Dear Mr. President

Baby let's have a ficus leaf and a cranberry Snapple before Bush do something crazy

TOM ZÉ
Estudando O Pagode
(Luaka Bop)
This exploration of a sexism fueled by the more blatant injustices of class and race doesn't cohere, but what "rock opera" does? Anyway, Zé prefers the term "operetta," and with his avant-garde credentials is free to embrace episodic method. Much of the songs' philosophical punch is lost i n the superb translations, a shortfall that probably reflects Zé's special interest in the male chauvinist samba subgenre "pagode," the emotional resonances of which can't impact those who haven't lived with them. But no other Brazilian composer defies cultural boundaries so eloquently. Whether or not I absorb these songs' meaning when I read along, at any level of attention I feel the way they straddle pop and avant-garde, natural and mechanical, Brazil and the rest of the world. Those not-quite-metallic scraping noises you keep hearing? They come from one of Zé's inventions, an instrument crafted from the leaf of the ficus trees that grow all over São Paolo. You blow into it. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

JUVENILE
Reality Check
(Atlantic)
Juvenile gives better interview than former N.O. labelmate Lil Wayne and appears to be a better guy, but he's also one more bore whose idea of entertainment is threatening to kill people. A few moments seem real enough—not just "I Know You Know," in which he reminds his wife that, actually, he doesn't fuck all those hoes he raps about, but the street-mystique primer "Way I Be Leanin'." And even there Mike Jones, Paul Wall, and Wacko provide welcome relief from the nasal, constricted, humorless flow he's gotten on. Later, Fat Joe does the same. I mean, really—Fat Joe? B MINUS


Honorable Mention

WILLIE NELSON
You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker
(Lost Highway)
He owns the title tune now too ("Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age," "Dusty Skies").

YEAH YEAH YEAHS
Show Your Bones
(Interscope)
I dig her new Middle America affect, but still don't wish she was my girlfriend (or daughter) ("Phenomena," "Turn Into").

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS
A Blessing and a Curse
(New West)
Includes title song directed at a trust fund baby I personally am sorry they ever met ("A World of Hurt," "Goodbye").

BUILT TO SPILL
You in Reverse
(Warner Bros.)
Like Uncle Neil says, "It's all one song—except for that flamenco thing" ("Conventional Wisdom," "Mess With Time").

DJ DOLORES
Aparelhagem
(Ziriguiboom/Crammed Discs)
Club carnaval of the mind ("De Dar Dó," "Azougue").

OLD 97'S
Alive & Wired
(New West)
Their rough and rowdy ways—two CDs worth ("Time Bomb," "Barrier Reef").

STEPHEN YERKEY
Metaneonatureboy
(Echo)
Sees all the colors of the Cadillac at the Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden, hitchhikes on the Stinson Beach road ("My Baby Love the Western Violence," "Link Wray's Girlfriend").

TURKISH GROOVE
(Putumayo World Music)
Sweet and stretchy in its commercial version, just like the taffy (Bendeniz, "Kirmizi Biber"; Nilgül, "Pis Pisla").

X
Live in Los Angeles
(Shout! Factory)
The live album Billy Zoom and their songbook have long deserved ("Johny Hit and Run Paulene," "Beyond & Back").

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO URBAN LATINO
(World Music Circuit)
A noisy mess from rock to ska to hip-hop, with catchy politicos prominent and a German for spice (Zona Marginal, "No Mas"; Yerba Brava, "Sos Un Cheto").

EEF BARZELAY
Bitter Honey
(SpinArt)
The best of these songs are so perfectly put they thrive solo acoustic—but could still use a band ("Ballad of Bitter Honey," "I Wasn't Really Drunk").

THE NEW ORLEANS SOCIAL CLUB
Sing Me Back Home
(Burgundy/Honey Darling)
Mix winning sincerity with formal nostalgia, much like the Cuban franchise holder (Cyrille Neville, "This Is My Country"; John Boutt "Why").

MC LARS
The Graduate
(Horris)
Never mind the wimp beats—if he were my son I'd be so proud ("Internet Relationships," "Download This Song").

BEANIE SIGEL
The B. Coming
(Def Jam)
Scared straight enough to rap about being paranoid ("I Can't Go On This Way," "Feel It in the Air").

JON LANGFORD
Gold Brick
(ROIR)
Music for some occasions ("Workingman's Palace," "Lost in America").

HANK WILLIAMS III
Straight to Hell
(Bruc)
"Kid Rock don't come from where I come from"—and, oh yeah, "if you thought so goddamn you're fucking dumb" ("Pills I Took," "Thrown Out of the Bar").


Choice Cuts

THE RAKES
"Something Clicked and I Fell Off the Edge"
(Retreat, Dim Mak)

SOUL POSITION
"Keys," "The Cool Thing to Do"
(Things Go Better With RJ and AL, Rhymesayers Entertainment)

THIRD SIGHT
"Hypothermia"
(Symbionese Liberation Album, Disgruntled/Amalgam Entertainment)

VAN MORRISON
"There Stands the Glass"
(Pay the Devil, Lost Highway)


Duds

CALEXICO
Garden Ruin
(Quarterstick)

CORDERO
En Este Momento
(Bloodshot)

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON
This Old Road
(New West)

LITTLE BROTHER
The Minstrel Show
(Atlantic)

RAY PARKER JR
I'm Free!
(RP)


ADDRESSES:

Crammed Discs, 43 Rue General Patton, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, crammed.be;
Echo, echo.co.uk;
Epitaph, 2798 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood CA 90026, epitaph.com;
Horris, c/o Nettwerk America, Suite 304, 8730 Wilshire Boulevard,
Beverly Hills CA 90211, nettwerkamerica.com;
Hyena, 250 West 57 Street, Suite 725, NYC 10107, hyenarecords.com;
K, PO Box 7154, Olympia WA 98507, krecs.com;
New West, LLC PO Box 33156, Austin TX 78674-0156, newwestrecords.com;
ROIR, PO Box 501, Prince Street Station, NYC 10012, roir-usa.com;
SpinArt, PO Box 1798, NYC 10156-1798, spinartrecords.com;
tipitinasfoundation.org, tipitinasfoundation.org;
What's Your Rupture?, whatsyourrupture.com;
World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, England, post@worldmusic.net;

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