By Gili Malinsky
By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
Devils and Dust
Springsteen the superstar's one-man-band album is less engaging musically than Malkmus the cult artist's, but more engaging artistically, because for all his overreliance on dramatic drawls, Southwestern locales, and mother love, Springsteen has stories to tell. I dearly hope the two kids in "Long Time Comin' " 's sleeping bag are off with their parents on a cheap but restorative vacationthat would be so much less a commonplace than on the road. But I'm not so curious I'm tempted to boot up the explanatory DVD on the other side of the superstar's DualDisc. A MINUS
Talk in Circles
(Sympathy for the Record Industry)
The new generation of cute punkoid bands are committed minimalists, like when these kids from Anaheim put nine songs on their 22-minute debut whatzit. But they're also ambitious, a winning quality in a cute punkoid band. You can tell because these 20 songs last over an hour. Yet they still sound rushed and excitedif a lyric is unfinished it's obviously because they couldn't wait to get to the next one, and when they slow down they're just catching their breath. In its cute punkoid way, a major statement. A MINUS
Dud of the Month
Songs About Me
Adkins is one of these guys who spends so much time in the weight room that his arms don't hang plumb from his shoulders. In the rear view thoughtfully provided his female fans in the booklet, only his ponytail and his cowboy hat distinguish him from the Incredible Hulk. You'd never confuse him with the similarly named Clay Aiken, a much wimpier guy, and not just in the deltsAdkins's baritone sounds like it emanates from the Mammoth Cave. But in the most essential matter you'd be dead wrong. Track record notwithstanding, the ex-gospel singer is every bit as much a calculated corporate creation as the duly elected idol. The 11 songs on this No. 1 country, No. 11 pop album were written by 23 songwriters, only one of whom has his name on even two. The most far-fetched is "Arlington," in which Dave Turnbull vouchsafes the patriotic thoughts of a dead soldierto be specific, the first Tennesseean to die in our current Iraq warto former DUI Adkins. Needless to say, the artist suffers no anxieties over exactly why any of these songs he didn't write is "about me." These are "songs I've been waiting to record for my entire career." Especially "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk." C
Additional Consumer News
(Ten Fingers/Dim Mak)
The demure femme-punk sexpot trick ("Shut Up and Kiss Me," "Matthew Modine").
THE MOUNTAIN GOATS
The Sunset Tree
Is it that he knows less about himself than he does about the world, or that he won't reveal it? ("Dance Music," "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod?").
Crooked Rain Crooked Rain: LA's Desert Origins
You have to care even more than I do to sort this expanded edition out, but you won't turn it off ("Unseen Power of the Picket Fence," "Fucking Righteous").
"You do it do it do it do it just let go" ("Johnny Met June," "You're the Man").
Few of the best moments belong to the main attraction, who's not as wise as they tell him he is ("It's Your World [Part 1 & 2]," "The Food [Live]").
THE ROBERT CRAY BAND
"I wanna see you burn all the way down/I wanna see your ashes all over the ground" ("My Last Regret," "Twenty").
Blame the Vain
Sounds older, and the infirmity becomes him ("Blame the Vain," "Three Good Reasons").
Time Is Running Out
(Peanuts & Corn)
McEnroe supercrew a tad too long on Pipi Skid's whiteboy groan ("Frail Dale," "Ex-Girl").
(World Music Network)
Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
Noised these up because he's nervous about them ("Arc of Time," "Hit the Switch").
A Star Is Born
(All I Do)
Kanye homeboy proves who his friends are by rapping all over their mixtape ("All They Do Is Dis," "Devil's Pie").
NORTH AFRICAN GROOVE
Marvel mildly yet again at the sonic variety of criminality ("What You Know About . . . ," "Back Then").
"MVU (Final Act)," "Yes, I Do Love Them Ho's!"
(Itstrumental, Female Fun)
BRIGHT EYES/NEVA DINOVA
One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels
(Sympathy for the Record Industry)
ROBERT PLANT AND THE STRANGE SENSATION