All in the Family

Confused teens, confused thirtysomethings, and old jazz guys enjoying their dotage

Odyssey Band
Back in Time
Pi

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

Thursday
A City by the Light Divided
Island

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-Kinney–certified 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


Honorable Mention

Conjure
Bad Mouth
American Clavé

The return of polycultural prophet Kip Hanrahan, starring Ishmael Reed and some funky jazzmen ("In War Such Things Happen," "Bad Mouth").

Vernon Reid & Masque
Mistaken Identity
Favored Nations

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").

Tango Crash
Justin Time

Two Europe-based Argentinean expats yank Astor Piazzolla toward jazz and electronica ("La Yumba," "DJ Peron").

Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint
The River in Reverse
Verve Forecast

Costello sings better than Toussaint, Toussaint exposes Steve Nieve as a klutz ("On Your Way Down," "International Echo").

Tom Verlaine
Songs and Other Things
Thrill Jockey

Crazy like a guru—funny like one too ("From Her Fingers," "All Weirded Out").

Mission of Burma
The Obliterati
Matador

Disappointed by Roxy Music, disquieted by Nancy Reagan's head ("Man in Decline," "1001 Pleasant Dreams").

Be Your Own Pet
Summer Sensation
Ecstatic Peace!

Shambolic early versions of two album songs plus three U.K.-onlys, two excellent ("Hillmont Avenue," "Fire Department").

Rabih Abou-Khalil
Morton's Foot
Enja/Justin Time

Try if you like oud jazz/Balkan clarinet/Sardinian throat-singing ("Morton's Foot," "Ma Muse M'Abuse").

The Everyothers
Pink Sticky Lies
Kill Rock Stars

Which rock star exactly did they kill to get their lungs on that adaptable swagger—Michael Hutchence? ("Something Wrong," "Dive With You").

Roy Nathanson
Sotto Voce
Aum Fidelity

Narrative with jazz, jazz as narrative ("By the Page," "It's Alright").

Hard-Fi
Stars of CCTV
Necessary/Atlantic

Stronger on quotidian horror than on living for the weekend—in fact, they're so hard up for laughs they call a song that ("Cash Machine," "Feltham Is Singing Out").

Tail Dragger
My Head Is Bald
Delmark

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").


Choice Cuts

Charlie Parker Featuring Miles Davis "Moose the Mooche" Charlie Parker "KoKo" (Re-Bop: The Savoy Remixes, Savoy Jazz Worldwide)

Art Brut "These Animal Menswe@r" (Bang Bang Rock & Roll, Downtown)

Adam Green "Choke on a Cock" (Gemstones, Rough Trade)


Duds

Dungen
Ta Det Lugnt
Kemado

Mercury Rev
The Secret Migration
V2

Carl Hancock Rux
Good Bread Alley
Thirsty Ear

She Wants Revenge
Flawless/Geffen

Teddy Thompson
Separate Ways
Verve Forecast

James Blood Ulmer
Birthright
Hyena

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