Jewels For Sophia
Continuing down the quirky, folk-pop path he helped pioneer, Robyn Hitchcock triumphs on his latest album by using a different group of back-up musicians for the first time since 1981’s Black Snake Diamond. The lineup varies from track to track, including Grant Lee Phillips, Peter Buck, the Young Fresh Fellows and ex-Soft Boys bandmate Kimberley Rew. With their help, Hitchcock has put together a record with his usual share of oddities, including a stirring number about mutant dream girls (“Antwoman”). Idiosyncrasies aside, the bulk of the album shows this British cult hero to be a true romantic— a quality that won’t surprise his longtime fans. Songs such as the lilting ballad “You’ve Got a Sweet Mouth on You, Baby” and the mid-tempo “Dark Princess” are Hitchcock at his most endearing. Throw in a number of rollicking rockers and a punchy ode to Seattle (“Viva! Sea-Tac”) and you have perfectly twisted pop.
— Dave Gil de Rubio
Once you accept that virtually everyone is a sellout, Penelope Houston’s latest album isn’t really all that bad. For someone who has been in the music biz for more than 20 years, Houston still sounds as sublime as she did during her days with the Avengers. But the once-edgy diva seems far too willing to slip into a Wonderbra and stand alongside formulaic female popsters like Natalie Imbruglia and Jewel. Even with the able assistance of Jane “Go-Go” Wiedlin and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, Houston fails to set herself apart from the rest of the pack on this, her first foray into pop. Slick production, familiar beats and picture-perfect production make Tongue an easy album to listen to, but a hard one to swallow— or even suck on, as the title-track so explicitly recommends. — Stevan Spacely
Sway & King Tech
This Or That
Since 1991, Sway & King Tech have been bringing underground hip hop to radio listeners on their internationally syndicated Wake-up Show. You’d think that would be enough of an accomplishment, but these two radio jocks want to take over the world, and their weapon of choice is This or That. The first single, “The Anthem,” blends touches of old-school styling with new techniques. It also features a host of rap veterans, including Kool G Rap and KRS-One, sharing the spotlight with newer emcees like Eminem. There are classic jams like “I Know You Got Soul” and “Looking at the Front Door,” as well as freestyle numbers from up-and-coming rappers. But by far, the album’s strongest moments are when Sway & Tech bless listeners with the original songs “NY Niggaz” and “Belly of the Beast.” For true hip-hop heads, this is a must-have.
— A.J. Woodson
The concept behind Prozzak— an animated rock band consisting of two time-traveling cartoon characters on a search for true love— is a lot more annoying than any of the tracks on the duo’s debut disc. By keeping their tongues firmly placed in their rather poorly-drawn cheeks, the pair (named Simon and Milo) use cheesy synth riffs, drum-machine loops, corny lyrics and faux Eurotrash accents to drive home the point that when it comes to sex and money, real-life humans tend to have the profundity of your average comic-book plot. Thanks to the dry humor of their creators (Jason Levine and James McCollum) and dance beats that owe as much to Josie and the Pussycats as they do to Howard Jones, songs like “Sucks to Be You” and “Strange Disease” manage to be far more amusing than aggravating. There is no denying that this album amounts to nothing more than a collection of airy pop tunes, but that is precisely what makes it so irresistible.
— Valerie Acklin
Bile, one of the Island’s most intense techno-industrial groups, has spawned its first solo project, with the self-titled release from leader Krztoff. Left to his own devices, Krztoff has penned songs that are more melodic and a bit more commercial than anything he has attempted with the band. The overall feel of the album is slightly nostalgic, bringing to mind the early ’80s techno revolution, when this style of music was at its most pure. From the trippy, speed electronica tune “The Day the Aliens Landed” to the disco beat of “Submission,” the mood set by the CD is dark but danceable. While not the typical cybernetic thrash that fans might expect, this potent and percussive mix of music will keep Bile followers satisfied while attracting new listeners. For sound clips and other information, visit www.teknowhore.com.
— Michele Peysson