By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
California Clam Chowder
Not as peaky as beautiful fuckup Bob Forrest's Bicycle Thief comeback five years ago. If the brief "The Germs Song" is ugly and chaotic and the briefer "The Beck Song" disses the post-folkie and his haircut, titles like "The Bob Dylan Song" and "The Iggy Stooge Song" are less evocative than implied. As for "The Elton John Song"well, Elton should cover it, because Forrest needs the money. Throughout this out-of-nowhere record, he and his relaxed band ride an emotional openness and tuneful ease that some pop schemer should convert into accounts receivable. Forrest is glad to be alive because staying that way has been kind of hard. The loveliest of his many lovely moments reaches out in near-tears solidarity to a sad, sexy, solitary salesclerk who wasn't so lucky. Why it's called "The Big Star Song" I don't know or care. A MINUS
Dud of the Month
The two opera selections signify one thing, and it's not that those voice lessons have finally paid off. It's that more even than Randy Newman or Tom Waits (or Sting), this likable Manhattan progressive conceives himself as a performer of artsongs. As a writer of same he has his moments. Somebody somewhere could do justice to the absurdly abject "Glad" or the smarmily rationalized "Empire" or "She Only Sleeps," the love tribute of a sex worker's boyfriend. Byrne cannot. His voice devoid of Newman-Waits grit, his eclecticism even and controlled where theirs bristles with jokes, oddity, and gusto, how does he expect to connect with anyone but other likable progressives, and rather detached and inscrutable ones at that? The guy's been championing the ordinary since More Songs About Buildings and Food. But he makes such a point of approaching it from the outside you have to wonder whether as far as he's concerned that isn't just more exoticism, which for him is the only thing that comes naturally. C PLUS
Additional Consumer News
THE ROUGH GUIDE TO AFRICAN RAP
There are beats and then there are beats, and these are most exciting at their most recent and most American (Kala-mashaka, "Ni Wakati"; Pee Froiss, "Djalgaty").
Make Yr Life
They love pussy and all it implies ("Send Me You," "Make Yr Life").
Billy Eckstine masterminds an all-star combo and nobody shows off, especially Billy ("Speak Low," "Satin Doll").
A career's worth of demotic artsong bedecked with occasional guitar-piano and a whole lotta Antony falsetto ("Smalltown," "Street Hassle")
Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?
Formerly high on triumph, now determined to prevail ("Everyone Alive," "California Songs")
The Curse of Blondie
Believes in reincarnation, wishes the pope had a bigger dick ("Shakedown," "End to End")
Trombone learns Sahel ("Bamako," "Johanna").
Songs by Love and the Minutemen, atmospheres by the band ("Corona," "Alone Again Or")
Feast of Wire
Latin Playboys as conceived by an Anglotoo artistic, genuinely literary, lyrical enough to haunt you some ("Sunken Waltz," "Black Heart")
THE HOLD STEADY
Almost Killed Me
Craig Finn lifts and pulls more cruddy details from his intimacy with crystal meth and his consuming desire to rhyme Nina Simone with Neil Schon ("Killer Parties," "Sweet Payne").
The Kate Bush of PJ Harvey ("Into My Blood," "Lacuna")
Comin' From Where I'm From
The devil is in the detailsalso the angel ("Lucille," "Charlene").
Iceland National Park
(Trust Me import)
Naked islanders sing their savage songs ("I'll Make You Come," "Broko").
"Henry's Boogie," "Jump" to the Rhythm"
"Little Electric Chair"
"Be Better Than Me"
(Grand Hustle/ Atlantic)
"Big Old Oak Table"
Everything Seemed Alright
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
Indestructible Object (Barsuk)
"God Won't Bless America Again," "Fight the War Again"
God Won't Bless America
COMPILASIAN: THE WORLD OF INDIPOP
Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell
Wheel of Fortune
Beg for Mercy
Everyone Loves a Winner
(One Little Indian)
PHILLIPS & DRIVER
Get the Picture?
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS
No Holding Back