CD reviews

This Week’s CD Reviews are >> Ryan Adams >> Alfie >> Bjork >> Goo Goo Dolls >> Handsome Devil >> HanSoul and Tribe of Judah >> Ritchie Hawtin >> Tech N9ne >> RZA as Bobby

This Week’s CD Reviews are
>> Ryan Adams
>> Alfie
>> Bjork
>> Goo Goo Dolls
>> Handsome Devil
>> HanSoul and Tribe of Judah
>> Ritchie Hawtin
>> Tech N9ne
>> RZA as Bobby Digital
>> Young Dubliners

<a name=”ryan”
Ryan Adams
(Lost Highway)
Grade: B+
The latest effort from “alt-country” poster boy Ryan Adams is a lot to digest: a 16-track album with a five-track bonus disc (first-pressing only). The former front man of the legendary band Whiskeytown, Adams embarks on his second solo effort just a year after the release of Heartbreaker.
On Gold, Adams expounds on Heartbreaker’s themes of romantic hopelessness with songs like “Sylvia Plath” and “Harder Now That It’s Over.” But with the album’s first single “New York, New York,” Adams heads for the big city and the big time with a sound that is more Wallflowers than Whiskeytown — a total abandonment of anything country.
The second track, “Firecracker” is another rocker, but Adam’s quickly slips back into his cowboy boots, lights up a smoke and returns to the poetic ballads he’s known for in songs like “La Cienga Just Smiled” and “When Stars Go Blue.” Then out of nowhere comes the all-out rock assault that is “Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues,” a song that could just as easily find a place on a Rolling Stone’s record.
On Gold, Adams flirts with the mainstream, but then runs when it actually seems interested. At least he will be able to keep writing songs about the girl who got away.
— Jesse Chadderdon

<a name=”alf”
If you happy with you need do nothing
(Twisted Nerve/XL Entertainment)
Grade: C
A musical sibling of Badly Drawn Boy, Alfie is your typical British cutesy-wutesy indie fare — quiet, yet competent drumming, mostly acoustic guitars, strings and the occasional trumpet. If you happy with you need do nothing is indeed cute, but that’s all it is.
The band formed in order to create a medium between Mogwai and Oasis, and while this sounds like a good idea, it comes across as indecision. Vocalist Lee Gorton sounds like a less intoxicated, prepubescent Liam Gallagher.
Many of the songs aren’t so much catchy as they are repetitive, and it seems as though the guys are making them up as they go along. There are some good ideas on this album, but they are tainted with a lack of form and, as many indie artists could tell you, structure isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
— Maureen Walsh

<a name=”bjork”
Grade: A-
Continuing with the gradual orchestral progression of 1997’s Homogenic and last year’s Selmasongs, Bjork’s new Vespertine is an album of lavish instrumentation, slight electronics, and the alterna-diva’s trademark evocative vocals.
Experimental techno duo Matmos contribute to the disc’s electro end, adding skittery minimalist beats to the tender-yet-sexy “Cocoon” and brooding thumps to the standout “Pagan Poetry.” A children’s choir adds a “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”-esque ambience to “It’s Not Up To You,” as harps and strings abound throughout.
Bjork’s lyrics are heavily personal this time around, centering on love and family (the difficult “Heirloom”).
But it is with the optimistic closer “Unison” that she vaguely comes to terms with her own growth and need for others. “I can’t do this without you,” she sings. “I never thought I would compromise / let’s unite tonight.” Is she singing about a lover? Her family? Her fans? Whatever the case, from the sound of Vespertine, she hasn’t compromised a thing … it’s simply a wonderful album.
— John Vettese

<a name=”goo”
Goo Goo Dolls
What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art, and Commerce
(Warner Bros.)
Grade: A+
It’s been over three years since the Goo Goo Dolls released their sixth album, Dizzy Up the Girl. Now they are looking into the past via an anthology of old favorites with a new spin. The album, What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art and Commerce, is not only a mouthful to say but also a masterpiece.
New cello arrangements on “Acoustic #3” with Rasputina add an “Iris”-like symphonic quality. Other timeless tracks such as “Fallin’ Down” and “Just The Way You Are” have been artfully remastered. “2 Days in February” is the most noticeably changed of the 22 tracks on the album. It proves singer John Rzeznik’s voice has greatly matured and strengthened since the original recording of the track in 1993.
What I Learned is a remarkable album. Kudos to Goo Goo Dolls for not including mainstream radio-play such as “Iris” and “Slide,” because this album is really about their less-heard favorites from the past. It traces the Dolls’ journey of musical growth. Now, may that journey continue.
— Kara Deniz

<a name=”hand”
Handsome Devil
Love and Kisses from The Underground
(Dirty Martini/RCA)
Grade: A-
The average listener definitely can tell that the So-Cal atmosphere that has fostered bands like No Doubt and Lit influenced Handsome Devil’s style. Overall, their new Love And Kisses From The Underground has an upbeat sound, especially in comparison to today’s somewhat mellow alternative scene; not a single song on the CD is slow. However, the track “Samurai” can be taken offensively with lyrics like “I’m a fucking Samurai / from the darkside / eating fried rice / and I lie.” Other than that, the album’s lyrics tend to be listener-friendly.
The first single, “Makin’ Money,” definitely has potential on both the punk and pop-rock scenes. Like the rest of the album, it is an upbeat song with great guitar riffs and amazing vocals (all four band members sing).
When four guys from Orange County are doing what they love most — making music — their effort definitely shows in the final product.
— Rachel Maisler

<a name=”hans”
HanSoul and Tribe of Judah
New Jerusalem
Grade: A
These four rappers bring their message with power. HanSoul and Tribe of Judah communicate passion for the Christian faith with profound, fast-flowing rhymes that praise God and urge listeners to do the same.
Variety is a big bonus on New Jerusalem. Instruments and tempo are fresh from song to song, giving each track its own unique flavor. Background vocals add variety, as do catchy keyboard lines. The grace with which these rappers trade off raps and keep the harmony testifies to the time and effort that went into the creation of the album.
HanSoul is a Temple graduate who can be seen on campus from time to time. He has had success in the hip-hop game (his cut “Imagination” reached No. 10 on the Billboard charts in 1991), but now he has set out to spread the word of Christianity. His partners — King, Clay, and Timmy S.O.G. — help him accomplish this goal, and in the process have created a solid hip-hop album.
— Adam Tyson

<a name=”ritchie”
Ritchie Hawtin
DE9 Closer to the Edit
Grade: B
Electronica’s favorite Canadian, Ritchie Hawtin (a.k.a. Plastikman) is back with a supplement to 1999’s esteemed Decks, EFX and 909. The names Hawtin and Plastikman might not mean much to the average person, but to dance music fans both names are synonymous with “groundbreaking” and “minimal mastermind.” DE9 is effectively one continuous song made from hundreds of songs sliced down to their most primitive elements and then pieced back together. The result is akin to a techno jigsaw puzzle or dance floor kaleidoscope. Whether you are able to identify what beat or synth lead comes from what song is irrelevant. DE9 is entirely its own creation.
— Neal Ramirez

<a name=”tech”
Tech N9ne
Grade: C-
This record is an anomaly. Tech N9ne’s lyrics are so clever and precisely fired that he deserves serious props. At the same time, the production on Anghellic is so terrible that, it’s straight up hard to listen to.
Tech N9ne hails from Kansas City and his passion for dementia, drugs, sex and “151, Mau Launa and Pineapple juice” comes across in a rapid-fire staccato style similar to Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony. Anghellic’s subject matter is very diverse, ranging from struggles with religion (“This Life”) to crazed groupies (“Psycho Bitch”). “Real Killer” scorns those aborting children, while “Cursed” personifies the rap game as a woman (in the same vein as Common, only this girl is an oversexed groupie allowing everyone to screw her except for Tech). “This Ring” details Tech N9ne’s troubled marriage and his effort to resist temptation and stay faithful.
It’s a shame that the beats are oh so WACK. KRS One said in “Rappaz R N Dainja” that “I will never make a wack album and remix it for my singles.” But Tech N9ne ought to consider remixing this wreck of keyboard bleeps, synthesized strings and guitars provided by QD3 (Quincy Jones’s son!) and other amateurs. With another producer, Anghellic could be a lot more respectable.
— Bobby Sumner

<a name=”rza”
RZA as Bobby Digital
Digital Bullet
Grade: A-
As the producer and lead member of the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA has proven why Wu-Tang will always be forever. Incorporating Chinese martial arts with Islamic philosophies, RZA has made the Wu-Tang an established name in the music world. Now he has shown why he is one of hip-hop’s most sought-after producers by outdoing his last album, Bobby Digital.
Digital Bullet features some of RZA’s best production work ever. Songs such as “Be a Man” and “Must Be Bobby” show everyone his other personality, Bobby Digital, the side of him that no one ever hears. On “La Rhumba,” he uses Latino flavored loops instead of his typical ‘70s styled beats. “Black Widow Part 2,” the sequel to “Black Widow” on Bobby Digital, features Wu-Tang member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, showing the reason Wu-Tang needs ODB in order to be successful.
For anyone who enjoys listening to different and innovative hip-hop, Digital Bullet is worth picking up.
— Alan Gung

<a name=”young”
Young Dubliners
(Higher Octave Music)
Grade: B+
Pulsing rhythms with a driving Celtic flare surround the Irish rock sextuplet’s fourth release, Red. The Young Dubliners — the illegitimate love child of The Dave Matthews Band and Riverdance — have been touring off and on since their formation in 1994, building up a loyal cult-like fan base throughout the world.
Their live shows have become almost legendary among fans or “Young Dubs.” Red has an untainted essence and powerful energy that is harnessed for 13 enchanting tracks. With compositions ranging from catchy hook-laden melodies to complex orchestrations, the band utilizes a wide array of instruments to fill out their unique sound. From fiddle to mandolin, Bodhran to guitar, Uillean Pipes to organ, every aspect of the band’s sound comes across as distinct, yet dependent upon the group as a whole.
Red propels a sound that is simply enough an “easy listen.” It doesn’t take effort to like, and it possesses a quality that will charm fans of any genre.
— Ryan Kelley

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