Turkey Shoot 2005

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


RAY LAMONTAGNE
Trouble
(RCA)

I admire LaMontagne, who's had nothing handed to him. But it bodes ill that the Stephen Stills album that moved him to quit his factory job was a '90s one. Just as we live in a world where some radio stations get on Stills's latest, we live in a world where some record buyers suck up folk-rock verities—to which LaMontagne adds nothing but a backstory. Since his admirers bring up Van Morrison, it is my duty to report that he lacks Morrison's voice, poetry, Gaelic soul, and r&b feel—in other words, everything that once made Van worth bringing up. Nothing lasts forever, folk-rock included. C PLUS


NICKEL CREEK
Why Should the Fire Die?
(Sugar Hill)

Of course they're still "really" "newgrass," but mainly they're a prog-pop band accessorizing their chords with mountain sonics. One effuser goes so far as to claim "a younger, better-scrubbed Dave Matthews Band minus the blowhardiness, a rootsier Ryan Cabrera," while a tradder fellow adduces Bill Evans and Debussy. For some of us, unfortunately, all those loose-lipped compliments are negatives-- Kind of Blue aside, we don't even like Bill Evans. Nor would I advise any three prodigies to reduce a James Joyce story to 54 words and rather more notes. The young-prodigy-tries-to-love title tune is a winning exception, and "Doubting Thomas" intimates spiritual struggles that arouse one's curiosity. But like most schmoograssers they're committed to virtuosity for its own sake, and like most young musos they've been too focused on technique to learn much about how music interacts with life. C PLUS


MATT POND PA
Several Arrows Later
(Altitude)

With pleasant tune and steady groove standing in for pellucid prose, Pond's songs are the alt-rock equivalent of what used to be called New Yorker short stories: subtly realized domestic epiphanies often involving tame nature imagery. At least they're shorter on quiet desperation. B MINUS


QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS
Return of the Champions
(Hollywood)

Where Freddie Mercury was a true queen, Paul Rodgers is a big disgrace. And that's not even counting the Bad Company cover, the Free cover, or, facts is facts, the HIV song. D PLUS


SLIM THUG
Already Platinum
(Geffen)

Screwed-and-chopped-esque rather than actually screwed-and-chopped, but representing the Black Sabbath tendency in rock-based musics nonetheless: Slim:Ozzy::screwed-and-chopped:grindcore. Jesus, does that mean screwed-and-chopped will last forever too? Scary. C


STELLASTARR*
Harmonies for the Haunted
(RCA)

What gave Shawn Christensen and his botched tonsillectomy the idea of joining the exalted ranks of Robert Smith and Simon Le Bon? This is pop music, not the Special Olympics. I mean, at least the Interpol guy is from England. Christensen's from Pratt. C


THREE 6 MAFIA
Most Known Unknown
(Hypnotize Minds/Sony Urban Music/Columbia)

The pull of their gut-rumbling brew of dark keyb riffs and viscous rhythm under unison vocals isn't absolute, but it's there, distinct and original. Unfortunately for connoisseurs of the saturnine, however, it comes with rhymes that are part of the aesthetic experience. As a putative cocaine magnate, rival flava-of-the-year proprietor Young Jeezy enjoys privileges that include triumphalist fanfares, yes-man cheering sections, and a relatively abstract level of brutality. These Memphis lifers sell "street," eventuating in quite a bit of put-your-foot-up-they-ass, knock-the-black-off-your-ass, ransack-your-home, and rape-your-bitch-cause-she's-stacked. It isn't original to point out that the reality this worldview represents is a bully's reality, one that most of those who are stuck with it scheme to avoid. But originality isn't everything. Bully reality can be musically compelling, no question. But jones for it and you risk brutalizing yourself. B MINUS

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