Disco Volante

Guitars jangle, an impassioned English voice sings of obsession. Breasts, lips, heels, thighs, nails. Flutes soar to the heavens, caught in Ennio Morricone-style soundscapes. "I don't want to leave my girlfriend!" the wannabe adulterer cries, "But wow! This isn't happening as I planned." More abrasive guitars, tempered by Steve Albini's steel, clash--strings wail in sympathy, an accordion comes over, all Continental. Someone yawns, sensuous and caught off-guard. This isn't exactly how I imagined the second solo album from ex-Wedding Present singer David Gedge to sound--John Barry themes meets 1991's "Brassneck"--but hey! I like it. EVERETT TRUE

(Drag City)

The Fucking Champs slam together clichés from prog-rock and metal in an attempt to spark something new. This formula earned the trio a spot on the post-rock roster of Chicago label Drag City, where they released IV. The 11 instrumental songs move from bombastic drama and drum rolls to massively overlaid, tinny guitar riffs. Aside from some ironic song titles (instead of, say, "Thor Is Immortal," they've got "Thor Is Like Immortal"), the Champs fall short of their claim to both "exalt and reject" classic rock. They are clearly gear fetishists--their liner notes carefully chronicle the Rickenbackers, Stratocasters, and Danelectros that went into each song. One senses they don't want words muddying their overdrive--which is unfortunate, because even a few well-placed lyrics might lessen the feeling of being transported to a steroidal mid-'80s weight room, where the grunting and crashing of beefcake pumping iron to the sounds of Van Halen, Rush, Yes, and Metallica can almost be heard. WILL COMERFORD

Find a Way
(Boyntunes, Inc.)

These songs about "trying to do my best" or having "a little faith in human nature" are sung with labored sincerity by a Seattle guy with a tremulous, torn, Tom Petty-esque sort of voice. The noodly keyboards, guitar solos, and moaning backup chicks (including the venerable Merrilee Rush on two tracks) complete the late-'70s, Southern-California, Hallmark-card-on-cocaine sensibility. Not my cup of mushroom tea exactly. The impression I am left with is that he's a nice guy--that after a couple beers, he might be fun to watch live at a street fair. TAMARA PARIS

Music for People

The sophomore release from Jon Crosby's VAST (Visual Audio Sensory Theater) has the former soloist adding a few band members and losing some of the eclecticism of the self-titled first album (provided by a Bulgarian women's choir and Benedictine and Tibetan monks). Music for People offers a more uplifting, less gothic/industrial sound--in essence, more traditional rock and roll with lots of pop hooks. Still, the odd blend of Crosby's more obvious influences (U2, Nine Inch Nails, the Cure) is still there, as is Crosby's impressive vocal range. Not surprisingly, the likely radio hits are located early in the CD ("The Last One Alive" and "Free"). The second half is more varied, ranging from poppy tunes to soulful ballads like "My TV and You," which serves up the ageless plea, "Take me how I am/'cause you know I'll never change." MELODY MOSS

(SYR/Smells Like Records)

SYR5 is Sonic Youth Records' fifth release and its first that doesn't feature Sonic Youth proper. The album is an improvisational trio featuring Kim Gordon on vocals and guitar, illbient pioneer DJ Olive, and ex-DNA no wave drummer Ikue Mori creating glistening, abstract electronic soundscapes over which Gordon delivers her femme mystère free-vox performance. If that all sounds a bit downtown New York precious, it isn't in its end product. This is due largely to the presence of DJ Olive and Mori, who also work with a separate trio featuring avant-turntablist Christian Marclay. The intuitiveness of that other creation carries over on SYR5 exquisitely. The moody, weightless atmosphere and silvery effects move from subliminal to captivating, creating a simpatico space for Gordon's free-associating, which is an extension of the technique she hinted at on "Contre le Sexisme." "We Are the Princesses" is a particularly good example here. Like Sonic Youth's cohesive nyc ghosts & flowers, this album is experimental and improvisational in the best sense of the words. NATE LIPPENS


It's Like This

It's not easy being a Rickie Lee Jones fan. She constantly tests your love. Since her Grammy-winning 1979 debut, Jones has followed her own idiosyncratic, often maddening artistic path. That path has included detours into jazz standards with 1991's Pop Pop and triphop on 1997's Ghostyhead. This restlessness is to be applauded in that it shows a musician constantly stretching and seeking invention. That doesn't mean it's always rewarding. Jones' new album, It's Like This, is a collection of spare covers that run the gamut from Gershwin, Lerner and Loewe, and Sondheim, to Marvin Gaye and Traffic. Her version of Steely Dan's "Show Biz Kids" is inspired, and the Beatles' "For No One" has a sly undercurrent to its straightforward take. The pop songs tend to fare better than the standards. Jones' jazzbo affectations get the best of her, though, on "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," and Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" is just plain awful. Unlike Joni Mitchell's recent orchestra-backed standards and originals album Both Sides Now, It's Like This isn't self-important. The arrangements are modest, and the players include Joe Jackson and Taj Mahal. But in a year that has already given us several great songwriters making albums of cover songs, It's Like This feels indulgent and unnecessary. This time Jones seems to have failed by playing it too safe. NATE LIPPENS