By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
CHEB I SABBAH
(Six Degrees, 602 20th Street, San Francisco CA 94107)
Although Bill Laswell is only a bass player on this conceptual compilation, which adds beats to female singers in a panoply of Maghreb traditions, it partakes of Laswell's long-established commitment to celebrating Islamic difference as a strength us guys should respect and draw on. Algerian-born, San Francisco-based dance DJ Sabbah is so skillful, so imbued with rhythm in general and these rhythms in particular, that exotic-in-the-Maghreb underlays from jazz, reggae, and the clubs sound chosen and organic. Well before 9/11, Laswell understood better than most of us that such fusions were a pleasure and a necessity. Now they're also a solace. A MINUS
From Lil Jon to Thom Yorke, pop supports many cooler celebrities than Jack White, and though returning primitivism to the hit parade was a neat trick, his aesthetic ideas are as limited as Meg's drum technique. So rather than carp about his failure to lead us to salvation, perhaps we should content ourselves with the hit parade. White's commercial success has nothing to do with de Stijl or da bloozejust a strong, emotive voice delivering simple yet distinctive songs, which are fairly numerous here. "My Doorbell," for instance, finds a fresh route to the abandonment theme and adds a little twist when his friends stop buzzing too. "Take, Take, Take" is that difficult thing, a smart song about what a drag fans are. You may prefer others, that's part of the charm. And when he sticks to electric guitar he still rocks plenty. A MINUS
Just as jungle tended toward soundtrack music for B thrillers in exotic locales, chill-out tends toward waiting-room music for plastic surgeons who really want you to order that butt implant. Where once these Norwegians were extolled for their subtle melodicism, here their schlock candidly attacks the jugular. If they're Air, Goldie was Tricky. C PLUS
One difference from Gram & Emmylou is they both write the songs ("Two Different Things," "Please Break My Heart").
Ex-con, not gangsta ("Trouble Nobody," "Locked Up").
(Escondida, 150 Lafayette Street Suite 11R, NYC 10013)
Just like one of those dancehall comps named after a beat, which in this case goes surprisingly far but no further (Panjabi MC, "Jogi"; DJ Gem, "Kank Di Rakhi").
That's New Zealander Jonathan Bree, not Jonathan Richman, and his sweetie pie Heather-not-Katherine Mansfield ("Mars Love Venus," "Beautiful Militant").
THE BLACK EYED PEAS
What all pop might beso much brighter and kinder than it is ("Pump It," "Don't Phunk With My Heart").
The intelligent black woman, from helpmate to party girl ("Woman to Woman," "One More Drink").
"You wanna hear me sing straight, buy an ablium" ("Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes/Pennies From Heaven [Bourbon]/Hello, Dolly [Vegas]," "Monologue").
With Yo La Tengo and wide-ranging covers, and loosened by both inputs ("Venus," "Compared to What").
(Finger, 18092 Sky Park Circle South Unit A, Irvine CA 92614)
Lapsed Cracker after "before the great decline" ("Friends," "Beauregarde's Retreat").
She can't be saying "greatest tits"she's just too thin ("Chewing Gum," "Greatest Hit").
Nine songs per disc, evenly divided good-dull-OK, only the first dische's full of surprisesis stronger ("Easy Plateau," "Beautiful Sorta").
The Modern Sounds of the Knitters
These days folk-country is exactly their speed ("The New Call of the Wreckin' Ball," "Skin Deep Town").
Concert EP with humanly interactive groove, hubba hubba, and less twee than Tortoise it certainly is ("Nocturnes," "Une Nuit à Ciel Ouvert").
Sinéad O'CONNOR WITH THE BLOCKHEADS
"Wake Up and Make Love With Me"
BOMB THE BASS FEATURING Sinéad O'CONNOR & BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH
(Travels in the South, Yep Roc)
In the Clear
Before the Dawn Heals Us