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
Back in Time
The 1983 classic that gave this Blood Ulmer trio its name has diminished slightly with the years, in part because the glorious jazz-rock future it portended never came to pass. Two decades on, Ulmer is the artiest of all Delta blues imitators, Charles Burnham a fiddler for hire, and Warren Benbow a pensive drummer even on the fast ones. So the beauties of their middle-aged reunion are atmospheric rather than fiery. A MINUS
Dud of the Month
A City by the Light Divided
Working on the humane assumption that all screamo records can't be equally horrible, the reviewerati have singled out this big-ticket effort, produced by Sleater-Kinneycertified Dave Fridmann. Unburdened by theory, however, I find that its distinction boils down to slightly subtler tunecraft and dynamic range. At any volume, Geoff Rickley still sounds like the kind of young man who, when they change his prescription so it doesn't upset his stomach, suddenly becomes more optimistic. This happened, he says, and while it's understandable, it suggests the limits of his political analysis. Romantic, too: Toward the end he's emoting at the top of his lungs about love like a carousel and 50 decaying roses. Takes things hard, does Geoff. That's why he became an artist. C PLUS
Vernon Reid & Masque
Hard to sustain an eclectic array of guitar-band instrumentals over a full album unless your listeners' eclecticism contours just the way yours does ("Game Is Rigged," "Flatbush and Church Revisited").
Two Europe-based Argentinean expats yank Astor Piazzolla toward jazz and electronica ("La Yumba," "DJ Peron").
Costello sings better than Toussaint, Toussaint exposes Steve Nieve as a klutz ("On Your Way Down," "International Echo").
Crazy like a gurufunny like one too ("From Her Fingers," "All Weirded Out").
Mission of Burma
Disappointed by Roxy Music, disquieted by Nancy Reagan's head ("Man in Decline," "1001 Pleasant Dreams").
Be Your Own Pet
Shambolic early versions of two album songs plus three U.K.-onlys, two excellent ("Hillmont Avenue," "Fire Department").
Try if you like oud jazz/Balkan clarinet/Sardinian throat-singing ("Morton's Foot," "Ma Muse M'Abuse").
Pink Sticky Lies
Kill Rock Stars
Which rock star exactly did they kill to get their lungs on that adaptable swaggerMichael Hutchence? ("Something Wrong," "Dive With You").
Narrative with jazz, jazz as narrative ("By the Page," "It's Alright").
Stars of CCTV
Stronger on quotidian horror than on living for the weekendin fact, they're so hard up for laughs they call a song that ("Cash Machine," "Feltham Is Singing Out").
My Head Is Bald
When James Y. Jones took up West Side blues, the commercially fading Wolf himself was 20 years younger than Jones is now ("My Head Is Bald," "Tend to Your Business").
Art Brut "These Animal Menswe@r" (Bang Bang Rock & Roll, Downtown)
Adam Green "Choke on a Cock" (Gemstones, Rough Trade)
Ta Det Lugnt
The Secret Migration
Carl Hancock Rux
Good Bread Alley
She Wants Revenge
James Blood Ulmer