CD reviews

This week’s CD reviews are on: >> DMX >> The Hives >> Chimaira >> Lupine Howl >> iffy >> Ill Nino >> Superchunk >> Lenny Kravitz DMX The Great Depression (Ruff Ryders/Def Jam) Grade: B-

This week’s CD reviews are on:
>> DMX
>> The Hives
>> Chimaira
>> Lupine Howl
>> iffy
>> Ill Nino
>> Superchunk
>> Lenny Kravitz

The Great Depression
(Ruff Ryders/Def Jam)
Grade: B-

DMX’s latest, The Great Depression, doesn’t digress from his previous three releases. It’s got some club bangers (“We Right Here”), a song for the females (“Shorty Was Da Bomb”), a few R&B singers on the hooks (Stephanie Mills, Faith Evans, and Mashonda) and a whole lot of energy. However, it seems that on this record, X has rediscovered a passion not seen since his classic debut, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.

Whether succinctly addressing his involvement in the ongoing East Coast hip-hop battles (“Bloodline Anthem”) or his rumored frustration with the Ruff Ryders camp, X clearly put more energy into this album than his last two. He ensures his street credibility is intact with joints such as “School Street” (his neighborhood in Yonkers, N.Y.), and “Who We Be,” a certified banger.

At the same time, listeners must not forget that X is now known to mainstream America. He plays to these listeners in collaborations with R&B legends Mills (“When I’m Nothing”) and Evans (“I Miss You,” a track dedicated to his grandmother).

While The Great Depression may not satisfy fans looking for more versatility or improved lyricism from X, the effort put into his work this time around (without significant contributions from other emcees) is impressive.

—Aggrey Sam

The Hives
Veni Vidi Vicious
(Epitaph/Burning Heart)
Grade: B

From the land of chefs and bikini teams come The Hives, one of dozens of bands from around the world fusing the best parts of garage, punk and early rock ‘n’ roll. On their second full-length, Veni Vedi Vicious, the Hives fly through the first seven fuzzed out songs in just over 16 minutes. With high-energy drums and slurred, shouted vocals, these Scandinavians seem well on their way to delivering a perfect party record. Up until an unfortunate cover of the Impressions’ “Find Another Girl,” the album gravitates somewhere in the region charted in the late ’70s by The Vibrators and The Dead Boys. It’s no mere regurgitation; however, the band injects its own energy into a familiar formula.

Unfortunately, the high-flying Hives take a nosedive after tackling the soul classic. This and the remaining songs lack the intensity and focus of the earlier tracks. If for some reason these Swedes asked me for advice, I’d encourage them firstly to keep the rock knob turned up high and secondly to stop dressing in clothes found at Rocket From the Crypt’s garage sale.

—Richard Charles

The Hives will play the North Star Bar with The (International) Noise Conspiracy Nov. 18.

Pass Out of Existence
(Road Runner)
Grade: B+

Intense guitar riffs, brutal bass lines, intricate electronics and heart-pounding drums combined with frontman Mark Hunter’s lamenting vocals and archaic screams make Chimaira’s Pass Out of Existence a gut-wrenching album that defies classification.

“Lumps” is an overall insane song with chaotic drumming and crazy sampling, while “Painting The White To Grey,” is a blast of intense misery. Packed with fast thrashing guitars and gutsy vocals, “Let Go,” sounds like Pantera or Soulfly, whereas “Dead Inside” boasts originality. “Pass out of Existence” revels in pure anger, while “Split” blisters with melodies.

However, Andols Herrick, the band’s drummer, is Chimaira’s shining star. Sounding like the illegitimate child of an all-night-drinking rampage between Slipknot and Pantera in the back of a tour bus, his work on the drums justifies the album’s cost alone.

—Chris Powell

Chimaira will play the E-Factory with Slayer Nov. 15.

Lupine Howl
The Carnivorous Lunar Activities of Lupine Howl
(Beggar’s Banquet)
Grade: B

This debut, nine-track record from Lupine Howl is so British sounding you’ll come out of it with an accent. Given that Sean Cook (bass/vocals), Mike Mooney (guitar), and Damon Reece (drums) are all from Spiritualized, this makes sense. “Vaporizer” sounds like Kula Shaker, while “125” has drawn out lyrical phrases typical of The Verve and Charlatans UK. The band shifts gears on “Carnival” with bizarre loops in the beginning that sounds like a Halloween sound effects tape. But although Lupine Howl’s members are touted in the music industry as geniuses, this album is mediocre. Any other group could have put out The Carnivorous Lunar Activities of Lupine Howl with a lot less pretentiousness.

—Kristie Edelstein

biota bondo
Grade: B-

As popular as Beck and G. Love are, it’s a wonder that the feel-good, funky, jazz-influenced music they pioneered hasn’t caught on. Other than the Bob Schneider-led Ugly Americans, no band of note has successfully adopted the style. Until now. Meet iffy, the Minneapolis-based quartet looking to carve their niche into this oft-ignored genre.

Like Beck, iffy’s founding members also have their roots in the alt-country scene. Singer/ songwriter Kirk Johnson was the lead singer of Run Westy Run, which he formed with his brother (and iffy’s drummer) Kraig Johnson. But Kirk was best known for his work with the all-star Americana band Golden Smog, where he shared songwriting duties with the likes of Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) and Gary Louris (The Jayhawks).

On biota bondo the brothers Johnson fully depart from country, but luckily, the songwriting stays intact. Kirk lays often hilarious, sometimes pensive lyrics over a whirlwind of synthesizers, keyboards and turntables. The opening jaunt “Double Dutch” is sure to get you dancing. “Da Blink” is a brilliant song featuring a call-and-response verse between Kraig and Kirk, and a chorus smartly poking fun at addiction: “Under the gun of consumption / I’m gonna do what I can.”

—Jesse Chadderdon

Ill Nino
(Road Runner)
Grade: B-

Shedding the tribal skin of label mates Soulfly and Sepultura, Ill Nino create something that’s naturally aggressive but in touch with their Latin roots on their debut, Revolution…Revolucion. The resulting creation is a pummeling mix of slam-banging guitars, brutal vocals, relentless percussions and Flamenco-guitar-led melodies.

“God Save Us,” an awesome opening effort, strongly resembles Machine Head’s intense sound and thrashing-guitar style, but the song also reflects strong cultural pride with underlying Latin beats.

“If You Still Hate Me,” is a handful of thrashing guitars and intense scratching against raw vocals, whereas “What Comes Around” resembles the fast hip-hop style of Linkin Park, but with dark and deep vocals like Max Cavalera.

The title track is an impressive guitar driven song, while “Liar” quietly begins with peaceful flamenco strumming … until the tranquility is broken by the bellowing vocals of frontman Cristian Machado.

But on “Unreal” and “Nothing’s Clear,” Ill Nino truly finds their strengths. Both songs maintain their band’s powerfully aggro style, but effectively weave in melodic vocal spouts for an aggressive edge that truly stands out.

For an album that seethes with explosiveness and aggression it’s surprising to find a soft spot, but tucked away after 12 grueling tracks is “With You.” Driven by Flamenco guitars and soft emotional vocals that reach out and touch you, it’s a surprising inclusion, but nonetheless a welcome one.

—Chris Powell

Ill Nino will play the Trocadero with Kittie Nov. 18.

Here’s to Shutting Up
Grade: A-

Twelve years after defining the U.S. indie scene with an exuberant clamor, Superchunk is still making trademark hyper rock. Here’s to Shutting Up, the band’s eighth collection of eclectic, riveting tunes, is an album only a truly seasoned outfit could make.

“Rainy Streets” and the Versus-ish “Out on the Wing” highlight the group’s rocking proficiency, while “Late-Century Dream” and the pedal steel-laden “Phone Sex” show a softer Chunk. Singer Mac McCaughan has changed his singing style to a more subdued, mature approach. His modus operandi appears in the denouement of “Art Class”: “Life is the art that you make.”

Bridging the gap between two of Superchunk’s finest works — the ferocious On the Mouth and the melancholy Foolish — Shutting Up proves experience is a splendid thing.

—Neal Ramirez

Superchunk will play the Trocadero Nov. 25.

Lenny Kravitz
Grade: B

Lenny Kravitz returned to his roots and sound with his latest release, the not-so-cleverly-titled “Lenny.”

The balanced CD features Kravitz’ retro sound, even stronger after the success of the ’70s remake, “American Woman,” but less of the lush electronic sound that fans were treated to on “5.” You won’t find Heineken bottles listed as an instrument anywhere and the moog only makes one showing. What has not changed are the two themes, new found and lost love.

Once again, Kravitz releases a CD that is fully him. He produced, arranged, played nearly every instrument, and wrote 10 of the 12 songs solo.

“Dig In,” the first radio single from “Lenny” gives the audience an idea of what to expect elsewhere in the CD, but is hardly the best. The single is rockier than “Again” and has failed to reach that song’s highs.

The first gem on “Lenny” is track five, “Believe in Me.” The song starts with a loop of Kravitz making some Michael Jackson hiccups and pops and continues through over a bare orchestral arrangement, complimenting the tone of a man who feels alone. “Please believe in me / ’cause what I need is for you to believe in me” and “I will sacrifice to find paradise / but I need to know that you are behind me.”

Kravitz switches back to rock and acoustic sets for the majority of the CD before hitting “You Were in My Heart” and “Bank Robber Man,” a jam session about Kravitz being picked up by cops in Miami because he fit the description of a bank robber. For the former, Kravitz picks up the orchestral arrangement and moog to go with the dark lyrics. “I want to be a better man / lord knows that I’m tryin’ … Demons sleep with me in bed / I can feel their fire … But you were in my heart … your blood’s running through my veins.”

The CD ends on the very ’60s sounding “Let’s Get High.” Let’s not forget though, its Lenny Kravitz and the song. “Let’s get high / high on this feeling of love.”

The CD is Lenny and there isn’t much to complain about that, but it does lack the adventuresome nature he’s exerted on his previous studio albums.

—Brian Swope

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