Thursday, October 6, 2005
THE ROLLING STONES | A Bigger Bang | EMI
The darnedest thing happened the other day. I was in Circuit City and I witnessed a pack of hip teenagers—shaggy hair, jeans, etc.—circling around like sharks trying to locate a Rolling Stones CD. They weren’t looking for classics like Some Girls or Exile on Main Street, but rather the legends’ latest disc. When I was a young buck, I can tell you straight up that kids weren’t flocking to record stores to buy Voodoo Lounge.
Anyway, I have a couple theories why the hipsters were trying to get their hands on A Bigger Bang. First, the sort of blues-based rock the Stones play is cool again due to bands like The White Stripes. Second, A Bigger Bang is what a rock record should be: gritty, full of tasty riffs and a little bit dangerous.
There are sly double entendres (the first lines of “Rough Justice”), driving rockers (“It Won’t Take Long”), and a ballad that soars above its clichéd lyrics with a knockdown chorus (“Streets of Love”). The old timers also nod to their blues roots with “Back of My Hand” and take a swing at the Bush administration on “Sweet Neo Con.”
Though not attaining the high-water mark of their best work from the ‘70s, A Bigger Bang is a return to what the band does best: no frills blues-based rock. (ST)
BLACKALICIOUS | The Craft | Anti-Records
Initial impressions of The Craft may be that it is bizarre, even alienating, but as with all things truly innovative, it’s an acquired taste.
From the start, MC Gift of Gab stretches his voice to his peculiar extremes, experimenting with speed-rhymed whispers, staccato
barks and falsettos, all while displaying his expected lyrical dexterity and alphabet aerobics. On production, Chief Xcel backs the dynamic wordplay with equally aggressive, rock-heavy beats, maintaining a dynamic canvas layered with everything from live instrumentation (wailing soul vocals and distortion-laden guitars) to DJ tricks (delayed loops and extended dub outros).
The overall combo yields tracks as diverse as the rock-type epic “Supreme People,” a socially-conscious meditation on money and power, to the bright, neo-pop homage to womanly wiles on “Powers.” More traditionally, the classic soul redux “Black Diamonds and Pearls” showcases crooner Ledisi on the sickly sweet chorus, while the smoothly sinister “Lotus Flower” features George Clinton.
Thanks to Xcel’s inventive track blending, the album plays through as naturally as any jazz classic. Having truly mastered their Craft, Blackalicious have produced yet another thoughtful expansion of hip-hop’s musical boundaries. (BS)
THE 88 | Over and Over | Mootron Records
Twenty years ago, this would be called “power pop,” carefully wispy and neutered guy rock, jangling guitars, melodic and ‘60s-ish. Today, it’s tagged as an alternative, but to what, who knows?
Facile, tight, clean and with a passing nod to wry in the vocals, this is urbane without making too much a deal of it. Thing is, to make this kind of mellifluousness signify anything at all now takes some vision or genius, or the personality of an Andy Partridge/Todd Rundgren. Auteur Keith Stettedahl is a good student of the form, but adds little—the Lennon-esque melody of “Head Cut Off” is the high point.
Skillful stuff which would sound great on the radio if it were more like Phantom Planet and less like Jellyfish, but that would ruin its chic appeal, which is one of this band’s supposed selling point. Semi-popular pop, what’s the point? (JA)