Follow the Sound
(Le Grand Magistery)

Le Grand Magistery is a small Michigan-based label known for releasing excellent hard-candy pop gems by cult eccentrics like Momus and Kahimi Karie. With Mascott's latest release, Follow the Sound, the band expands its repertoire. Mascott is a one-woman band in the way that the Spinanes were on Arches and Aisles: centered on the singular vision and songwriting of one woman, with the sound fleshed out by simpatico friend-musicians. In Mascott's case, that vision belongs to Kendall Jane Meade, formerly of Juicy and a player with Helium and the Spinanes. On Follow the Sound, she is joined by a cast of indie-rock luminaries including The Ladybug Transistor's Jeffrey Baron, the Mekons' Sally Timms, and ubiquitous magical realist Jim O'Rourke, who also produces several tracks. For all the guests, Follow the Sound remains a spare, stripped-down, 10-song rumination on romance of the forlorn and lovelorn variety. Meade writes songs that are shimmering and direct. The dreaminess focuses its eyes and delivers beauty and hard truth that never curdles into cynicism on "Yellow Room" and "History, as Planned" ("On the first day of next week/I'll be history, as planned"). Meade has progressed nicely from Mascott's EP debut, Electric Poems, keeping the wonder and losing the wistfulness that brought to mind the Softies at their most precious. Follow the Sound can be lilting and hopeful but it is too quietly strong to ever be wispy. Meade sings, "I'll be fine if I close my eyes," and despite the ache, the listener does not doubt her. NATE LIPPENS

(Music Blitz)

As the Wailing Souls enter their fifth decade as a group and release a new album, Equality, their sound is being tested by modernity. The album is strong musically, and the Rasta sentiments of remaining members Winston "Pipe" Matthews and Lloyd "Bread" McDonald remain apparent as well. However, there seems to be a certain danger in being a roots-era artist in the year 2000, a time when reggae is dominated by dancehall. A time when those grainy, salt-of-the-earth sounds of yesteryear have been infused with the bells and whistles of modern music making. Equality, accordingly, is heavy on artificial sounds. But this is really no one's fault. Times change, people change, and the Wailing Souls, who started out in the '60s, cannot be expected to stick completely to the sound that brought them to the fore of reggae music decades ago. The bass and drum contributions of fellow reggae dignitaries Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar are still solid, and the harmonies of Pipe and Bread are clean as ever. So, yeah, one may use the skip button a couple of times when listening to this album, but beneath the frills of technology, the sound the Wailing Souls became known for is essentially still there. KRIS ADAMS

The W

The 19th-century German philosopher Schopenhauer once wrote that the "endless cycle of life" was structured in this way: desire, satisfaction, and then boredom. This cycle can be used to describe the three CDs the Wu-Tang Clan have released thus far. Their first CD, Enter the Wu-Tang, was desire; their second CD, Wu-Tang Forever, was satisfaction; and their latest CD, The W, is boredom. Really, where else could the Wu-Tang Clan go after "Triumph," that orgasmic, super-satisfied, global track at the center of their stuffed-to-the-brim double CD, Wu-Tang Forever? All that was left for the second greatest hiphop group in history (the first being Run-D.M.C.) was boredom and exhaustion--indeed, "this is the aftermath," as Tricky once put it. But boredom is not a bad thing. What I mean is, there's good boredom and bad boredom. Bad boredom is Nas' 1999 CD, I Am.... Excellent boredom is Wu-Tang's The W. Even brilliant tracks like "Careful (Click, Click)" and "One Blood Under W" (which features reggae crooner Junior Reid) are delivered without energy or passion, but exquisite boredom. The CD's infinite torpor grows on me every day. CHARLES MUDEDE

Rare Cult
(Beggars Banquet)

If you have the stamina to listen to this six-CD set all at once, you can track the Cult's metamorphosis from blues-rock to psychedelia to hair-band hard rock, all the way to some kind of post-grunge sound that fit Billy Duffy's squealing guitar and Ian Astbury's unmistakable wailing voice about as well as a child's mitten fits an orangutan. Not surprisingly, the band split at about that point, although in the midst of reissues, best-of collections, this box set, and the use of "She Sells Sanctuary" in a car commercial, it seems that they intend to make a go of it once again. The price and somewhat esoteric content of this box make it a treat for diehard fans; others may wonder what all the fuss is about and are instead encouraged to check out Best of Rare Cult, the only time in recent memory that a box set has received its own best-of collection. For the rest of us, Rare Cult is a treat indeed, from the slick black packaging, to the band commentary (mostly courtesy of Duffy) in the liner notes, to the impressive assortment of rarities presented. Among other things, the never-released Peace album is here, included in its entirety. There are alternate takes of everything, most notably "Sanctuary," "Fire Woman," "Edie," and other songs that scored high on the charts both in the U.K. and in the U.S.--which gives you something to hang your ear on if, like most people, you've never heard the majority of what's on these CDs. There's also one CD consisting of remixed versions of original singles, a good one to put in the player if you get confused. GENEVIEVE WILLIAMS