Not Hop, Stomp

AIMEE MANN
Lost in Space
(SuperEgo)
I've never understood this ice queen thing myself. What's the big thrill—getting to see them bite their lip when they come? All I know is this poster girl for the DIY fallacy is still the ultimate NPR middlebrow, addressing disillusioned love songs to the biz the way Christians address illusioned ones to the Lord Jesus. For her fans, the news is that she's invested her profits in studio musicians. Takes talent to make that more boring than solo acoustic, no? C PLUS

PAUL MCCARTNEY
Back in the U.S.
(Capitol)
The broad arena-rock of expert nonentities robs the Beatle songs that jam this tour merch of all quirk and precision. Yet the Beatle songs still dwarf the proofs of his solo existence, which get lamer as he gets older. Either way his relentless smiley smile cloys on contact. And when he whips up some now-the-fellas now-the-ladies on "Hey Jude," it is to cringe with dismay at the survival of a generation. D

TIM MCGRAW
Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors
(Warner Bros.)
Unlike his wife Faith, McGraw committed no egregious sonic offenses on his way to the top of the country charts, and given the kneejerk disdain Middle America elicits from my bicoastal cohort, I'd as soon leave him alone. But in a nation polarized far more cynically and effectively by the ruling class than the shallowest alt ideologue could dream, he has to be called on his love song to a Lady Liberty whose America includes no urban places, on his imperialist assumption that Mexico is for runaway spouses ha ha, even on his domestic bedrock, as if that's as socially responsible as rugged individualism need be. And then there's the matter of "Who Are They," which goes so far as to blame "safe sex" and the replacement of "what the hell" by "what the heck" (I swear) on the owners of this newspaper (honest, named as such), called "funny boys" when he means "faggots" because "They" so decree. Fuck that. I don't much like how David Schneiderman treats unions, but I'm here to tell Timbo that my boss is a better family man than any damn country roadhog. "I wonder if They like to fight," muses Timbo on his way to finding out where "They" live. Me, I use my words. If any Nashville thug lays a hand on me, I'll sue him within 50 cents of his ignorant life. C PLUS

TOM PETTY | HEARTBREAKERS
The Last DJ
(Warner Bros.)
The guy who once revealed on national television that rock and roll died with Buddy Holly steps up and confronts the key social issues of the day: radio, stardom, and record executives, plus don't forget teen violence, child abuse, and satyriasis. His hero "don't want to change/what don't need to change," and fuck you if your needs are different. Does Petty have the tunes? Sure, he always has the tunes. Does he whine them in that weird, self-pitying child-drawl? Sure, he regresses every time out. So which would I rather hear, catchy good-guy cant or a Clear Channel jock hyping some mythical Svengalified "angel whore who could learn a guitar lick"? More angel whores, please. Hell, I'll even take an angel. C PLUS

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
By the Way
(Warner Bros.)
How desperate rock scribes are for shows of quality by bands of any remaining commercial clout. This piece of let's-slow-it-down-a-little isn't terrible unless you're expecting thee funk, but though it was greeted with hosannas in a slow news month, it's certainly a turn or two slacker than Californication. When you're an energy band, wisdom don't make much nevermind. But melodies, harmonies, and so forth are supposed to drag some spiritual stuff along with them. It's not enough for Anthony Keidis to get all mature—he's supposed to say something interesting about maturity. And he's never had thing one to say about anything else. B MINUS

SIGUR RÓS
()
(MCA)
?_;@$.is C

TENACIOUS D
(Epic)
Of course Jack Black makes me laugh sometimes. He's got serious comic gifts. But the meanness of his joke band proves how much easier it is to act a role than inhabit a persona. I can imagine him playing a sympathetic character in a movie somebody else scripted. But I can't imagine him writing a song I cared about, even as a laugh, because he treats music the way his songs treat women—as a means to an end. What end, though? Getting laid is a snap, after all. Maybe just believing his life means a damn thing. C PLUS

WEEZER
Maladroit
(Geffen)
Down from 48 percent to 35 at amiannoying.com, not because they're less annoying but because they're less successful. Annoying they remain, and not, annoying webmaster, because they gigged as Goat Punishment or—who cares?—lost their bass player to the Rentals. They're annoying because Rivers Cuomo is the punk Tom Scholz—a solitary genius in love with big and precise. In Boston's arena-rock, this made sense even though it was annoying. In Weezer's arena-punk (slightly more arena on this outing, and less annoying as a result), it totally misses the point, which from the Ramones to the Libertines has been to achieve concision and economy while just barely remaining erect. Onstage, that is. How Cuomo has comported himself in other areas of endeavor I haven't a clue. B MINUS

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