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
Where long ago Harvest's heavy orchestrations and dead beats groaned with significance, even the horn parts here are strictly utilitarian, meant to deliver the words as efficiently as possible. What makes the words different isn't that Young almost died, although that got his attention, but that they're devoid of fancy. Meditations on mortality and the passage of time are a trope that will wear out faster than road stories and fame plaints as more rockers visit the critical list. But few will make as much of unmistakable, one-dimensional language as this chronic obscurantist. "If you follow every dream you might get lost." "Yes I miss you/But I never want to hold you down/You might say/I'm here for you." "Silently it waits for me/Or someone else I suppose/This old guitar." For once he makes sure he's understooda matter in which melodies that might otherwise seem overfamiliar are of great service. A MINUS
Dud of the Month
The Mysterious Production of Eggs
The main reason this record isn't insufferable is that Bird never preens. He shows off discreetly, underplaying his vocal chops and musical command, even his familiarity with scientific arcananay, his intelligence itself, which I bet exceeds that of 95 percent of the netcrits his ninth album has had its way with. But discretion exacts a price in identity, clarity, and meaning. The artist may know what these songs signify beyond cunningly arranged wordplay, but anybody else who does ain't talking. Nor does the artist reveal anything about his inner life, specifically including the delight that normally renders the ludic compelling. Certainly there are moments when the music asserts itselfI recommend the chamber-orchestra intro to "Fake Palindromes." But in this prog-rock moment, what half saves Bird's mild, pretty, supersmart album is that it doesn't throw the melody out with the rebop. B
THE CLIPSE & RE-UP GANG
We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2
When they say, "Like the new Death Row," I think, "Just what we needed" (even though I know they're lying) ("Hate It or Love It," "Play Your Part").
Pop trip-hop as alternative reality, from fantasyland to apocalypse ("All Alone," "Dare").
(Gettin' Out Our Dreams/Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
For an ordinary soul man, he has excellent tunes ("I Can Change," "Live It Up").
Set Yourself on Fire
(Arts & Crafts)
The perils of romance among the disaffected classes ("One More Night [Your Ex-Lover Remains Dead]," "Reunion").
The Way It Is
Bet she still hangs with her girlfriends ("I Should Have Cheated," "I Changed My Mind").
Back when I was a young feller, we called these things hootenannies, only we thought they needed songs ("Did You See the Words," "Turn Into Something").
MY MORNING JACKET
Mindlessly arresting pop of moderately original flavor ("It Beats for You," "Off the Record").
The Naked Truth
Throws her voice around more and her pussy down hardly at all ("Spell Check," "Lighters Up").
So get those songs on the record while you can ("Everybody Dies," "Good Night, America").
(Coup de Grace)
DJ nightmare for the war on terror ("Vietnam?" "Dream").
Dance guy or rock guy, optimist or cynicthese are the troubling distinctions irony helps keep at bay ("Losing My Edge," "On Repeat").
Let It Die
"1 Thing," "Touch"
(Touch, Sony Urban Music/ Columbia)
(Alligator, Beggars Banquet)
(Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, Def Jam)
(Barrio Fino, Universal)
Down for Life (Demoney/Asylum)
Ta Det Lugnt
The Great Destroyer
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
Waiting for the Sirens' Call
Music of the Sun
Straight Outta Ca$hville