By Brian McManus
By Hilary Hughes
By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
I missed these guystoo smooth and insufficiently rock, I guess. That was deaf. In this distillation, Smooth's rapping rivals Rakim's, and Rock is an all-time DJ. Credited samples are few, but the music's pure rhythmic pleasure returns us to those thrilling days of yesteryear before property rights trumped art: as dense with borrowed, distressed, and performed elements as the Bomb Squad's sometimes, only flowing rather than explosive. Smooth recalls a wiser time as well: conscious not self-righteous, ghetto not thug. A MINUS
THE VULGAR BOATMEN
Between their flat rhythms and their undemonstrative vocals, this long-running hobby band have to hit it just right to hit it at all, which on this retrospective happens most of the time: if not sweet tunes, then sharp lines or even driving grooves. So cannily generalized they make the polite romantic disconnections of academia stand in for those of all white middle-class America, their songs sound like what Ricky Nelson might have sung if he'd grown up to be a manager in the conglomerate that bought the Emporium rather than the wastrel who pursued a musical career. A MINUS
Dud of the Month
The subject of a painstakingly hedged 2003 John Seabrook profile in The New Yorker, she's a teenage Whitney-Celine-Mariah wannabe who's more fun than Hilary Duff and less fun than Ashlee Simpson. Two and a half years and several million bucks in the marketing, her debut album failed to chart after its modest dance hit skyrocketed all the way to 99 on the Billboard Hot 100. In principle, this is an ideal time for an American idol who is both French andooh la laJewish. But her flop feels like a victory nonetheless. C
Additional Consumer News
Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
SAUCY CALYPSOS VOLUME ONE
Trinidadians and their filthy sex habits risk Jah's wrath (Lord Canary, "Dr. Beckles Clinic [Tent]"; Mighty Sparrow, "60 Million Frenchmen").
NEW YORK DOLLS
Live From Royal Festival Hall, 2004
They haven't slowed down, the world's speeded up, but though it's good they're more together, it's bad they're more dead ("Human Being," "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory/Lonely Planet Boy").
ENJOY EVERY SANDWICH: THE SONGS OF WARREN ZEVON
Taking leftism popthat one's tough to pull off ("Viz," "I'm So Excited").
Pretty battles evil in the service of kind ("The Dress Looks Nice on You," "In the Devil's Territory").
The Grey Album
It's tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that's right on timeit's tricky, tricky, tricky, tricky ("99 Problems," "Change Clothes").
Greatest Hits: My Prerogative
Her heart, her soul, her aesthetic maturation ("Oops . . . I Did It Again," " . . . Baby One More Time").
Twice removed, Adele Bertei contorts herself ("Wild Winter," "Way Gone Man").
LIF UP YUH LEG AN TRAMPLE
(Honest Jon's import)
The real Avril Lavigne ("Autobiography," "Lala").
The juice and talent to make their retro happen without the brains or vision to run with it ("Rollover D.J.," "Look What You've Done").
Confidence, languor, fatiguehaving established all three, they average them and say goodbye ("Speedbumps," "Astronaut").
Next stop, matrimonyeither that or their own line of porn flicks ("It's So Hard," "It Takes One to Know One").
(Putumayo World Music)
Ethnotechno from the ethno side (Badenya Les Frères Coulibaye, "Boroto"; Madeka, "Mokoto").
Introducing Shiyani Ngcobo
(World Music Network import)
A generation late, South Africa gets its postcolonial neotraditionalist ("Isothothobala," "Yekanini").
(Has Been, Shout! Factory)
STUART RUSH & THE GENIUSES
"When the Words Won't Come"
(Accept No Substitutes, Winged Flight)
(The Five Mod Four/The Wrens, Split CD, Contraphonic)
"Goin' Away Party"
COHEED AND CAMBRIA
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3
IRON & WINE
Our Endless Numbered Days