Peach Giving Birth to a Stone (Vile Beat) Giving Birth to a Stone is the sole full-length album from Peach, the former band of Tool bassist Justin Chancellor. Originally released in 1993, Giving Birth to

Giving Birth to a Stone
(Vile Beat)

Giving Birth to a Stone is the sole full-length album from Peach, the former band of Tool bassist Justin Chancellor. Originally released in 1993, Giving Birth to a Stone has just now been made available for domestic release.

Peach is the British version of the aforementioned alternative metal band. Their relationship with Tool formed as a result of Tool’s search for an opening act for their European tour.

Giving Birth to a Stone is filled with harsh guitar riffs, lofty vocals and crushing rhythms. Chancellor’s signature bass playing is prominent throughout. He also handles lead vocals on “Dougal” and provides backing vocals on other tracks.

“Naked” and “Velvet” are excellent flowing songs that give meaning and heart to the album, while the chaotic “Burn” is carefully placed to jolt listeners.

Giving Birth to a Stone is a heavily British sounding album. This is most prominent in “You Lied,” which rips into listeners in Black Sabbath like fashion, and is the top song on the album.

For any Tool fan, this re-released album is an important piece of history in the formation of the band and is a remarkable find.

Grade: B
-Chris Powell
The Wallflowers

I take exception with young Jakob Dylan’s assertion (on the aptly titled “Sleepwalker”) that “Sam Cooke didn’t know what I know.” That aside, a plea for common sense is in order: There is a tendency when discussing the Wallflowers to downplay Jakob’s genes, for fear that to do so would just be too, well, obvious, as well as reductive, cynical, whatever.

Nonetheless, we must ask ourselves, how the hell is it possible for something so repulsively generic, even in a genre (umm, modern rock? Adult modern rock?) renowned for producing artist after artist resembling vanilla ice cream sandwiches on Wonderbread? Does anyone really believe that the Wallflowers achieved anything based totally on their own (lack of) merit? It’s hardly fair.

Old Mr. Zimmerman was never around for school plays and games of touch football, and the rest of us have to suffer for it when he feels guilty 20 years later. And Sam Cooke could beat the Wallflowers at Rock and Roll Quizzo with only the use of one lung.

Grade: E (for Evil)
-Joel Tannenbaum
Christina Aguilera
My Kind Of Christmas

In the tradition of New Kids on the Block’s Merry Merry Christmas, here’s the new wave of teen bubble-gum pop’s contribution to this holiday season.

One thing that gives Christina an edge on her contemporaries (read: Britney Spears) is the fact that she can actually sing, and her voice shines through on renditions of “The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” and a bluesy take on “Merry Christmas Baby.”

But also present are a number of “originals,” which just aren’t happening. “Christmas Time” and “Xtina’s Xmas” have all the staying power of the New Kids’ “Funky Funky Christmas” (I defy anybody to actually remember what that song sounds like).

A few of the traditional carols flop too. “Angels We Have Heard On High” doesn’t quite cut it as a clubby-pop number, and “Oh Holy Night” features a pretentious recitation of “Our Father.” This might have worked if she was Madonna, but she’s not.

My Kind of Christmas isn’t the greatest 45 minutes of music committed to CD this year, but what does that matter? It’ll wind up in the stockings of 13 year-olds across the nation anyway.

Grade: C
-John Vettese
The Reunion
(Tommy Boy)

After Capone’s legal troubles, which resulted in Noreaga recording two solo albums, CNN are back on the scene hoping to repeat the success of their 1997 underground classic, The War Report.

Carl Thomas celebrates the duo’s reunion with his smooth ballad, “Intro: Change Is Gonna Come,” but that’s the smoothest this album gets. Backed by production from L.E.S., Havoc (Mobb Deep), the Alchemist, Primo and Nokio (Dru Hill), The Reunion’s thugged-out, grimy music is signature CNN.

“Phonetime” and “Y’All Don’t Wanna” are the first two singles showcasing the unique chemistry between Capone and N.O.R.E. “Queens” and “Queens Finest” assure fans that despite their success, they haven’t forgotten where they come from. Capone also steps up to the plate proving his worth as an emcee, revealing his sensitive side on “Full Steezy” by telling all the ladies thugs need love too.

The Reunion may not be as good as The War Report, but CNN’s mix of good music and “street politics” is strongly recommended.

Grade: B+
-Omar Branch
This is Cinerama

Playing guitar really fast isn’t David Gedge’s only attribute. Sure he ripped it up as the lead singer/guitarist for the seminal indie group the Wedding Present, but Cinerama is further proof that he is an engaging, even romantic songwriter.

The biggest difference between the two projects is volume and arrangements. While the former band turned their amps way up, Cinerama’s is more sublime and fuses sweet pop songs with an old-fashion soundtrack feel a la John Barry and Burt Bacharach. Flute, cello, violin, trumpet, and French horn are instruments you wouldn’t find on a Wedding Present album, but they play an integral role on these songs.

Collecting singles, b-sides and other songs, some of which appeared on the first album, Va Va Voom, This is Cinerama is a must for any David Gedge fan. It also serves as a nice introduction for those who dig the sounds of lush pop bands like Tindersticks and Belle and Sebastian. It should be noted that the band’s second album, Disco Volante, is available now on Manifesto Records.

Grade: B+
-Neal Ramirez
Supa DJ Dmitry
Scream of Consciousness

Supa DJ Dmitry holds true to his name with Scream of Consciousness. The CD was compiled, produced and mixed by the New York City club kid turned DJ, turned world famous member of Deee-lite, turned internationally acclaimed independent mixer “dedicated to dancers around the world.”

You must be fully prepared to dance and sweat if you dare to play this house party encased in a compact disc. The Supa one has conceived and created a brilliant mix of increasingly energetic and funky electronics, housey vocals, organic samples and melodic hooks.

Scream of Consciousness is a funky and futuristic vision of house music. The CD features tracks from the talented Steve Stoll, Josh Wink and Luke Slater, with three tracks of Dmity’s own creation.

The vapor-like vocals of Julee Cruise are featured on “Don’t Talk Me Down (supa nova dub)/trial bells.” Her beautiful breathy voice can also be enjoyed on the radical re-working of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

Supa DJ Dmitry delightfully concludes his newest CD with a revitalization of on old Deee-lite song entitled “What Is Love? (eternal question remix).”

Grade: A
-Caitlin Ryan
Lost Souls

From Manchester, doves evolved from the house group Sub Sub and went Britpop after a fire destroyed all their equipment. Their sound is a mix of the early works of the Verve and Radiohead and although Lost Souls is nothing necessarily groundbreaking, it is better than much of the rock music out there. Some of the best songs of the album are those that invoke doves’ past life by using beats and vocal processing, namely, “Here It Comes,” and “Rise.”

doves’ forte is creating soundscapes, so don’t expect much in the way of your average bouncy Britpop numbers. While it’s not exactly anything to go running immediately to your local record store for, Lost Souls’ ominous presence is definitely worth a listen.

Grade: B
-Maureen Walsh
Fatboy Slim
Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars

Most people in Norman Cook’s position would have dropped the ball or decided to play it safe a long time ago, but the artist now known as Fatboy Slim just keeps surpassing himself. After following his career since his days with the Housemartins through Beats International and Freakpower, I must say Halfway is his most awe-inspiring and complete piece to date.

While his past works have had shots of humor throughout, this CD is dead serious about the task at hand. Not to say it’s not fun; “Talking ‘Bout My Baby,” and “Lovelife” are playful and sexy, “Ya Mama” and “Star 69” are typical Fatboy big-beat rave-ups, and “Weapon of Choice” is just plain amazing. The difference between this latest work and say, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, is that it has an ongoing theme throughout; that house music is spiritually transcendent. In Cook’s hands, this common idea reaches a different level.

Fatboy Slim deserves much respect in the music industry for showing other DJs that there are alternatives to mainstream MTV-friendly fare and just when you think you’ve reached the limit another level can be achieved. That is what makes Halfway more satisfying than anything.

Grade: A+
-Maureen Walsh
Marilyn Manson
Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death)
(nothing / Interscope)

For his fourth full length album, Marilyn Manson has turned away from the glam-rock leanings of his last effort, Mechanical Animals, and focused on the sound that made him famous: raucous industrial rock.

Some of Holy Wood’s tracks are half-assed. “Disposable Teens,” while being a great rocker, sounds strikingly like “The Beautiful People.” “Valentines Day” drones on the refrain “In the shadow of the valley of death” for what seems like an eternity. There’s also Manson’s fascination with the Kennedy assassination, which works its way into enough tracks that it becomes bothersome.

But the fact that the album keeps up its stamina for 19 tracks with little filler is impressive. Hard hitters like the violent “Fight Song” are supplemented with peaceful tunes like “Lamb Of God,” and in the end, Manson’s return to his roots (or to his more profitable sound) works.

Grade: B
-John Vettese
Nine Inch Nails
Things Falling Apart

Since 1992’s Fixed EP, remixes have been a strong point for Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor has a knack for picking remixers who either intensify his work or put a creative new spin on it. Even 1996’s abstract, often dissonant Further Down The Spiral held water because the tracks formed such a tight, cohesive whole.

The problem with Things Falling Apart, a re-working of songs from last year’s The Fragile, is the abstraction seems half-assed, and the cohesiveness isn’t really present. An almost-beautiful cello and violin version of “The Frail” is brought down initially by obtrusive and pointless computer noise, and furthermore by being sandwiched between two schizophrenic remixes of “Starfuckers, Inc.” “The Great Collapse,” a version of “The Wretched” reaches overkill when the refrain is looped to annoyance.

On the other hand, Danny Lohner and Teflon Tel Aviv’s version of “Where Is Everybody” starts off as mellow jungle and builds fiercely. A cover of Gary Numan’s “Metal” works out in the end as well.

But for its cool moments, Things Falling Apart sounds like a random hodge-podge of stuff that nobody felt like putting in any kind of sensible order. Definitely not Trent Reznor’s finest moment.

Grade: B-
-John Vettese
Pizzicato Five
The Fifth Album for Matador

One could call Pizzicato Five dance music, but for musicologists they are torchbearers of the Shibuya-kei scene. In a nutshell, Shibuya-kei is Japanese music that splices a girl group era or Bossa Nova mentality with hip-hop beats and modern studio technology (in effect, the best of all things new and old).

Pizzicato Five, an institution since the mid-80s, deliver their fifth domestic release and it is almost nonstop fun. A reviewer once said “Pizzicato Five are ready for America, but is America ready for Pizzicato Five?” and the question is still effective. While the group, which consists of musical mastermind Yasuharu Konishi and singer/provocateur Maki Nomiya, has had success on Japanese charts for some years, they have achieved only a cult following in the states.

Like a crazier Saint Etienne or Austin Power’s wet dream, P5 pour their freaky souls into hits like “A Room With a View” and the go-go dance of “20th Century Girl.” This is party music. Pizzicato Five will first shake your rump. The artistic appreciation follows.

Grade: B
-Neal Ramirez
Sad Rockets

For every Belle and Sebastian and Pavement that Matador Records produces, there comes a band like Sad Rockets: unstructured, avant-garde, and just plain weird.

It’s instrumental, but it isn’t trip-hop. Much of it follows in the form of the opening track “Senio Junior,” sounding like somebody took an old-school Casio keyboard and pressed the “demo” button. “Lachmachun Spezial” brings some funk to the Casio sound, but is still weak. “Sad Rocket’s Rock Steady” shows improvement with a fuller sound, but is looped and repeated into monotony.

Some moments are worthwhile; “Winter’s Over” is a nice, spaced out acoustic number, and the groove based “Half-Tone Freeze” is a pretty sweet song. But those moments don’t lessen the chore that it is to listen to the rest of the disc.

Transition just goes to show that if music becomes too minimal there’s really nothing left.

Grade: C-
-John Vettese
The Spice Girls
(Virgin Records)

Ever since the departure of Geri Halliwell, the Spice Girls have been trying to prove that they’re better off without her. If Forever is supposed to be exhibit A, well you could have fooled me. “Ginger” Spice took not only the songwriters and producers with her but the Spice as well. What we are left with are four girls trying to show they are women now; they’ve outgrown the silly antics, the platform shoes, and the “zig a zig aahh,” apparently.

Grown-up doesn’t necessarily have to mean downright bland, but Forever seems to define it that way. Almost every song is produced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins who interjects with “Uh…uh…Darkchild, Spice Girls, 2000” every chance he gets. To put things like that on a Spice Girls song is about as silly as Puff Daddy making an appearance on a Celine Dion album.

The album’s only real highlights are “Holler,” “Get Down With Me,” and “Goodbye,” which was released two years ago anyway. If you need a Spice Girls fix, buy Mel C’s Northern Star, Posh’s “Out of Your Mind” single, and Mel B’s upcoming Hot album. These excellent solo ventures far exceed Forever in girl power.

Grade: D
-Maureen Walsh

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