The Prelude


THE ROUGH GUIDE TO RAÏ
(World Music Network import)
Although I could easily manufacture Islamic dynamite (secular, true, but so's Saddam) from my own store of cunningly concealed materials (if the inspectors don't spy the chaba between the Faces and Donald Fagen, am I really obliged to point her out?), I've never heard a rai compilation that made me want to party till I puked. Ben Omar Rachid's hard-to-find Tunisian Oujda-Casablanca Introspections still comes closest, but for something more representative this will have to do. It flattens when you want it to rev, decelerates awkwardly for godmother Cheikha Remitti, and kisses Cheb Mami's pert ass. But its highlights include an intense opener from cross-dressing Abdou, desert romance from the murdered Cheb Hasni, and Cheb Zahouani's "Moul El Bar," "The Barman" to you, about partying till you puke. A MINUS


RACHID TAHA
Live
(Mondo Melodia)
Brussels is already rocking when the cocky little French-Algerian embarks on a greatest hits selection from Made on Medina, my choice for hard rock album of 2001, though that Linkin Park joint gave it a run and sold more copies to boot. Sandwiched around the Berber-sounding chant "Bent Sahra," four songs climax with the onomatopoeic "Foqt Foqt" before slowing down a little into the midtempo "Ala Jalkoum," here differentiated with a Femi Kuti cameo. Seems like cheating, reprising all that Made in Medina. Only this album rocks even harder. A MINUS


ANDREW W.K.
I Get Wet
(Island)
It's simple enough once you accept it for what it is, which is as hard as the music is simple (and hard). It's a Ramones album for an era when "Blitzkrieg Bop" is on the Shea p.a. and professional wrestling is on drugs. It's a Gary Glitter/Kiss/Quiet Riot album with no lyrical lapses, tempo shifts, self-expression, or other concessions to human fallibility. The songs don't all sound the same because if they did the thing would be perfect. And it isn't. A MINUS

PICK HIT

MR. LIF
I Phantom
(Definitive Jux)
I've long suspected that a musically pleasurable album would betray everything the misanthropes at Def Jux stood for—their principles, their vision, their neuroses. But all it took was a normal rapper, which Mr. Lif is—for a rapper, abnormally so. However autobiographical this song cycle, which begins with a stickup and ends with a nuclear holocaust, it evinces not only conceptual ambition but detailed knowledge of what it's like to work a job and raise a family. It's underpinned by an analysis more Boots Riley than Talib Kweli or Steve Earle. And it fleshes out its cohesive narrative and cogent ideas with beats that respect the spare antipop ethos without abjuring such wayward rhythm elements as femme chorus, bass-drum-whoop jam, and $20 synth loop. A

PICK HIT

TRANSPLANTS
(Hellcat)
Power passion speed—there can't be any new way to configure those old saws around guitar-bass-drums, can there? Only then there is. Hardcore punk and hardcore ska join mook metal, hip hop criminal-mindedness, and the occasional rap element to form a music whose intense focus is absolutely punk and just about unprecedented. Rancid guitarist Tim Armstrong and Blink-182 drummer Travis Berker are the masterminds, previously unrecorded hanger-on Rob Aston the singer who added lyrics and meaning. Aston sounds like the young Shane MacGowan and writes as both a drug-dealing scumbag and a street person on a mission. He could be either, or both. He could have juiced a memorable one-off or a definitive classic. A

Dud of the Month

DOVES
The Last Broadcast
(Capitol)
I don't have the stomach to go check my Toto and Journey records; in fact, I don't have my Toto and Journey records. But the burden of proof is on the perp. Technically proficient, melodically resourceful, sonically up-to-date—Toto and Journey were all that. They also rocked moderato and sang as if thoughtfully plumbing their Caucasian feelings. Admittedly, the Brits' squarer sense of form boxes their corn up more discreetly, and their reassuring lyrical generalizations address matters of the spirit more than affairs of the heart. Also, they're not yet huge here, which means so much to young people seeking identities they don't have to share like Legos, although older people pining for their pop youth would just as soon they turn into the Beatles (sigh). Nevertheless, this is as vapid as it is expert, and if it ever does get huge here, a lot of slightly older people are going to wonder what they were thinking. B MINUS

Additional Consumer News

HONORABLE MENTION: Frank Black and the Catholics, Devil's Workshop (SpinArt): makes writing short catchy postpunk songs seem so easy—maybe too easy, considering how hard the longer ones come ("Velvety," "Whiskey in Your Shoes"); the Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Warner Bros.): the good-versus-evil of dreams ("Fight Test," "Do You Realize??"); The High & Mighty Present: Eastern Conference All Stars III (Eastern Conference): ill for its own antisocial, tortured, sexist, barely profitable sake (Cage, "Ballad of Worms"; High & Mighty & Eminem, "Last Hit [Original]"); Nas, God's Son (Columbia): confessions of a mama's boy, tales of a hustler, lies of a mortal man ("Book of Rhymes," "Get Down"); AZ, Aziatic (Motown): the Nas sidekick's name rhymes with ***-*, and he makes the most of it ("Once Again," "A-1 Performance"); Raï Superstars (Mondo Melodia): except for Cheikha Remitti, recorded in the shade of a nearby camel, the cosmopolitan, Francophile article (Cheb Nadir, "Rani Rya"; Cheikha Remitti, "Rani Alla M'Rida"; Noria, "Quin Rak Tergoud"); Khaled, Ya Taleb (Mondo Melodia): these daftly annotated old odds and sods could so easily be Les Meilleurs, and ain't ("Ya El Mima," "Ana Bia Taxi"); Xzibit, Man Vs (Columbia): he got a right to brag da beats ("Release Date," "Enemies"); Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head (Capitol): let Green Eyes dump him for real and we'll see how long he hums in the void ("Green Eyes," "In My Place"); Jay-Z, The Blueprint 2 (Roc-A-Fella): anyone who samples Paul Anka when he wanted Frank is no longer Jehovah and will never be the Chairman of the Board ("U Don't Know [Remix]," "Poppin' Tags"); Scarface, The Fix (Def Jam South): cocaine slanger as around-the-way G—paranoid, self-righteous, public-spirited, so downhome ("Safe," "On My Block").

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