We Got A Lot

Kvelling over damn near a dozen meanings of life, their average length close to an hour

Pick Hits

A Foreign Sound

The model isn't Rod Stewart except insofar as "Maggie May" would fit on a U.K.-themed follow-up. It's the Willie Nelson of Stardust—songwriting adept as stealth interpreter. Where the Music Row grad reduced verse-chorus-verse chestnuts to chorus-chorus singalongs, the tropicalia intellectual deconstructs American composition. Jaques Morelenbaum is a salty Nelson Riddle, many arrangements highlight rhythm, and some are surprisingly stark. Tackled are two Porters, two Gershwins, two Berlins, two Rodgers, six other standards, and eight rock-era songs of dumbfounding variety. Dylan, Cobain, Byrne, and Wonder we're ready for. Maybe "Love Me Tender." But Paul Anka's "Diana"? Morris Albert's "Feelings"? Plus all 1:30 of DNA's disruptive "Detached," with Arto Lindsay's flailings arranged for symphony orchestra? Flops include Wonder's oddly tuneless "If It's Magic" and the irreparable "Feelings"—only it turns out Albert was from Brazil, and anyway, "Feelings" is followed hard on by an a cappella reading of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" that indicts all romantic pop except Porter's "So in Love." A MINUS

America's Sweetheart

Her celebrity on steroids and her voice in shreds, a drug-abusing unfit mother charms, fucks, or buffalos her way into some old-fashioned major-label money, commits commercial compromise on demand, and delivers an album as invigorating in its contempt for rock professionalism as Neil Young's Tonight's the Night. If the little girls barely know who she is, good—a lifestyle irresponsibly seductive in a powerful person like Keith Richards is only pitiably misguided in this has-been waiting to happen. But she's right about one thing. The world does owe her a living. A MINUS

Cee-Lo Green . . . Is the Soul Machine Arista

The intro, where he refuses to start until he's done chuckling over the failure of his baby boy to pronounce "soul machine," sums up a guy neither as humble nor as special as he thinks. Half God's gift to hip-hop, half man of the people, he never quite puts all his good tracks together or across. These include trademarked Timbaland and Ludacris collabs, love song and friend song and antigangsta rave, the one at the beginning where he wishes he "could write one song to right all wrongs" (which who wouldn't?) and the one at the end where he swears he'll "die trying" to do just that (which he won't). B PLUS


I love it when we make mistakes/Because once again it gives me a reason to complain," this not very Southern-fried ATL r&b singer-songwriter-guitarist begins one song. After all, he's no love man: "Words without hate/Would leave me nothing left to say." In short, although Hunt's heaven-and-hell split may give his falsetto a devilish cast, it isn't just a fancy excuse for dogging around. It helps him think. In "Seconds of Pleasure," for instance, he finds a dozen meanings of life without mentioning sex once—even if an orgasm gave him the idea. B PLUS

Universal import

More trumpet electronica from Norway, cold as solid ether, but organic unto spring like frost rather than air-conditioned unto laryngitis like a mainframe room. It's cool like itself rather than cool like Miles—true chill-out music. Now he should tell us just what sea the guys on the cover are entering with no clothes on, and when. A MINUS

Caught the Blast
Fat Cat import

Three Minneapolis malcontents despair messily and catchily about the Balkans, the Holocaust, crime for crime's sake, and everything else that robbed them of their youth. Their guitar-bass-drums is punk only by historical association—incompetents or not, they have bigger (OK, looser) ideas about tempo, rhythm, and form. But like so many lo-fi note-missers of enduring social value, they're winningly enthusiastic about their own negativity. As their Iraqi spokesman puts it: "We got desert and we got sand/We got acres of useless land/We got something that you ain't got/We got rage and we got a lot." A MINUS

To Force a Fate

Not a nice girl, Elizabeth Elmore. Not a girl at all—very much a woman, a driven one. Unsparing of her own faults, which she describes with acuity and sets to tunes that make them sound normal in an attractive way. If she betrays an artistic flaw as her second band grows, it's that her accomplished singing doesn't quite deliver her excellent lyrics. Maybe deep down she wants to reveal herself yet not reveal herself. In any case, love is a problem, and she's no longer claiming it's the guy's fault—except for the one who hits her (she got that right) and a boyfriend's buddy who won't come through on his come-on (she got that wrong and half knows it). A true rock miniaturist, loyal to her friends and in need of a week's sleep. A MINUS

World Music Network import

Sequenced with the series' usual disdain for consistency, it sticks an interpreter of the lost poetry of al-Andalus after a wild traditional chant, Casablanca rappers who scream "Donnez moi les papiers!" after an exiled cantor who applies his countertenor to a suppressed Sephardic melody. Yet throughout a multiplicity of related styles, tunes are similarly minimal and textures share a spareness—only when New Yorker Hassan Hakmoun comes on do the sonics cream up a little. And even with time out for a few recitations, it never jumps the track of its Berber-plus-Gnawa drive. A MINUS

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