Turkey Shoot 2005

Fifteen courses you'll be better off skipping at this year's musical overfeed

Duds

BURT BACHARACH
At This Time
(Columbia)

When I ask myself which of the many horrible things about this adoringly promoted "political" record is the very worst, I'm tempted to go for broke and say the arrangements. For in truth, it is difficult to imagine circumstances under which the pop paragon's latest instrumental divertissements would signify. Chris Botti provides a few high points on trumpet—that's right, Chris Botti, high points, canceled out and then some by the anonymous saxophone soloist, who sounds to my unschooled ears like a moonlighting Kenny G. Then there are the weak yet obtrusive beats hired out to such humanitarians as Kon Artis and Dr. Dre. Rufus Wainwright doesn't really believe "Love's the answer like I said before/It's the one thing needed maybe now even more," Elvis Costello maintains a suspicious distance from "Who Are These People?" before belting it with equally suspicious enthusiasm, and both outsing—by a lot—John Pagano (?), Josie James (?), and Donna Taylor (?), who in turn outsing—by a whole lot—chief vocalist Bacharach. Who are these people? C MINUS

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BARLOW GIRL
Another Journal Entry
(Fervent/Curb)

These three Christian sisters from Illinois specialize in arena-emo love songs to that perfect Guy, who unlike so many guys forgives them when they fail Him. One exception, if I'm not mistaken—and I may be, Christian code is a motherfucker—is "5 Minutes of Fame," apparently a message song for the "secondary virginity" movement. Not that they're in need of the secondary kind themselves—they're lucky if "maybe I gave in more than I should" (for "popularity") recalls anything heavier than a copped feel. Here's hoping they meet Sufjan Stevens at prayer meeting. C MINUS


BACKSTREET BOYS
Never Gone
(Jive)

Lest you doubted it, this is grotesque, and not just because stardom ruined Nick Carter like so many young people before him. It's more that nobody loves a man group. Blue-balled yearning becomes AJ-said-you-swallowed whining, which wasn't the formal challenge their Swedish Svengalis signed on for. Maybe they could learn their instruments and call themselves a man band, which rhymes. An album of Four Lads covers is also a thought. C


BORIS WITH MERZBOW
Sun Baked Snow Cave
(Hydra Head)

Only innocent doomsayers willing to call someone plucking a guitar every few seconds for 12 minutes a "solo" will get to minute 38, when Merzbow makes some interesting noises that in just a few precious moments decay, like everything in this universe of pain, boredom, and surplus value. But be of good cheer. For verily, if a band named after a Melvins song thinks the world is coming to an end, it almost certainly isn't. D PLUS


THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE
Tepid Peppermint Wonderland: A Retrospective
(Tee Pee)

Touted by the Dandy Warhols in the impressive Dig, Anton Newcombe gets a no doubt small, no doubt excessive cash advance to prove his genius with 38 songs the world passed on the first time. The world was right, and will be right again every time Newcombe revives. His recombined riffs rarely break the shambolic surface, and whenever two consecutive lines of lyric grab and hold, they complain. The Dandy Warhols' drones have some pull to them, their hooks some sock. They're funny, too. They overrate Newcombe because they do with panache and professionalism what he does with heroin and lies, and feel guilty about it. C PLUS


KELLY CLARKSON
Breakaway
(RCA)

Unlike young Hilary Duff, 23-year-old Clarkson feels the responsibilities of stardom, which demand melodramatic overkill. The doctors give her stronger pills than, say, Clay Aiken—the prefab kissoff of "Walk Away," the new wave heartbreak of "Since U Been Gone," "Because of You" may just describe an occurrence, here's the verb "implode," and "There's no light at the end of the tunnel/Just a bridge that I gotta burn" could hold up its end of a bargain. None of these survives Clarkson's larger-than-life ambitions or compressed-to-oppress production regimen. But she may have a heart, and it may end up in the right place. B MINUS


FALL OUT BOY
From Under the Cork Tree
(Island)

Stuck between pretentious young purists who believe catchy love songs betray their hardcore heritage and eager younger fans who believe catchy love songs fulfill their teenthrob destiny, these Warped Tour cover boys aren't terrible, but are they ever ordinary. Only their record company would claim that emotional vocals, dramatic dynamics, poppy-punky tempos, and not actually all that catchy tunes add up to "their own sound." They have some talent, they're cute, and they work hard. Thus they get to pretend that "Douse yourself in cheap perfume it's/So fitting of the way you are" is a lyric for the ages, a/k/a next week. C PLUS


SEU JORGE
Cru
(Wrasse)

There's a reason rhythm—and not the subtle stuff: beats stated and elaborated, on percussion instruments per se or string and electronic instruments deployed percussively—looms so large for us in the music of darker-skinned foreigners who don't sing in English. Romance of the primitive not required—rhythm is where the music is, and the meaning. For non-Lusophones, this brave Brazilian favelado—who has a record out here because he's a beguiling musical presence in the minor The Life Aquatic, not because he's a commanding dramatic presence in the major City of God—is selling timbre even when he sings an Elvis trifle in the original Leiber, and timbre isn't enough. The one keeper is a Serge Gainsbourg trifle consisting of proper names and the word "suicide." And it too needs its rhythm track. B MINUS

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