Refried Dreams
(In the Red)

The Chee-tos Sticks ain't never had shit, but still these mens keep it keepin' on with solid, steady-rollin', dank, stanky R&B, in the no-fi way! Uh, if you don't know what I mean by that... they kinda like the Oblivians yusta be, but they actually LESS polished... and much less angry. However, this Refried LP got, in peculiar to my ears, some serious Radio and his Birdman overtones! Now, I have NO idea why... fuck, maybe them overtones ALWAYS been there, or maybe it's experimentation with swank, cleaner, recordin' techniques? Whatever... I don't care, I ain't complainin'. Viva la Cheaters! MIKE NIPPER


(Backburner Records)

"The clowns all have herpes and hepatitis C," warbles Vic Chesnutt, over woozy flute and piano, on the song "Mighty Monkey." It's about a decaying circus with alcoholic acrobats, a crack-smoking emcee, and a worm-infested dancing bear. Merriment is 10 songs full of tragicomic observation and curmudgeonly philosophy set against a backdrop of diseased piano bar music, with some carnival touches worthy of Sparklehorse. It's a stripped-down affair compared to Chesnutt's last release, The Salesman and Bernadette, which featured Nashville's Lambchop. With his crooning voice, Chesnutt could be a Southern gothic boy-cousin to Victoria Williams or Mary Margaret O'Hara. His phrasing is the musical equivalent of Christopher Walken's diction--willful, hypnotic, and with its own logic. Merriment isn't a sarcastic title. Despite all the misery in his lyrics and his life (he was paralyzed and wheelchair-bound by a car accident), Chesnutt is a stubborn optimist and a cracked genius, which is where the real ache and beauty come in. NATE LIPPENS

As Brass and Satin
(Made in Mexico)

The Vogue's ambitious first LP, As Brass and Satin, is a cool, keyboard-enabled liquefaction of dissonant chord progressions, goofy '70s guitar riffs, and gasping vocal histrionics. Though the songs are abrupt, jerky, self-conscious variations on art-punk, there are gorgeous melodic swerves in which a genuine emotional investment begins to insinuate itself. Those deviations are what make the album unique, and the Vogue so promising. I just wish they sounded less deliberate. In concert they're detached, and that's their schtick; but on record that detachment falls slightly flat. The most riveting thing about youthful energy is usually its trademark honesty. But the Vogue--like many brainy, talented youngsters--are currently drunk on their own artistic grandiosity, and thus too busy to bother with a whole lot of introspection. Pay attention, though--by the time they're old enough to legally consume alcohol, they may be the greatest band in the world. JEFF DeROCHE

One for the Ride
(Second Nature Recordings)

Let me pocket my cynicism, allowing it no opportunity to pollute the review of this finely crafted, guitar-driven album. Even then, I could never adequately describe the emotion in Rocky Votolato's haunting voice. From the beautifully written title track to the enraged and threatening "There Will Be a Reckoning," Waxwing dig well beneath the surface of everyday feeling. What they uncover is a coherent mesh of explosive sound--surprising coming from a band whose external projects are so disparate. (Votolato also does his own acoustic guitar-based solo projects; brother and guitarist Cody Votolato spazzes out with the Blood Brothers; drummer Rudy Gajadhar drums for Bugs in Amber; and Andrew Hartley has loaned his talents to Mad as Birds.) Please excuse me for shivering over this record; it's just eerie to have someone read my mind in my most vulnerable moments--and then write a strangely perfect soundtrack to accompany them. MEGAN SELING

Bring It On--Music from the Motion Picture

I must admit my bias toward this film, sure to be the unqualified cinematic jewel of 2000. Rival cheerleading squads contending with each other and complicated issues of race and class? Bring it on! The accompanying 47 minutes of generic dance music? Bring it far, far away, and preferably bury it deep in the earth, in a lead casing if possible, that it may never again vibrate another human eardrum! JASON PAGANO

by Kris Adams

John Wesley Harding, The Confessions of St. Ace (Malt/Mammoth) Songs from a witty, wordy storyteller.

Cheap Trick, The Authorized Greatest Hits (Sony Legacy) The band chose the 16 tracks for this one themselves.

Scorpions/Berliner Philharmoniker, Moment of Glory (EMI) The first time a heavy metal band has ever played with an orchestra. We only wonder how the people in the orchestras feel about playing with heavy metal bands.

Agent Orange, This, That-N-The Other Thing (Cleopatra) Agent Orange has re-emerged from various stages of remission to remind us how harsh and caustic they are.

Bim Skala Bim, Krinkle (Beatville) Bim Skala Bim were a response to Britain's two-tone movement of the early '80s, and are still together with the same lineup since 1989. Go USA!

Do or Die, Victory (Rap-A-Lot/Virgin) The Midwest gets represented by this hardcore Chicago trio.

Jets to Brazil, Four Cornered Night (Jade Tree) Former members of Jawbox. A decent, if disappointing follow-up to a good debut.

The Wisdom of Harry, House of Binary (Matador) Debut album from a band featuring Pete Astor, formerly of the Loft and the Weather Prophets.