Dark Side of The Spoon
Ministry has always been made up of astute students of the transmutation of sound and its infinite possibilities. They continue to show the fruits of this education on their latest CD, which offers a stunning series of epics with surprisingly little reliance on silly gimmicks. In fact, the only joke to be found is in the twisted Pink Floyd-referenced title, which (heroin reference aside) is actually apropos for an album exploring the peculiar potentials of production. True, departures like the squalling sax and obsessive banjo-plucking on "Nursing Home" and the swinging shuffle of the rehab sneer "Step" provide only temporary respite from the overwhelming drill 'n' drone sound of most of these cuts. But the variety is welcome. It's obviously not everyone's cup of absinthe, but pretty amazing and beautifully engineered. If the lyrics and vocals were as consistently accomplished as the hell-raising music, this would be in the same league as the Birthday Party. As it stands, it will awe young misanthropes and piss off everyone else within earshot. Michael Murphy
With boyish charm, excessively cuffed pants and sideburns that could cut through butter, the techno-pop missionaries of Joy Electric look like old-school rockers applying for membership in the Lollipop Guild. So it's not too surprising to find that their newest album, which celebrates youth ("Voice of the Young") and faith ("Children of the Lord") with candy-coated, bubbly synth riffs, would have made a suitable soundtrack for The Wizard of Oz. Ronnie Martin's devout but surprisingly rebellious lyrics add a refreshing dichotomy to this otherwise overly-cheerful undertaking, making it reminiscent of Erasure. Tracks such as "Disco for a Ride" and "I Sing Electric" twinkle with analog keyboards and robotic drum patterns. The purely new-wave "Make My Life a Prayer" frolics with an instantly catchy dance beat and features Martin's voice sailing above the melody. Filled with childlike voices periodically shouting "yeah" and "c'mon," Never-Never Land has never sounded so good. Kenyon Hopkin
Us and Them
Until recently, it seemed that Godflesh was lost to the lethargic strokes of masturbatory self-indulgence, never again to recapture and revel in the mechanized horror of classics like Streetcleaner. But then, with the release of the excellent Songs of Love and Hate and the remix album, In Dub, that followed, the band suddenly remembered not just how to inflict pain, but how to do it almost surgically. In many ways, Us and Them is a mesh of the band's sound on the previous two releases, slyly balancing the cruel groove of manipulated hardware with human combustion. It is harsh, innovative and ultimately brilliant. Rich Black
Guided By Voices
Do the Collapse
Dayton's lo-fi legends are ready to crash the alternative rock airwaves with this disc, their impressive major-label debut. Frontman Robert Pollard leads a full-scale attack on the senses with a series of mind-crunching send-ups consistent with the band's prog-rock myth. While Pollard is easily the most prolific and underrated songwriter in pop today, his desire to make it big, fueled by many cases of Bud Light, has blurred his historically precise vision. Here he misguidedly relinquishes some artistic control to producer Ric Ocasek, the ex-Cars leader who made over Hanson and Weezer. From the techno/synth-wash that opens "Teenage FBI" a perfect pop song about getting caught picking your nose there is reason to be suspect. Ocasek's twirpy, dated keyboard layers serve as a major distraction in the same way Todd Rundgren damaged the New York Dolls' debut. But some songs survive the technical melee: bits like "In Stitches" and "Zoo Pie" are ready made for the hi-fi indulgence, showcasing the arena-rock strength of lead guitarist Doug Gillard. Bill Miller
Men of Respect
Fair Warning M.O.R.
Here's one for all underground hip-hop lovers, consisting of six emcees flexin' their vocal chords over well-known beats. This group Hempstead's Nobel Jah, along with Rob West, Mustafa, Rising Sun and Khailil & Kha has what it takes to make it in the big leagues. The Nassau County emcee is featured on five songs, flowing over a slowed-down rhythm from EMPD's "So Whatcha Saying" on the album's title track and borrowing from Notorious B.I.G's "Ten Crack Commandments" on "Seven Degrees of Separation." Mustafa proves his worth on "Have No Fear," where he lets the rhymes flow for two minutes and change, over the Craig Mack classic "Flava in Ya Ear." Risin' Sun also stands out from the pack, representing angry youth in "Time for War." These rhymesters more than make up for the lack of original beats with loquacious lyricism. Contact: M.O.R. Entertainment, PO Box 2, New York, NY 10035, 212-426-4880. AJ Woodson
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