Thursday, October 19, 2006
THE NEW CARS | It’s Alive | Eleven Seven Music
With the Cars’ two frontmen absent (one by death, one by choice) and replaced by a legendary mimic, this package could have been a complete catastrophe. As is, it’s a credible greatest hits plus collection, recorded at an LA soundstage with a real reason to exist.
With Todd Rundgren replacing both Ocasek and Orr, there are plusses and minuses. Rundgren is a genius at replication and one can almost hear him breathing in the same spots as the originators. And he can play a second lead guitar that pushes the Cars’ finest instrumentalist Elliot Easton, to new highs. He doesn’t sing ‘em quite like the duo, though which makes the classics from their debut sound forced and a little flat.
It’s Alive includes all the hits, plus two Todd classics and four new ones, the best of which is “Not Tonight”. This is classic rock the way it should be: relaxed and still full of power and precision. And for a band whose live shows back in the day could induce narcolepsy in a speed freak, this actually sounds, well, alive. —Johnny Angel
JANET JACKSON | 20 Y.O. | Virgin Records
The name Janet Jackson is synonymous with a lot of things: crazy big brothers, Super Bowl shenanigans and edgy dance grooves. Following in the footsteps of her eight older siblings Miss Jackson released her debut self-titled album in 1982, reaching Billboard’s top ten and staying in the top 50 for forty-five weeks. With eight albums under her belt and a list of awards as long as Michael’s rap sheet, Janet has shown that not only can she hold her own against her siblings but can also show them how it’s really done.
With the release of her ninth album Janet proves that she’s still got it. The album is a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Control, the album that launched her independence. Produced by the Midas touch pair Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, this album is full of the beats that made Janet famous. “So Excited” (featuring Khia) is the perfect song to put you in the mood to party on a Friday night. Alternately, the album’s first release “Call on Me” (featuring Nelly) is a more soulful, relaxed groove.
The title 20 Y.O. is said to be a reflection of how old Janet feels today. This album reflects the kind of musical chops that the 40-year old Janet has earned in her career. No mere 20 year old can share that claim. —Linda Maceira
THE MARS VOLTA | Amputechture | Umvd
As in 2003 debut De-Loused in the Comatorium and last year’s Frances the Mute, The Mars Volta’s third studio LP Amputechture takes a long, exhausting drive down the dusty roads of West Texas druggy boredom, this time with Chili Pepper guitarist John Frusciante sitting shotgun.
Unlike Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s previous two concept albums, Amputechture finds the acid dabbledry taking priority over any listening enjoyment. Instead, the 17-minute “Tetragrammaton” and 11-minute “Meccamputechture” are sweaty workouts aimed at guitar supergeeks and molded around a spastic live jam.
Opener “Vicarious Atonement” is a slow candlelit serenade, Bixler-Zavala crooning in Spanish/English verse and leaning heavily toward cheese. Spanish ballad “Asilos Magdalena” has a moment of loving clarity, and even the maddening “Viscera Eyes”—clocking in at only 9:27—has singular minutes of thrash and roll, but Amputechture is more a series of events than a complete experience. It’s as though the Mars Volta is simply seeing what they can get away with. —Darcie Stevens