CD reviews

This week’s CD reviews are on:  > Ben Folds  > The Four Corners  > Jay-Z  > Money Mark  > Ozomatli  > Systematic  > The Slab  > Three 4 Tens Ben Folds Rockin’ the Suburbs (Epic/Sony)

This week’s CD reviews are on:
 > Ben Folds
 > The Four Corners
 > Jay-Z
 > Money Mark
 > Ozomatli
 > Systematic
 > The Slab
 > Three 4 Tens

Ben Folds
Rockin’ the Suburbs
Grade: A

While still a favorite among mostly white college students, with his cheeky lyrics and punk-rawk Billy Joel piano stylings, Ben Folds is getting on in years. He’s disillusioned with the adult world. And regrets? He’s had a few, but that doesn’t stop his first proper solo album from sounding just as cheery as his work with Ben Folds Five.

Folds plays most of the instruments on Rockin’ the Suburbs, and the album is more reminiscent of Whatever And Ever Amen than The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner the Five’s final album. Most of the songs center around past relationships and trying to compromise his age and class with his ideals. Highlights include “The Luckiest,” and the anti-TRL title track. While the album does not offer anything profound in terms of growth, sometimes staying the same isn’t such a bad thing.

—Maureen Walsh

The Four Corners
Say You’re a Scream
Grade: B

Looking for 15 blasts from the past (a la one of those “best of the ’60s” compilations)? If so, Say You’re a Scream is right up your alley.

Despite the vintage sounds on this album, The Four Corners are not a long lost garage band. They’re an Athens, GA five-piece, unapologetically immersed in the sounds of ’60s mod/psychedelia.

The band gets pretension points for including a stereo mix of the album after the original mono version. But looking past the crystalline retro vision and hip haircuts, they breathe new life into classics like “Long Tall Shorty” (popularized by the Kinks, a band the Corners no doubt idolize) and the Stooges’ bad ass “No Fun.” Great originals like “Summer’s Time” and the Motown-y “Now!, Baby!, Now!” fare almost as well.

Nothing groundbreaking here, but this will suffice if you wish you were living in a groovier decade or you just like to bop that mullet to a good beat.
—Neal Ramirez

The Blueprint
(Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
Grade: A-

It’s lived up to the hype. Jay-Z’s sixth album, The Blueprint, the subject of much discussion (and bootlegging) actually achieved — and perhaps exceeded — its expectations.

His beefs with fellow New York rappers Nas and Prodigy are skillfully covered in “Takeover.” “Girls, Girls, Girls,” featuring Biz Markie, Q-Tip, and Slick Rick on the hooks, is sure to become a club favorite. Eminem, the only guest to spit a verse on the album, rhymed and produced “Renegade,” an assault on the media, the hip-hop industry, and society in general.

Surprisingly, Jay mostly employed lesser-known producers for The Blueprint, such as Kanye West and Bink. They incorporate ’70s samples to make this the most soulful Jay-Z album since his debut, Reasonable Doubt.

But what that makes this record a potential hip-hop classic isn’t Hova’s precise flow or entertaining lyrics, but the fact that he poured his heart into this record. Jay bares his soul on songs such as “Never Change,” and shows his thought process on the current hard-hitting single “U Don’t Know.”

Since he coined the phrase, Jay-Z should know the “Streets Is Watching.” On The Blueprint, Jay-Z took it back to the streets, with a genuine solo album that left no questions unanswered. Like he said on 1996’s “Dead Presidents,” “I’m addressing all drama.”

—Aggrey Sam

Money Mark
Change is Coming
(Emperor Norton)
Grade: A-

For those of you unfamiliar with the work of “Money” Mark Nishita, all you need to do is listen to just about any Beastie Boys album. Listen for the jammin’ keyboard riffs, and there you go.

On his latest CD, Change is Coming, Money Mark rips from jazz-fusion to funk to Latin-inspired rhythms without missing a beat. He has a talent that many don’t: rather than copping various styles and sounding confused, he infuses the styles into the tracks and makes them something of his own.

The arrangements go from mellow to danceable and work well on each track of the CD. Halfway through the first track, you’ll be up on your feet, unable to keep from moving to the infectious grooves.
—Jeremy Smith

Embrace the Chaos
Grade: A-

Ten seconds into “Pa Lante,” the lead track on this album, it’s easy to see why this unique collective named their band after the Aztec god of dance. You’d have to be an inanimate object not to jive to this Black-Chicano-Cuban-Japanese-Jewish-Filipino crew.

The Los Angeles eight-piece keeps things fresh on this grimy sophomore effort by refusing to conform to one musical style. Afro-Latin jazz collides with drum ‘n’ bass on “Dos Cosas Ciertas.” Guests De La Soul deliver the hip-hop goods on “1234.” Throughout the album, the lyrics jump from Spanish to English and back, but the beat defies language barriers.

Ozomatli is the perfect configuration: true musicians immersed in political change rather than complex time signatures.
Embrace the Chaos, a fully realized album from an outfit “accepting the fucked up things of the world but wanting to change them,” couldn’t come at a more appropriate time for America.

—Neal Ramirez
Ozomatli will perform at the Trocadero on September 21


Somewhere in Between
Grade: B-

Fresh off the Ozzfest summer tour circuit, the four-some known as Systematic has quite a tale to tell and is ready to be heard. On their debut album, Somewhere In Between, Systematic pays as much attention to melody and song crafting as they do to the heavy guitar riffs that dominate their sound.

“Deep Colors Bleed” and “Glass Jaw” both carry strong, memorable tunes, while raw moments bleed forth on “Mail Bomb” and the catchy, melodic “Dopesick.”

Perhaps it is the title track that best demonstrates the band’s serious dedication to song crafting. At seven minutes long, this emotionally driven song is the glue that holds the 13-track album together and keeps listeners around for great songs like “If Only” and “Thick Skin.” But the standout song that will have you singing the chorus over and over again in your head is the first single, “Beginning of the End.”

All in all, Somewhere in Between is a solid debut from this San Francisco Bay group and an excellent exhibition of crushing melody in today’s new metal scene.

—Chris Powell

The Slab
8 Ball Presents The Slab
Grade: B-

The Slab, which consists of mostly Texas rappers, features production work by fellow and well-known rapper 8 Ball. Most of the album combines Southern keyboard (similar to Cash Money records) and up-tempo beats.

8 Ball Presents The Slab introduces new rappers who were recently signed to the label. “G-Type” demonstrates the speed and quick rhyming of newcomer Concret and shows the new flavor Southern hip-hop brings. Songs such as “N***as & Bitchs” and “Down and Dirty” give the Southern up-tempo beats that groups such as The Cash Money Millionaires and Field Mobb have been credited with. “Keep on Pimpin” and “Like Me” add the female perspective and quick paced rhymes of newly signed members, Cl’Che’ and Lil Mama.

8 Ball has proven himself as a producer on the rise for his production work on 8 Ball Presents The Slab. Collaborating with established rappers MJG and Too Short also benefit the album.

—Alan Gung

Three 4 Tens
Change is On Its Way
(File 13)
Grade: B-

Bring the early Brit-rock, bring the power pop, and bring the mod style, the mop tops and vintage suits. Leave, however, the psychedelia at home, tucked far, far away in a drawer.
It’s a shame, the most defining characteristic of the Three 4 Tens is also its least becoming. The Tens first full length release, Change is On Its way, is tainted by tracks like “Ostinato Raga” replete with a sitar and barely audible mantra. As well as, “Red Shirt Today,” which sounds like something that ended up on the cutting room floor while the Beatles recorded the White Album.

The true highlights are the upbeat, snappy garage-rock tunes. The Tens tear into the songs “Mary’s Poppin'” and “Sugar Creek Road” like the Monkeys on Benzedrine. That is if Davy Jones sang about girls named Mary addicted to prescription drugs. Another gem on the album, which highlights their musicianship (not that the sitar wasn’t impressive), is the ballad “Happy New Year.”

The Three 4 Tens do have a daring sound though and often break precedent within the realm of pop music.

—Justin Duff
Three 4 Tens will perform at the TLA on September 25 with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.