POSTED 24 JULY 2001
"Hot Shots II"
You know that scene in "High Fidelity" in which record-store owner
Rob Gordon (John Cusack) puts on a copy of Beta Band's "Three
E.P.'s" and announces that he'll sell five copies of it? While their
new record, "Hot Shots II," may not quite reach the stoned-slacker
bliss-pop standards set by those early recordings, it has many
moments of cracked charm that will certainly please fans of this
inventive Scottish crew of musical miscreants.
"Beat 'Em Up [EXPLICIT LYRICS]"
Iggy Pop is totally rocking again. Really. On his new disc, "Beat
'Em Up," the former Jimmy Osterburg returns to the land of
post-sensitive abandon that he created practically by himself over
30 years ago. Pop revels in the power of his voice as it careens
atop some serious, stripped-down, heavy-ass, and pure-rock pummel.
"The Essential Radio Birdman (1974-1978)"
Speaking of stooges, have you ever heard the great Australian
proto-punk band Radio Birdman, whose power-chord-heavy, snarling,
and tightly woven tunes have caused the pulses of record collectors
the world over to soar dangerously high? Sub Pop has compiled all
the essential tunes from their first two albums and thrown in a few
rare live tracks to boot on the truthfully titled collection "The
Essential Radio Birdman (1974-1978)."
Singer-songwriter David Garza's voice may lope a tad too close to
Robert Plant territory at times, but the man sure knows how to write
a pop song. On the self-produced album "Overdub," the
alterna-folkster makes wry comments about the music biz, waxes
heretical, and croons like all your favorite classic rockers rolled
Is slow, sad, and beautiful your thing? Do the Rain Parade, Low,
Nick Drake, Rainer Maria, Joni Mitchell, Magnetic Fields, and Dirty
Three comprise your ideal rainy-day soundtrack? Then we are certain
you'll be down with the Brooklyn-based band Ida. Their new
collection, "The Braille Night" (recorded at the same time as "Will
You Find Me"), brims with lush and heavenly pop music.
Those zany alterna-rockers Cake have finally readied a new album,
"Comfort Eagle." These hipsters make music that's smart and spunky,
surrounding the ironic vocals of John McCrea with a broad range of
sounds: sometimes spare, sometimes funky, but always enjoyable.
"Everybody Wants to Know"
Swell's latest album, "Everybody Wants to Know," is fab indie rock
that bridges the atmospheric experimentation of shoegazing post-rock
with introspective and sensitive modern folk rock. Fans of
Grandaddy, Elliott Smith, Spoon, and the Flaming Lips, take heart.
Edith Frost is an exceptionally talented singer-songwriter who's
been quietly working in Chicago for years. We have no idea why her
work, like that of Barbara Manning and Stuart Moxham, isn't better
known and as widely covered as Neil Diamond's. Perhaps it's the way
her subtle, idiosyncratic songs have explored the netherworld
between alt-country and indie rock? Regardless, her new album,
"Wonder Wonder," lives up to its name. The production alone,
courtesy of rising star Rian Murphy, is vibrant, inventive, and
warm, with touches of Van Dyk Parks-ish whimsy. Melancholy melodies
have rarely sounded so... melodic.
It strikes us that there may be people who do not yet own the new
Rufus Wainwright album, a wrong we aim to right. "Poses," which
surely is one of the best alternative-folk-pop-rock (or whatever you
want to call it) albums of the year, shows the young Wainwright in
full command of his singer-songwriter domain. This is one of those
moment-defining and enjoyable records that's so smart it's crazy and
so well-made that the songs just worm their way into your heart.
"White Blood Cells"
A customer from Clinton, South Carolina, recommends "White Blood
Cells" by the White Stripes: "After two great records, this coulda
been White Stripes' major-label debut. Instead, Jack and his sister
stayed with the one that brung 'em and turned out this beauty. Some
might complain that the Stripes have smoothed out the edges a tad,
but that's just nit-picking. The passion is still the same, the
tunes have hooks like Mike Tyson, and your feet can't fight the
IN TOP SELLERS
"Gorillaz [EXTRA TRACKS]"
Blur's Damon Albarn (a.k.a. 2-D) and cult cartoonist Jamie Hewlett
(Murdoc) don costumes as the hip-hop alt-rock supergroup Gorillaz.
The group combines kooky, silly lyrics with a host of talented
musicians (including Kid Koala, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Ibrahim
Ferrer, and Cibo Matto's Miho Hator), all produced by Dan "the
See all alternative top sellers
INDIE MUSIC SPOTLIGHT
"The Creeping Unknown"
Robert Scott's charm has evolved into a very subtle, subdued update
of the signature New Zealand indie-pop sound he helped create.
Famous for his work with New Zealand's influential early-'80s
chart-toppers the Clean and later the Bats, Scott delivers some of
the expected--ingratiating jangle pop--on "The Creeping Unknown."
However, melodies are built gradually, and songs are introduced with
drawn-out, loping, circular movements (at times recalling fellow New
Zealander guitar-atmosphericist Roy Montgomery). Over 19 tracks and
about 60 minutes, "The Creeping Unknown" draws the listener in with
lazy summer guitar mirages, sparse piano, odd loops, and some tape
manipulation. While the length of the album causes it to idle rather
than build heavy momentum, the more experimental passages are
inoffensive and pleasantly droning. It's the keyboard-laden, Yo La
Tengo-like gems such as "Fog and Wind" and "When Shade Was Made"
that will satisfy diehard fans of New Zealand pop. But vocals are
few and faint (sometimes mimicking transmissions from another
universe), giving "The Creeping Unknown" the feel of a haunted
desert ghost town.
A SIDE OF SOUL
"Bait & Switch"
Raised by an aunt in one of the worst housing projects in Detroit,
rough and raunchy R&B legend Andre Williams hustled his way into
the music biz while still a teenager. Best known for his work at the
Fortune label in the mid-1950s ("Bacon Fat" and "Jail Bait" were his
biggest singles), Williams forged new ground as a frontman. Fully
aware that his vocal abilities weren't up to par with the leading
talents of the day, he talked or rapped his lyrics over a tight
backup band. Unfortunately, Williams faded from the scene after an
18-month stint with Ike Turner left him a full-blown junkie.
It took several decades, but Williams managed to clean up and get back
to business. Much in the music world had changed in the years since
he'd been gone, but "Mr. Rhythm," as he was known in his early days,
soon carved himself a niche in the punk arena, fronting garage-rock
bands. Over the last four years, Williams has released albums recorded
with the likes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Demolition Doll
Rods, and Sadies. His indie debut, "Silky," turned on a whole new
generation to his risque but rhythmic vocal delivery.
His new release, "Bait and Switch," was recorded for Norton Records,
the New York-based label specializing in frantic old-school R&B and
garage-rock monstrosities. Williams fits right in at the Norton
stable--his raunchy rap has only gotten dirtier over the years--and
when backed by the all-star band producer Billy Miller assembled for
this project, the results are, ahem, spicy and XXX-rated. Williams
speaks with authority on the autobiographical "Soul Brother in Heaven
and Hell": "If you stick it in / You gotta take it out / Everybody
knows what life is about." Cool finger snaps and a bent guitar hold
the track together as Williams falls apart, screaming, "Get off your
ass," then recovers nicely for the next song, a duet with Ronnie
Spector. Lonnie Youngblood holds down the sax duties, while Robert
Quine (ex-Voidoid, Lou Reed) provides searing guitar licks that
punctuate Williams's vocals with power and panache. It's
collaborations like this that invigorate Williams, accelerate the
pace, and push him to further extremes--and he revels in it! Sassy,
boozy, and yes, extremely fun, "Bait and Switch" puts Andre Williams
right back on top. All hail Mr. Rhythm, the Detroit soul brother and
self-proclaimed Crown Prince of Crude.