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|a perfect circle
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|A Perfect Circle
Mer De Noms
Renholder. Orestes. Brena. Are you pondering what the hell these words mean, because I am. These are some of the song titles from A Perfect Circle's debut album, Mer De Noms, [which translated means Sea of Names. Or maybe numbers. I don't know]. Billy Howerdel, Tim Herb Alexander (formerly of Primus), and Maynard James Keenan (formerly of Tool) might know---they created A Perfect Circle. The band who emerged on the scene about a year ago and opened for Nine Inch Nails on their Fragile tour, look to become their successors. Mer de Noms' opening track, The Hollow, is reminiscent of Tool but manages to elicit its own distinct sound. On a slow hand with an easy touch note, the epic-proportioned Magdalena creeps in with eerie undertones and crunching guitars. The band's most popular track, Judith, which most of us have probably heard on the radio or seen the video for on MTV, is a rock 'n' roll masterpiece with some freaky influences (courtesy of Maynard perhaps) and some devilish sensuality. This is a great start for some band members that have been around for a long time. It leans towards the Goth genre without dipping its toes too deep in Goth's murky waters and is pleasant both for the pop-rock and alternative-Goth listeners in all of us.
Bowie At The Beeb
Bowie At The Beeb is a mesmerizing encapsulation of David Bowie's transition from unsure genius to worldwide icon. Despite it's flaky and often off-the-mark reputation, the UK's Radio 1 was surprisingly among the first to discover the incomparable Bowie, who in this two-disc set showcases early songs that are almost unfamiliar to many fans. In The Heat Of The Morning is close to a Bowie classic but overall the first disc is historically rather than aesthetically fascinating. The second CD, on the other hand, replicates the Ziggy Stardust album nearly track for track. As a listening experience, Bowie At The Beeb is good but not great. As a historical document it is fascinating, as the two cds showcase the work of a man not quite sure what to do with his larger than life talent and the product of an individual cocksure in the knowledge that he is about to take over the world. And several decades later, it is clear that his success does not seem to be faltering any time in the near future.
Rising For Sunset
Despite being one of England's best exports, Gene have not made quite the splash that their predeccesors Oasis and Blur have. Rising For Sunset is a break from their usual poetic solemnity and Smiths-nostalgia. Dropped by Polydor, Gene have combined "the freedom of the Internet with their own Contra Music label's independence. . . and produced a recording of their triumphant live show in record time, and in limited edition," [Gene press release, 2000]. Their cybercast concert from LA's Troubador reached six-figure audience numbers and their live album is truly for the fans, and is not meant to compete with Matchbox 20 or N'Sync on the charts. An assortment of favorite singles and album tracks [Olympian, Speak To Me Someone, London, Can You Wait, and As Good As It Gets], as well as two new songs entitled Somewhere In The World and Rising For Sunset will be quite endearing for any Gene devotees. The attractive packaging and sleeve will also appeal, as will the high technical quality of both the recording and performance, which should elevate this offering above any bootlegs past and present.
One of the most under-appreciated guitarists [not to mention Angus Young (AC/DC), Jeff Buckley, Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue), and Rich Robinson (Black Crowes)] of our time has finally released a Greatest Hits collection. Lenny Kravtiz, who is quite the combination of Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, and Jim Morrisson, is the bad boy of rock who has the heart and soul of an angel. Romantic but tempermental, fiery but soothing, sexy but sophisticated, smart but naive, Kravitz plays guitar and can actually sing just as well. He is the rebel with a cause, and on Greatest Hits, he bares all with some of his best-known hits. This must-have for any Lenny Kravitz fan as well as those seeking to convert is not arranged in chronological order, but seems to be segmented from loud Lenny to soft Lenny. The album appears to begin with his biggest hits, Are You Gonna Go My Way and It's Aint Over Til It's Over, followed up by classics such as Let Love Rule, American Woman, Mr.Cab Driver, and Can't Get You Off Of My Mind. Lenny Kravitz works the vocals as he does the music, and the end result is not only Lenny Kravitz's Greatest Hits, but many of Popular Music's greatest hits as well.
Marilyn Manson's glitter-glam androgynous tactics are a thing of the past---in Holy Land, the shock rock icon divulges the secret weapon which he knows best: insanity [not in the sense that he is mentally or psychologically insane, just his music and imagery]. In what is perhaps his most dark and disturbing album yet, the prequel to Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals is a concept album centered around the fictional Adam Kadmon, an outsider who sells his soul for fame and later becomes the "Antichrist Superstar" of Manson's 1996 album. Musically, it's heavier and more cohesive than the group's previous work (better beats, melodies, and thick guitars). The angry, explosive choruses, startling lyrics, and awesome music on this album is anchored in the kind of tension and drama Manson's former cohort Trent Reznor, was once so good at producing. But fame, religion, and social mores being attacked, and revolution and violence being glamorized on Manson's latest album, is nothing new for the shock rocker. And while production-wise this may be the band's strongest work, as a listener it pales in comparison to the glam-rock Mechanical Animals. Manson might be more of an Antichrist than a Superstar these days.
Black Market Music
Placebo are one of those bands that you either have a lot to say about, or nothing at all. This all- or- nothing also seems to be the band's approach on Black Market Music, their sophomore effort. Black Market Music starts off with Taste In Music, a would-be fantastic song that sadly is stuttered with whiney vocals that are screechy enough to make Brett Anderson of Suede sound like Lemmy from Motorhead. The following track, Days Before You Came has a similar eardrum-piercing quality, but putting aside Brian Molko's vocal chalkboard scratching, it is an impeccably great, upbeat rock and roll tune. Other tracks, including Special K, Spite and Malice, Passive Aggressive, and Narcoleptic round out the album with the same generous guitar riffs and beats, but fallen vocals. Blue American is quite frankly the only commercial-cast track on this album. This slow ballad with colorful lyrics is something that will keep you from taking this CD out of your stereo and putting Placebo's debut album in. Overall, not much can be said about Molko and company's most recent work. It had that Placebo sound, but this time around Molko's vocals and sexy androgynous tactics paled in comparison to the music, which can float in either the all-good or the nothing-good direction.
He is 58 years old and he is still Mr.Popular. As ridiculous as it may sound, listening to Reed's Ecstasy makes one feel like they are possibly on the magical drug as these 14 tracks prod and pull and tickle and mystify listeners. Ecstasy has a truckload of standout tracks, including Modern Dance, Paranoia Key E, Mystic Child, Mad, and Ecstasy. Reed, the quintessential songwriter of contemporary music who has always been overlooked, has made a superbly timeless album with his traditional badger and blues intertwined with electro melody, alterna anguish, catchy pop, soulful blues, and rock 'n' roll hysteria. Seven minutes of pure rock genius, Big Sky is quite the picture-perfect grand finale for this legend whose looks, life, and ideas were never so picture-perfect themselves. Brilliant.
Sade has curved out her own musical niche with an utterly cosmopolitan blend of soul, jazz, reggae, rock, pop, and worldly rhythms. 16 years after her smash release, Diamond Life, Sade's niche has been adapted by many followers such as Erykah Badu, Maxwell, and even Portishead. After an 8-year absence on the music scene since the Grammy-winning Love Deluxe, Sade is faced with a unique dilemma many artists do not have the pleasure/ luck (or misfortune depending on how you regard it): she virtually created a genre that has now overshadowed her. She is a genius, but her new album, Lovers Rock [a reggae term], may not have the gusto it needs to put her back into that genre she concieved. Her calming, smoky voice is as precise and spectacular as ever, but the accompanying reggae arrangements, something Sade has always toyed with but never saturated her music with, are distracting and quite honestly, dull, in contrast. But this slow and intimate album still manages to evoke emotions and transport us to that laid-back, Latin and soul-fused world Sade created almost two decades ago. Despite Lovers Rock barely rockin, Sade is still the Grand Dame of Female Singers. Forget Whitney, Britney, Mariah and the like, Sade IS poetry, and no matter what direction she heads in, she really does have the most exquisite voice and whatever music accompanies her, it always sounds like the sweetest taboo.
Underworld's much anticipated "live" album is finally here! Comprised of only 8 tracks, Everything Everything still manages to deliver 75 minutes of club drama. Juanita/Kiteless opens the disc with some incredibly energetic beats that blend into the "Beaucoup Fish" opener, Cups [that track on the studio album was eleven minutes long, this time around it is only three. Where did all of the singing go?]. A wondrously done mix into Push Upstairs leads up to the twentieth minute of nonstop music and it's right at the end where the first break is taken, and a fade out is made, obviously going to the next recorded gig. Pearl's Girl, Jumbo, Shudder/King of Snake laboriously carry out the middle of the album where huge synth riff slices are pronounced and then the heavy but raw Born Slippy [Nuxx mix] slides into play and reminds us why Underworld became so over-the-top. This album will never match an actual Underworld performance, but it is a great way to reminisce on a past Underworld show as well as a great way to get pumped up about the next one.
Poor Jakob Dylan. It must be rough being the son of one of contemporary music's leading men, Bob Dylan. Despite his low, smooth voice and simple but smart songwriting, Jakob Dylan has been more of a visual prize than an audio one, if you know what I mean. But the Wallflowers' new album, Breach, takes a detour from their previous work. It is not as original, and it leans more towards pop than rock or alternative. In particular, Birdcage, the final track on the album, sounds strikingly similar to REM's Everybody Hurts, but with different lyrics. Though they have had a much shorter stint as a rock band, the Wallflowers are a hell of a lot better than REM, and for one of their songs to even remotely sound like REM is a disappointment. Nonetheless, the album is saved by the smooth I've Been Delivered and the perfectly poppy Letters To The Wasteland. We are then relished with Some Flowers Bloom Dead with its big classic guitar rock sound and Witness with its standard Wallflowers-rococo poetry. Maybe next time Dylan will duet with father Bob. Or better yet, get Michael Stipe to come in and do back-up, then we would have the quintessential pop-rock fiasco, Breach 2.