Turkey Shoot 2001

The month proved rife with fowl even if the year wasn't ideal for focusing on the bad-to-worse. So before you protest, remember this—if my bile seems inappropriate, the terrorists have already won.

(Maverick) Only in a biz discombobulated by teenpop could an 18-year-old with an acoustic guitar be plausibly promoted as "the anti-Britney." Don't you remember? Writing Your Own Songs means zip, zilch, nada. By now, literally millions of human beings WTOS, and while Branch may be among the top 5000 (and may not), note that her hit, like most of the front-loaded material, was co-composed by her producer. In this she precisely resembles arrant bimbo Willa Ford, who made her mark batting her plump lips at Nick Carter and Carson Daly and may yet prove the more interesting artist. Britney sure is. C

DAFT PUNK Discovery
(Virgin) These guys are so French I want to force-feed them and cut out their livers. Young moderns who've made the Detroit-Berlin adjustment may find their squelchy synth sounds humanistic; young moderns whose asses sport parallel ports may dance till they crash. But Yank fun is much less spirituel, so that God bless America, "One More Time" is merely an annoying novelty stateside. The way our butts plug in, there are better beats on the damn Jadakiss CD. C PLUS

ANI DIFRANCO Revelling/Reckoning
(Righteous Babe) "The songs/they come out more slowly/Now that I am the bad guy," she allows in the best song-not-track here. But maybe admitting that you require more patience than the average lover has in him or her is a way of evading harder truths—namely, that songs also come out more slowly when you're selling as opposed to defining yourself, as she did for so long with such charm, chutzpah, wit, grit, and politics. This is a double album where the best songwriting never meshes with the best horn writing, which is what gets her juices going these days. That is, it's a double album marking a year she should have taken off. Intelligence you can count on. Integrity you can foster. But inspiration requires more patience than the average genius has in her, and let us not forget the average label owner. B MINUS

INCUBUS Morning View
(Epic/Immortal) This late entry shot up on the outside of our annual Young White Males in Extremis sweepstakes over Static-X (nuevo no wave), P.O.D. (plodding in riddim), Five for Fighting (I forget), and heavy favorites Staind, who seemed so sincerely depressed I couldn't bear to add to their woes. Incubus's wrinkle on awful points up how old-fashioned the death-metal and rap-fusion approaches to hard rock have become. The new menace is prog—variegated structures, tempo shifts, lyric interludes, DJ flava, and (daringly) love songs. This nets a lovely eight-minute closer featuring Steve Vai's "ko-kyu," which sounds like a koto to me. It also nets many mediocre pop songs with pretensions. C PLUS

JIMMY EAT WORLD Bleed American
(DreamWorks) Jimmy Eat World are who Blink-182 want to be when they grow up—even played B-182 frontman Tom DeLonge's wedding. Since JEW frontman Jim Adkins specializes in sensitive leaps and catches, this bodes well for DeLonge's visits to the marriage counselor, but it'll ruin his whine. Like most emo bands only at a higher level of tunecraft, JEW are so surprised to discover that punks become adults that they're impressed by feelings even a folksinger would know were banal. Their label hopes that pop fans won't care—that if this band can't be maturity's answer to *NSync, it can be patriotism's answer to Travis. C PLUS

(Atlantic) Back when he was one more nothing bandleader riding a chart fluke, there was something likable about Rob Thomas—something common, something dork-gets-lucky. Carlos Santana changed that fast, and with this album well into its second year on the Billboard 200, Thomas is now officially a menace. He's always emoting some new excuse with his not-bad voice, and he looks like he spends a couple grand a month on haircuts alone—a neat cross between Michael McDonald and Gregg Allman who'll be doing duets for decades. Next chapter: the solo debut. C PLUS

(Columbia) A tuneful, hard-hitting case study in the conservatism of the "rock" claimed by studio hotshots wherever popular music is manufactured in our once-great land. It's possible to imagine the identical beats and licks vitalized by, say, a younger John Anderson. But mixing them with male chauvinist reaction makes more sense, and turns them rancid. At a time when female spunk has become a Nashville cliché, these two putative roadhouse rats, one the brother of cowboy-hat millionaire John Michael Montgomery, inhabit a world where women are either saintly or compliant. They "rock" because they're "rebels," only what they rebel against is the present, in male-specific terms: "They say this way of life is done/But not for my father's son." Like their antecedent Charlie Daniels, they beg the question of whether they're also that kind of rebel. But attention ought be paid another high-profile couplet: "It ain't nobody's business what kind of flag I fly/'Cause that's my right." Uh-uh, stupid. The way flags work is that they're the business of everybody who sees them. That's why you fly them high—and why the other side tears them down. B MINUS

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