Escape Claus

The Radio Tisdas Sessions
(World Village)
Sahel nomads turned Qadaffi exploitees turned Bamako unemployeds, they worked out their revamped Tuareg folk music in acoustic bands of 30 or so and pared down as they electrified. In the Mali context they are or were warriors and rebels, literally. But at this distance they give off the same sere calm I associate with Ali Farka Toure and Afel Bocoum, only trancier—in the desert, folks really know how to trance. At this distance, they're touched by New Age tourism. But they're no less hypnotic for that. B PLUS

(Wide Right)
"Rock and Roll fueled by cheap beer and Gibson guitars"—and a mother of two born "Rust Belt Girl." On this Web-and-gig EP, Leah Archibald claims not indie Buffalo music maker Ani DiFranco but working-class Buffalo actor-musician-painter-architect-handyman-j.d. "Vincent Gallo." She hopes she doesn't get stuck in her hometown like "Pete Best." And nevertheless produces a song about the road back, a joyous thing even when she stops in Binghamton so the kids can pee. A MINUS


(Cash Money/Universal)
The label's never had a platinum single, or all that many platinum albums—maybe half a dozen, plus a few gold. But it's underwritten many SUVs worth of platinum jewelry, and while the albums themselves sink into thug tedium, these good-humored paeans to material gratification are so crass and crude they're spiritually uplifting. Equal parts tweedly hooks, drumbeats for Conlon Nancarrow, boasts you could cut with a butter knife, and yelling. "Bling, Bling" cheek by high-riding buttock with "Back That Azz Up." Be thankful the exigencies of airplay keep the "I like to fuck 'em in the ass while he beat up the pussy" to a minimum. A MINUS


(Stern's Africa)
Lying in a good cause as usual, Mark Hudson a/k/a Litch claims that, having thought he'd "said it on African music," he's topped himself. The trick, he explains, is a follow-up that honors "the beauty, the humanity, the essential goodness of African music." Of course, what made the original so intense was the chaos, the contingency, the essential madness of Senegalese music, and when that kind of construction coheres, it's untoppable. Venturing over into Mali and Guinea and back before mbalax, this applies standard-grade connoisseurship to 1975-1985 Afropop. It's more soulful, a good deal simpler, and truer to the historical West Africa than its brilliantly tendentious predecessor. I hope it spins off a follow-up in its turn. A MINUS

Dud of the Month

Electric Circus
Sometimes brave men march off into the swamp and get seriously lost, so let's hope Captain ?uestlove and his s?uad remembered the DEET. Vocal flow's not the problem, and set to the beat-smart fusion lite of Like Water for Chocolate, the humanity of the well-meaning poetry would probably outweigh all the forced similes and sentimental lapses. Outfitted in this music, however, Common's pretensions stand up and do jumping jacks. There are pleasurable rhythm elements, and under the circumstances, the Stereolab cameo is kind of an up. But those are parts. The whole is keybs like golden nacho goo, guitar sticking out like chips, please-not-more codas, and everywhere the angelic twaddle of singing swingles doo-doo. B

Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION: Youssou Ndour & le Super Etoile, Ba Tay (Jololi import): 2000's not quite compelling Senegal-only, its lead cuts ready to be toned up for the nice people at Nonesuch ("Bird," "Ba Tay"); Skeleton Key, Obtanium (Ipecac): get off on running a scrap-metal bottleneck right across a song's clavicle ("Sawdust," "Kerosene"); Kelly Osbourne, Shut Up (Epic): the finest anger money can buy ("Shut Up," "Come Dig Me Out"); Dan Melchior's Broke Revue, Bitterness, Spite, Rage, and Scorn (In the Red): blues riffs (and tempos) as punk noise ("You're My Wife," "Me and J.G. Ballard"); Gravediggaz, Nightmare in A-Minor (Empire Musicwerks): their horror movie turned real-life doomshow, and when they hit a vein they sound it ("False Things Must Perish," "Burn Baby Burn"); GZA, Legend of the Liquid Sword (MCA): "Record execs wanna push the album way back?/And hold back my advance? They didn't pay that" ("Rough Cut," "Knock, Knock"); About a Boy: Original Soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy (XL/Artist Direct): creams ebullient tune and irrelevant song onto Nick and Hugh's well-groomed movie ("A Peak You Reach," "File Me Away"); Imperial Teen, Live at Maxwell's (DCN): slightly sparer, slightly rougher fan/band faves ("The Beginning," "You're One"); Missy Elliott, Under Construction (Elektra): hardcore to the booty, slimfast to the brain ("Work It," "Bring the Pain"); Large Professor, 1st Class (Matador): knows where to start when the beats commence ("Born to Ball," "The Man"); Blazin' Hip Hop & R&B (Columbia): from good to middling, corporate beats at their most salable (Maxwell, "This Woman's Work"; Jagged Edge, "Where the Party At"); 8 Mile (Shady/Interscope): Obie Trice, who doesn't make the movie, is all over the soundtrack album—unlike Rabbit's freestyles, which make the movie (Eminem, "Rabbit Run," "Lose Yourself"); Jurassic 5, Power in Numbers (Interscope): a "Mr. Bass Man" cover would greatly enhance their artistic profile ("One of Them," "Remember His Name"); Yoko Ono, Blueprint for a Sunrise (Capitol): avant-minimalist and pop-simplistic, Japanese and English, old and new—all is one ("I'm Not Getting Enough," "Rise II"); Ani DiFranco, So Much Shouting/So Much Laughter (Righteous Babe): live revisions for her fan base, which still has a live one ("Comes a Time," "Whathowwhenwhere"); Capital D and the Molemen, Writer's Block (The Movie) (All Natural): ecumenical morality tales from hip hop imam ("Mrs. Manley," "Currency Exchange").

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