Turkey Shoot 2003

Putatively musical sounds from hunger, for the fan of the future in a very disastrous year

AFRO CELTS
Seed
(Real World)

Another U.K. band Americans don't need—musically, we're all Afrocelts, and uilleann pipes have nothing to do with it. Not that they have much to do with this oleaginous fusion unit, where a predictable surfeit of Celts—or at least white people, given headman Simon Emmerson's highly Anglo-Saxon surname—have long favored electronics and such pan-world signifiers as bouzouki, tabla, and flamenco guitar. Right, the aim is spiritual deep down—a way for Wiccans who only go to church on Halloween to get in touch with their inner shamans. So two Africans beat their "tribal drums," as one admiring review ID'd them, while Emmerson and a late Pogue and a formerly Gaelic-only vocalist position themselves alongside a kora player whose hometown in Guinea has been electrified by a portion of their earnings. Next they should chip in some samplers. Music may come of this yet. C MINUS


CLAY AIKEN
Measure of a Man
(RCA)

Thank "God, the Alpha" and "Jesus Christ, the Omega." Also Clive Davis, the Phi Beta Kappa. Plus several people named Simon. After whom come Chris Braide, Danielle Brisebois, Gary Burr, Andreas Carlsson, Jess Cates, Desmond Child, Cathy Dennis, Kara Dioguardi, David Eriksen, Jeff Franzel, Pete Gordeno, Jimmy Harry, Darren Hayes, Wayne Hector, Enrique Iglesias, Ty Lacy, Dennis Matkosky, Steve Morales, Aldo Nova, Rick Nowels, Lindy Robbins, David Siegel, Shep Solomon, and Reed Vertelney, who among them somehow managed to write all of this would-be idol's 12 songs. D


ASHANTI
Chapter II
(Murder Inc.)

Thug moll no more, Ashanti posits the musical question, "Why do gangsta boys go out with candy-pop girls?" Beyond some Mary moves and her sample-ready "awww baby," the sole outright attraction of her pathologically modest follow-up is "Then Ya Gone," which turns out to be about lovers dying rather than lovers leaving—although at Murder Inc., leaving is all they do, right? C


RY COODER/MANUEL GALBÁN
Mambo Sinuendo
(Nonesuch/Perro Verde)

Before deciding whether you really want the new Ry Cooder album, try an easier question—do you really want the new Manuel Galbán album? That is, the solo debut (well, duo debut) by the guitarist-arranger of the "great" (I keep reading but not hearing) old Cuban doowop group Los Zafiros. Unless you're one of those guys who keeps up with Dick Dale, probably not. Which clears up the Ry question without even referencing clunky drummer Joachim Cooder, who should never be allowed to back one of his father's discoveries again for as long as he lives.B MINUS


EVANESCENCE
Fallen
(Wind-Up)

The one and only rock breakthrough of this disastrous year is less dire than you'd think. They're Christians, but goth-metal Christians. I mean they're goth-metal, but goth-metal Christians. I mean they're Christians who told a webzine that "the world is filled with hateful people who parade the name of Christ like a badge that grants them immunity to destroy anyone that disagrees with them," celebrated their megahit debut with Dom Perignon, and were yanked from Bible stores for using bad words in Entertainment Weekly. Their faith, as embodied in Amy Lee's clarion sopralto, lends their goth-metal a palpable sweetness. Now if only it wasn't goth-metal at all. B MINUS


BETH GIBBONS & RUSTIN MAN
Out of Season
(Sanctuary)

No longer deploying dolor for art points, Gibbons takes her aestheticism up an order of difficulty. From tasteful simplicity to dramatic vibrato to cracked slur to Badu-does-Holiday to "water-coloured memories/Soft as a summer breeze" to precision whisper to country-soul sincerity to loose-whisper-gets-busy to frail-drawl-achieves-grandeur to filtered weirdness to total mannered live bollocks of "Candy Says," she and her hands-on arranger achieve whatever dramatic perspective they map out. But to what end? Gibbons's failure to leave the likes of "And I only hear/Only hear the rain" and "Time is but a memory" in her notebook suggests one limitation of her songcraft. But the selling point for her admirers is the deal breaker for me: a hard-earned refinement that by the nature of its ambition claims more universality than it has any right to. B MINUS


JOSH GROBAN
Closer
(143/Reprise)

I prefer this hunky purveyor of semiclassical ear massage to his polar coordinates, John Raitt and Andrea Bocelli—lacking the voice of either, he rarely shows off, and the ease is a relief. But the critique his label treasures comes from an actual consumer analyzing his two previous multiplatinums: "I bought 4 of each. One each to play in my house, my office, my car, and for my portable CD player." The fan of the future! C PLUS


JUNIOR SENIOR
D-D-Don't Don't Stop the Beat
(Chunky Frog/Atlantic)

Between fun and the idea of fun falls the shadow—in a word, self-consciousness. Self-consciousness doesn't stop Fannypack, but these Danes aren't tuned-in enough for stereotype play. It didn't stop the B-52's, ditto, plus the Danes lack Fred, Cindy, Kate, and especially Ricky. If anything, their model is the much simpler and purer KC and the Sunshine Band, who upon direct comparison prove not so simple and hence purer. Pardon my poop. But I'm out of this party. C PLUS

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