CD reviews

This week’s CD reviews are on:  >Da Beatminerz  >Fantastic Plastic Machine  >Jadakiss  >Scarface  >Sparklehorse  >theSTART  >They Might Be Giants  >Various Artists (Tribute to Tori Amos) Da Beatminerz Brace 4 Impak (Rawkus) Grade: A- Da Beatminerz,

This week’s CD reviews are on:
 >Da Beatminerz
 >Fantastic Plastic Machine
 >They Might Be Giants
 >Various Artists (Tribute to Tori Amos)

Da Beatminerz
Brace 4 Impak
Grade: A-

Da Beatminerz, a crew of Brooklyn producers responsible for Enta Da Stage by Black Moon, have proven in their latest compilation, Brace 4 Impak, that they’re on par with some of the better beat-makers in hip-hop.

For the mix, Da Minerz, enlist a talented group of MCs ranging from legends like Diamond D to up-and-comers Billy Flames and Philly’s own Last Emperor.

On the disc’s opener “Live and Direct,” Royce Da shouts, “My guns don’t shoot, they woof,” much like the hammering track. On “Bentleys & Bitches,” Ras Kass drops nasty lines like: “So spiritually high I do drive bys while I sky dive.” Apani B Fly and What What kick braggart flows in “Shut da Fuck Up.” Even the R&B jams bang; Caron Wheeler’s voices floats along a bouncy track on “Open” while Total flavors Talib Kweli’s verses on “Anti-Love Movement”

Thankfully, little has changed from Da Beatminerz trademark early sound. Each of Brace 4 Impak’s sixteen songs feature heavy beats touched with wah-wah guitar plucks, horn blasts and full orchestra samples. Overall, the disc is heavy duty, with Da Minerz’ beats stealing the show from the impressive MCs.

—Bobby Sumner

Fantastic Plastic Machine
(Emperor Norton)
Grade: C-

The third album by Japan’s Tomoyuki Tanaka (a.k.a. Fantastic Plastic Machine) is a frustrating voyage. While the former fashion magazine editor has always had his feet planted firmly in the kitsch sounds of “loungecore,” too many songs on Beautiful either annoy with their silly lead vocals (“Love is Psychedelic”) or just drift along aimlessly (“Whistle Song”).

The best songs are the instrumentals like the chilled “On a Chair,” and the deep funk of “Black Dada.” “Take Me to the Disco” gives a fresh spin to Basement Jaxx-styled house.

With only an EP’s worth of top grade material, the 63 minute album fails to keep the listener’s attention, sounding more like a desperate hodg-podge of jazz and pop samples than anything truly “beautiful.”

—Neal Ramirez


Kiss tha Game Goodbye
(Ruff Ryders/ Interscope)
Grade: B

Jadakiss has a ferocious flow that wasn’t always recognized by the masses. With mediocre success as front man of the Lox’s, it seemed that he didn’t have the recipe for success. That said, this time around the right ingredients were simmered just right and the result is his hot debut solo project Kiss tha Game Goodbye.

The album is filled with hot joints that will appease everyone. Tracks like “Knock Yourself Out” for the ladies and gents, and ” Show Discipline” for the true hip hop heads.

“Keep Ya Head Up” is up is horrific and never should have made it on the CD, but you can’t complain about one miss on a CD filled with 19 other hits.

With this CD Jadakiss is sure to make everyone recognize that he won’t have to kiss tha game goodbye anytime soon.

—Daaimah Poole

The Last Of A Dying Breed
Grade: C+

On his last album before becoming CEO of Def Jam South, Scarface proves he still has the lyrical talent that has given him credibility in hip-hop, but also that he needs to be innovative on the beats.

The Last Of A Dying Breed brings a mix of Southern hip-hop and west coast gangsta rap. The southern laced track, “They Down With Us,” gives credit to all the artists and people Scarface respects (such as Cash Money and Roc-A-Fella Records), while tracks such as “O.G. To Me” and “Conspiracy Theory” show the dark side of his life and some of the experiences he has gone through.

“Get Out,” featuring Jay-Z, demonstrates Scarface’s lyrically talent, and shows why Def Jam chose him to run a part of the label. But despite having guest appearances from Jay-Z to UGK, the majority of the album needs to be developed.

—Alan Gung

It’s a Wonderful Life
Grade: B-

Lyrics such as “I wore a rooster’s blood when it flew like doves / I’m a bog of poisoned frogs” don’t sound as if they’d belong to an album that is melodic and – at times – catchy. But surprisingly, It’s a Wonderful Life by Sparklehorse (aka Mark Linkous) is just that.

Stylistically similar to the Meat Puppets circa their second album, it combines country music with rock while evoking thoughts of the Flaming Lips.

The highlights of Life are cameos by the Cardigans’ Nina Persson, PJ Harvey, and Tom Waits who bring their respective characters to the songs on which they appear.

Linkous’ voice is heavily processed to give it an eerie yet childlike quality, which sometimes makes the album sound a little too much like the Lips (coincidentally, the two bands share producer Dave Fridmann) but otherwise, Life is a worthwhile music venture.

—Maureen Walsh

Grade: B

We are taught not to judge a book by its cover. But in this case, a man’s shaven brow on their CD jacket is the perfect window for what theSTART holds in store.

Having the same producer as Orgy, it is no wonder why their styles are so similar. theSTART’s only real distinction is singer Aimee Echo’s shimmering voice splattered all over each song. Shakedown! starts in the future and bounces back to the 1980s, with tracks like “Dirty Lion” making use of catchy choruses and synthesizers that now seem to define the ever-so-popular decade.

The title track starts the album off like a pep rally before a losing game. It pumps us up to start a dancing revolution, only to let us down with trite lyrics and a tiring sound that feed on the nerves for the duration of the album.

Nevertheless, Shakedown! is a decent first attempt at giving the kids what they want; the potential is there. Perhaps a good music video with some hot babes and futuristic lighting could mask the band’s lack of depth enough to get them on TRL.

—Shannon Ledger

They Might Be Giants
Mink Car
Grade: A-

By the second time you listen to Mink Car you’ll find yourself tapping your feet and humming along. Yes, it’s that catchy! They Might Be Giants continue with their wave of experimental antidotes in their new album, encompassing pop, techno and borderline rap stylings, and taking them to new levels.

“Man, It’s So Loud in Here” is trimmed with a techno beat, and the keyboards combined with the lyrics about a night club give disco new life. “Mr. Xcitement” features the vocals and musical influence of M. Doughty (former frontman of Soul Coughing), who brings together rap with the melody of TMBG.

Fans of the band have been waiting five years for Mink Car, as it highlights songs such as “She Thinks She’s Edith Head,” “Cyclops Rock,” and “Older” which have been showcased at TMBG concerts in recent years. The new version of “Another First Kiss” makes the Johns’ (Linnell and Flansburgh) sentimentality evident. They have slowed it down from the Severe Tire Damage clip, adding a couple of words here and there and while holding the notes a little longer, giving the feel of a love song.

All in all, this is one of TMBG’s poppier, happier albums. I highly recommend hopping into the Mink Car.

—Cynthia Wilson

Various Artists
Songs Of A Goddess: A Tribute To Tori Amos
Grade: C+

“You bet your life it is….”, words from “Cornflake Girl” will still ring in your head days after you put Songs Of A Goddess down. Philly locals Tapping the Vein added something more to their version of the Tori Amos staple, with vocalist Heather Thompson’s anger coming across as if she had written the song herself. The hardness was a refreshing change. St. Eve also contributed a great rendition of “She’s Your Cocaine” by invoking interesting beats, and throwing in hard synthesizers.

Most of these bands did get their point across, which was to pay homage to one of the greatest female songwriters in existance. Although merely getting their point across may not be what they wanted to accomplish. On the back cover of CD, it states “If you’re going to do a cover, it has to be a complete challenge.” That’s an original Tori quote from 1992. For the majority of the bands on this comp, it did not seem too challenging to recreate these tunes. They boosted in some drum machines, added electric guitars, and in some cases more whiny vocals. If what you’re looking for is Tori Amos gothicized, here’s where you’ll find it.

—Arlene McCann

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