Sonic Refuges

Rock and roll could never hip hop like this and vice-versa et cetera, part 400something

(World Village)

These Tuaregs never get loud. Their tempos are deliberate, their sonics indigenous; their percussion comprises a single derbouka drum and some handclaps, and their chants eschew showmanship. Not that they're above reaching out, or marketing—they consciously costume themselves as desert exotics. But rarely has such a compelling electric-guitar band offered less rock and roll release. Even when they're inventing Sahara rap their goal is contained self-sufficiency—a principled nostalgia for the community that has been wrested from them. A MINUS

Manifest Destiny
(Illson Media)

In the mid '90s, before Black Star, Mos Def joined his little brother DCQ and great lost female Ces in this trio, and he's never been more likable—his wisdom is still eager, too untested for the quiet-confidence bit he developed soon enough. DCQ's broader style is downhome in a world where Bed-Stuy is Dixie. Ces is so articulate and direct—a woman speaking as a human, like Lyte at her best—you feel how the indie-rap boys' club must have gotten her down. And the market-ready kung fu of their demos moves with a catchy quickness. A MINUS

Dud of the Month

Leonard Cohen
Dear Heather

Iknow it's hard to get a grip on, kids, but people keep getting older. They don't just reach some inconceivable benchmark—50 or, God, 60—and stop, Old in some absolute sense. The bones, the joints, the genitals, the juices, the delivery systems, and eventually the mind continue to break down, at an unpredictable pace in unpredictable ways. Leonard Cohen has had No Voice since he began recording at 33. But he has more No Voice today, at 70, than he did on Ten New Songs, at 67—the tenderness in his husky whisper of 2001, tenderness the way steak is tender, has dried up in his whispered husk of 2004, rendering his traditional dependence on the female backups who love him more grotesque. Nor does noblesse oblige underlie all the adaptations and settings—Lord Byron, Patti Page, a Quebecois folk song, various dead Canadian poets, himself. Rather they reflect the same diminished inspiration that makes you wonder whether his 9/11 song is enigmatic or merely inconclusive. Not only do I like the guy, I'm Old enough to identify with him. But I doubt I'll ever be Old enough to identify with this. On her deathbed, my 96-year-old mother-in-law was still relying on Willie Nelson's Stardust. That's more like it. B

Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention

Saul Williams

Poet's "industrial punk-hop" picks up big-time with just a little help from Sirj Tankian, Zack de la Rocha, or Bad Brains ("List of Demands," "Talk to Strangers")

Preservation Hall
The Best of the Early Years
Preservation Hall

Roots of the mecca of tourist music, roughly replicating the '20s 40 or 50 years later ("Olympia on Parade," "When the Saints Go Marching In")

Zap Mama
Ancestry in Progress
Luaka Bop/V2

Pygmies and babies sing the African diaspora that is her life ("Whatdidusay?" "Zap Bébés").

Kasey Chambers
Wayward Angel
Warner Bros.

In New South Wales as in Nashville, heart tuggers are hard to get right ("Pony," "Guilty as Sin").

Songs and Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11

Rediscoveries, recontextualizations, redundancies, and new stuff (Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul, "I Am a Patriot"; Zack de la Rocha, "We Want It All")

Afrika Bambaataa and the Millennium of the Gods
Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light
Tommy Boy

Electro party for the party's sake, like back in the day ("Got That Vibe," "Take You Back")

Iris Dement

Her heart cherishes Jesus' memory, but her mind, voice, and soul remain her own ("He Reached Down," "I've Got That Old Time Religion in My Heart").

Gretchen Wilson
Here for the Party

If not a true redneck woman, then an incredible simulation ("The Bed," "Homewrecker")

The Neville Brothers
Walkin' in the Shadow of Life
Back Porch/EMI

Funk meets junk in the real nitty gritty ("Kingdom Come," "Rivers of Babylon").

Medina Green
U-Know the Flex: The Mix Tape Vol. 01
Illson Media

DCQ a/k/a Illson avoids commercial compromise, which he could use (Mos Def, "Beef"; Medina Green, "Crosstown Beef").

Talib Kweli
The Beautiful Struggle

Maybe it's beautiful to mention Sierra Leone and build chart cred on the same record, maybe just impossible ("Around My Way," "Going Hard").

Choice Cuts

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
"That Bucket's Got a Hole in It"
(Shake That Thing, Preservation Hall)

Boots Riley

Jill Sobule
"War Correspondent"
(Tell Us the Truth: The Live Concert Recording, Artemis)

Blaze Foley
"Oval Room," "Springtime in Uganda"
(Oval Room, Lost Art)

Jill Sobule
(Underdog Victorious, Artemis)


Beth Nielsen Chapman
Hymns (BNC)

Queen Latifah
The Dana Owens Album (Universal/A&M)

John Smith
Pinky's Laundromat
(Peanuts & Corn)


Artemis, 130 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10011,; Babygrande, c/o Koch, 2 Tri-Harbor Court, Port Washington NY 11050,; Bar/None, PO Box 1074, Hoboken NJ 07030,; Barsuk, PO Box 22546, Seattle WA 98132,; Fader, 71 West 23rd Street, 13th floor, NYC 10010,; Illson Media,; Jetset, 67 Vestry Street 5C, NYC 10013,; K, PO Box 7154, Olympia WA 98507,; Tommy Boy, 120 Fifth Avenue, 7th floor, NYC 10011,; World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, England,; World Village, c/o Harmonia Mundi, 2037 Granville Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90025,

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