Thursday, May 25, 2006
KORN | Live and Rare | Epic/Immortal
Having blown fortunes on studio recordings that sold poorly, these Bakersfield residents have decided that the way to recoup is with a good old-fashioned live and/or rarities disc. Disregarding current realities (hardcore Korn fans and yes, they do exist, will have this stuff already or will download it), out comes this exercise in profiteering.
That it is utter garbage is a given, as the endless replay of showy suffering over detuned guitars, i.e., “nu metal,” has proven to be the world’s number two earsore (narrowly trailing emo). This collection exceeds one’s wildest dreams, badly engineered club dates, gawdawful arena posturing, jokey dissonance and, of course, a trio of truly horrific covers. Their butcherings of Pink Floyd, Metallica and Cheech and Chong are atrocious.
Korn is nu-metal’s Whitesnake, the pitiful pit of the pits. Other than their top-drawer drummer, they are nothing but sound effects and stagy self-pity, making them the worst band in the world, circa 2006. —Johnny Angel
DARDEN SMITH | Field of Crows | Dualtone
Darden Smith is one of those singer/songwriters who’s always been there. He hasn’t been big enough to become a household name, but he is prolific and good enough to catch the ears of the fairly inquisitive listener. Over the 20-year span of his 10 albums, Smith has done a little of everything, from country to pure folk.
On Field of Crows, he moves in a more pop-oriented vein, albeit deeply inflected with his profound lyrical skills. From the loping drumbeat on “Talk Me Down” through the funky “Spinning Wheel” to the ethereal vocals on “All That I Wanted,” Smith describes an emotional darkness, varied in shades but heavy with imagery. With guitar virtuoso Steuart Smith and the talented Eliza Gilkyson on harmony, the music drifts along easily. It’s only when you stop and listen to what he is saying that the power emerges. —James Kelly
VARIOUS ARTISTS | Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound | Soul Jazz
Say what you will about despots, but at least they inspire flippin’ great music—especially Tropicália, the late ‘60s Brazilian stew of psychedelia and native beats. Even four decades later, Tropicália buzzes in your brain like Red Bull: bubbly, organ-drenched f-yous by Brazilian hipsters to the country’s military dictatorship.
Tropicália bubbled up stateside from time to time in the ensuing decades, thanks to musical misfits like Beck and David Byrne or the occasional compilation, but the music usually came devoid of context. That now changes, thanks to Soul Jazz Records. Its anthology Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound squeezes together the best of the era and a 50-page picture-filled booklet that retells the Tropicália story.
From here, the joyous anarchy of Tropicália flows forth, as the artists hoot, pluck and shake out their charm. Os Mutantes easily live up to their reputation as the Brazilian Beatles—dig their fuzz-guitar freak-outs, bubblegum vocals and sugary prose on “A Minha Menina.” Veloso strums out the wistful ballads that make him such a Royce Hall favorite but also stuns with the namesake anthem “Tropicália,” a samba–bossa nova manifesto where he emerges from a haze of blips to howl his movement to the world. And unappreciated diva Gal Costa contributes three irrepressible tracks—try “Sebastiana”: coos, sighs and laughs driven by an out-of-tune guitar and bumpy Carnaval drums.
The only sin Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound commits is brevity. There’s just one track by samba-soul pioneer Jorge Ben and two by Gilberto Gil. But it’s OK—one can only ask so much from the guardians of the most beautiful music on Earth. —Gustavo Arellano