(RCA) Great groove band, end of story—I wish. True grooves extend toward infinity, for one thing; here the beats implode, clashing/resolving with punky brevity and gnarly faux simplicity. Their grooves carry melody, too—and not all of it, not hardly. The Strokes' privileged formalism is annoying, so too their delight in romantic dysfunction. But they're smarter than the playa haters who aren't smart enough to target these blatant shortcomings—and also than, for instance, Firewater, who didn't start a bidding war because they do lots less with the same attitude. A MINUS

(Justin Time import) Either they're the best Senegalese band to surface since Baaba Maal's or David Murray has gotten a hell of a record out of them. A conflict-primed groove launches Tidiane Gaye's tenor into transports of falsetto, and jazz-steeped guest altoist Abdoulaye N'Diaye links Dakar to New York more idiomatically than Murray could have. Their name, meaning something like Work-Reward, is the slogan of Cheikh Ibrahim Fall, a leader of the same Sufilike Muridist brotherhood that counts among its adherents Youssou N'Dour and Senegal's current president. We have much to learn. Indigenous yet cosmopolitan, reveling in difference, this is why it's always been worth the effort. B PLUS


THE COUP Party Music
(75 Ark) Imperfect musically (two slow ones) and politically (too anti-Amerikkkan). And right, this is the album with the withdrawn cover of Boots Riley detonating the WTC—a pun gone terribly wrong, tracks "blowing up," get it? Fortunately, most of the jokes are less doctrinaire—there are dozens better in "5 Million Ways to Kill a C.E.O." alone, like "We could let him change a flat tire/Or we could all at once retire." The title's a pun, too, signifying Black Panther or Communist (or necktie), only not only, because the tracks blow up: The live band, the male and female choruses, and DJ Pam the Funkstress do here commit a positive groove worthy of Frankie Beverly, Digital Underground, Chuck Brown. Similarly, the slogans-to-go that begin with the first verse—"Every death is an abrupt one/Every cop is a corrupt one/Without no cash up in a trust fund/Every cat with a gat wants to bust one/Every guest wants a plus-one"—are underpinned by songs wise beyond anybody's years, such as the woman-friendly tale of the girl who convinced a fumbling 17-year-old Boots that he'd fathered her child. Imperfect, definitely. But only because perfection is on the table. A


(Stern's/Earthworks) These 15 songs are Muslim like Philip Roth is Jewish—irreverently, idiosyncratically, and to the marrow. Their North African provenance means their sense of Islam is at least unorthodox and often cosmopolitan/European—and so, of course, does their pop provenance. East-West instrument mixing is standard, mystical intensity a hook. Women hold their own. Some of these professional entertainers are seekers after the catchy tune, others folkloric types who sound authentic to us and impure to adepts, and as many come from Paris or Barcelona as from Cairo or Marrakech. You wouldn't think to listen that they're all championing a cultural tendency under attack. But Islamists hate them as much as they hate us, if not more. A

Dud of the Month

SHÃNI Call of the Wild
(Ark 21) Even back in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Shãni Rigsbee (Christian name: probably Sandy) mourned the tragic missed opportunity of Arab-American relations: the failure of Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract" to stave off the Gulf War. Instead the great Abdul fell into legal and matrimonial entanglements and sank from the scene. Rigsbee, I mean Shãni, had every intention of filling that void with 11 songs whose unimpeachable insipidity was only heightened by two lyrics in Spanish and one in Farsi. Her Orientalist string flavorings were guaranteed to bring the Beirut Hilton into homes all over suburbia. And then what happened happened. Please Mr. Ashcroft sir, don't call her in. She obviously doesn't know a thing. D

Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION: Tommy Boy Essentials: Hip Hop Vol. 1 (Tommy Boy): from the age of linear funk, three great collectibles and many good ones (Uptown, "Dope on Plastic"; Prince Rakeem, "Ooh I Love You Rakeem"; Too Poetic, "God Made Me Funky"); Rufus Wainwright, Poses (DreamWorks): if he's not really a singer-songwriter, how come he always writes to the tune of his own voice? ("Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," "One Man Guy," "Greek Song"); Jay-Z, The Blueprint (Roc-A-Fella): still having fun somehow, in his mean-spirited, self-serving way ("Renagade," "Hola' Hovito," "Izzo [H.O.V.A.]"); Loudon Wainwright III, Last Man on Earth (Red House): his mother died and he's gonna ("White Winos," "Bed"); Cannibal Ox, The Cold Vein (Def Jux): more entertaining than Anthony Braxton and Wallace Stevens put together ("Raspberry Fields," "Painkillers"); DJ? Acucrack, Sorted (E-Magine): a stay-at-home's fantasy of club music, all jet propulsion, turn-it-up texture, and sonic thickness ("Fulcrum Torque," "The Test"); Hasidic New Wave/Yakar Rhythms, From the Belly of Abraham (Knitting Factory): Senegalese drummers add jam and Muhammad to klezmer jazz ("Waaw Waaw," "Yemin Heshim"); Gorillaz (Virgin): a goof not a concept, except insofar as they deny there's a difference ("Re-Hash," "Clint Eastwood"); R.L. Burnside, Burnside on Burnside (Fat Possum): letting things slide, live ("Alice Mae," "Jumper on the Line"); Low, Christmas (Tugboat import): beats committing suicide, if that's your holiday fancy ("Just Like Christmas," "Blue Christmas"); Ike Reilly, Salesmen and Racists (Republic/Universal): takes his rock so straight he could almost make you believe it ("Hip Hop Thighs #17," "Last Night"); Freedy Johnston, Right Between the Promises (Elektra): will never get the girl till he proves he believes in himself ("Waste Your Time," "That's Alright With Me").

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