Music Once Again


His St. Lou strut is sweet as molasses—so unforced, so unrushed, so natural. Three great singles and counting. His last one was mainly an homage to Speedy Gonzales, though Bugs Bunny and Frosty the Snowman and Old McDonald going E-I-E-I-O stopped by as well, not to mention one girl who was half-black and half-Asian and another whose husband was on vacation, not to also mention a superhero flaunting more bread and karats than your local grocery who could transform "from Fatboy to Iceberg Slim in one hour." This time, having temporarily had his fill of lesbian twins with corn rows and manicured toes, Nelly concocts a potent brew of disco basslines and gang shouts (from the devolutionarily monickered City Spud?) and "zoooop!"s squirting out of nowhere as he's flying first-class next to Vanna White and easing down the highway in his new Cadillac, a fine fox in front, two more in the back. They're smoking Lucky Strikes and wearing spike heel shoes. He spies a little thing and follows her all night in her porcupine Levi's and her sweater kinda tight. Nelly is the new ZZ Top! He's bad, he's nationwide.

Red Planet let the good times knock them around.
photo: Gearhead Records
Red Planet let the good times knock them around.

R. KELLY "Fiesta"

Border rhythms and emotional climate out of War: summer at dusk, mariachi horns and high registers and intermittent ivory simulating the calm before the temperature plummets and the tornado hits. Great barbecue weather! Kelly's previous "A Woman's Threat" was a transcendently droning paranoia-blues that used the Three Little Bears like Ray Parker Jr. used to use Jack and Jill. This time he's digging Friday on his DVD, mixing juice with Tanqueray, taking haters nonchalantly out back and roughing 'em up, chilling at the light, jumping on the roof like he's the police if not the A*Teens, sippin' la and smokin' la while strippers are showin' la at the club and ATC are singin' la around the world. In the non-album remix, Jay-Z's busy clutter kills the menace a little. But that added verse about moving to the 'burbs keeps things real in a whole new way.

LUDACRIS "Southern Hospitality"
(Def Jam South)

Electronic tribal congas laid down by the Neptunes, a dozen years removed from Miami bass, serve as a bed upon which this Dixie rapper offers up profound thoughts on overalls, candy Cadillacs leaking oil, sauce so hot it makes you sweat, fly-ass boots with open toes, and 20-inch thighs making 20-inch eyes hungry for 20-inch American pies. In a comparably hard and hooky 1979 song called "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite," proto-oi! Brit-pubsters the Count Bishops warned us, "There's gonna be a pool of blood on the ol' dancefloor." Here it's "when you get on the floor you can throw them 'bows." As in: elbows! Ten notches on his shoes, and when it comes to dancin', Ludacris can't lose.


A horde of Aussie football hooligans herding cattle and tumbleweeds, it sounds like, until all the stuff about shipyards and docks and "wage-fueled riots" and "too much work and not enough pay" and "our conscience in the gutter, our dreams up in the sky" clue you that this might be the most explicit union rallying cry you've ever heard on album rock radio. The guitars teach a history lesson in concise virtuosity, from Eddie Cochran to the Who to the Clash; the verses and choruses and yells rampage like U2 or Big Country or especially the Living End's countrymen Midnight Oil might've, if only they'd quaffed more ale.

RED PLANET Let's Get Ripped!
(Gearhead EP)

They wish they were picking up drugs in a brand-new car and getting free cocktails at the bar, but they gotta get back to their pizza job as soon as they've rocked this club. (Insert Domino's ad here; they did.) Hence, the return of party-voice-in-the-background suburban drunk rock, delivered in histrionic Peter Brady-at-puberty hiccups surprisingly more reminiscent of Kix in 1980 than the Replacements in 1984 or Dictators in 1975. "Big Hair Camaro" 's cheese-metal synth effects peg it as a long-awaited answer to the Dead Milkmen's Def Lep disses in "Bitchin' Camaro"; "Too Drunk to Fuck" (courtesy the Dead Kennedys at their most Jello-shotful) is instructively followed by "Find Me a Girl (Who Likes Me Best When I'm Drunk)," the most marinated booze-punk ballad since the glory days of Gang Green. Though even those alkies never requested a woman who'd let them piss in the sink.

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