December 2002 Archives

GZA/Genius - Legend Of The Liquid Sword (MCA Records) [audio] [video]

No, it doesn't even come close to the original... the brilliant... the definitive... Liquid Swords. But I gots news for you - neither does any other hiphop release this year. If you can find your way past that fact, Mr. Grice has pieced together a solid disc. Simple, catchy beats. Entertaining lyrics. Sure, a few of the tracks start to wear a little thin, but the get-up-and-dance-whiteboy hotness of Did Ya Say That? (LOVE that offbeat/bewildered chorus) and Uncut Material more than make up for it.

Large Professor - 1st Class

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Large Professor - 1st Class (Matador) [mp3s] [upcoming shows]

I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. Yet in a pinch, Large Professor's vintage mid-90s beats will do. Extra P comes through with a selection of tracks that instantly sound like "lost classics," emphasized by appearances from Busta, Q-Tip, and LP's muse Nasir Jones. However, nothing here reaches the hights of anything the Professor has produced on Nas' solo albums, and he spends too much time away from the boards spitting workmanlike rhymes to make this disc unforgettable.

Operation Makeout - Hang Loose

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Operation Makeout - Hang Loose (Mint Records) [mp3s] [upcoming shows]

This Vancouver trio has only put out two albums, with the first being a self-released basement record with all the earmarks of DIY -- a phone ringing on one track, unpolished guitar leads on others. But here, the production value has been raised while the instrumental complexity, especially in the infectious bass, has far exceeded most Riot Grrrl tinged pop-punk of the day. And check out the hidden remix of Secret Mommy's "You and Me Geometry," it's like Ladytron's take of "Call the Doctor."

Primal Scream - Evil Heat

Primal Scream - Evil Heat (Epic)

The 'Scream follow up their vowel-challenged electro epic "Xtrmntr" with an 11-track disc that runs the gamut from straight-ahead drug rock, to drug rock with a sleazy house beat, to drug rock that's really a Nancy Sinatra cover with Kate Moss on backing vocals. My Bloody Valentine mainman Kevin Shields takes some time off from his busy schedule of never writing a Loveless follow-up to lend some sweet fuzztones and production help, as do the Reid brothers from JAMC. Hiz-ott.

David Gray - A New Day at Midnight

David Gray - A New Day At Midnight (RCA) [audio] [upcoming shows]

With his US breakthrough "White Ladder," David Gray provided the innocuous, triple-A radio soundtrack to countless Banana Republic shopping trips and "pensive" moments on the Real World. Yet in spite of that, you couldn't really fault the guy - the heart of a talented songwriter beats underneath layers of arterial cheese. Gray's new disc intentionally cranks the "sad" up a notch - as the elegaic lead single "The Other Side" asserts - but the honkies will still lap it up.
Rise Above - The West Memphis Three Tribute To Black Flag (Sanctuary Records)

A varied cast of heavy hitters including contributions from Chuck D, Lemmy, Mike Patton, Iggy Pop, & Ice T singing their favorite Black Flag tunes, from pre-Rollins material until the quasi-metal years of the band's later years. How this is different from the typical tribute album is that Henry Rollins sings seven or so of the new versions, with a band that sounds identical to Black Flag, especially on their later material. Many of these Rollins led songs come off as not so much covers as rerecorded versions of older songs.

Stereolab - ABC Music

Stereolab - ABC Music (Strange Fruit)

This import serves as an alternate to a Stereolab greatest hits album, as compiling studio tracks from the band's 10 year career would be just, too expected. On this behemoth 30-song double disc, the demi-francais / half-English catalog is articulated through the handful of BBC Radio 1 sessions the band has recorded over the years. There's a bit of the group's early Shoegazing material, which precursors Tim Gane's fixation for the Moog, but still serves as a keen book learning on the band's foundation. But the heart of the comp lies in Emperor Tomato Ketchup material, particularly a long-winded, yet pleasantly reshaped "Les Yper Sound."
A Whisper in the Noise - Through the Ides of March [audio] [upcoming shows]

Starting slow before becoming layered and erupting joyously, A Whisper In The Noise is a haunting orchestral mix of strings, piano, and sound samples with sparse but well placed pounding drums. Lots of wailing falsetto vocals, atmospheric electronic interludes and occasional ticks, bleeps and blips. Fans of Low and Sigur Rós will want to hear this, while Steve Albini can put this among his list of projects in which he maximizes the sound of a band's potential.
The Rapture - Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks (Sub Pop) [live show]

Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks is all about the title track, which could easily be the anthem for post punk revivalism. The rest of the 20-minute EP completely rocks with low-slung distorted bass and Go4 influenced experimentation (see cowbell on "The Confrontation"). Feedback and pounding rhythms drive The Rapture's innovative meld of disco rock and post punk progressions, moving towards a future where there's something called intelligent dance rock - gasp.

Missy Elliott - Under Construction

Missy Elliott - Under Construction (Elektra)

Although I've always loved Missy and followed her work, I haven't felt compelled to buy one of her albums until now. This is her most cohesive album to date, and blends old school with futuristic Timbaland beats in creamy soulful goodness. "Slide" is one of the best cuts I've heard on any record, period. She also gets props for making a track with Jay-Z that's better than the entirety of his Blueprint 2.
Elf Power - Nothing's Going To Happen (Orange Twin) [audio] [upcoming shows]

An album consisting entirely of cover songs, there's tons of potential when covering The Flaming Lips, Buzzcocks, The Frogs, and The Misfits (among others) - a challenge for a talented fuzzy pop band like Elf Power. The best are Flaming Lips "Felt Good to Burn", Bad Brains "Pay To Cum", and The Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog", While Husker Du's "Never Talking To You Again" and Roky Erickson's "I Walked With The Zombie" aren't so much bad as uninspired. Highly varied and enjoyable with many more hits than misses.

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