Young Lawyer EP
(Star Time Records)

My favorite thing about this record is the recording. The drums are recorded with room mics set way back, lending a natural resonance which, when mixed with the clean, up-front vocals and the thinly toned guitars, makes this record sound like French Kicks are playing a really good show in your basement. What's missing, however, is heart. Although the static pop songs are well-formed, and the band's ability to create fresh, young music is apparent, I'm not hearing any angst--the essential underlying swirl of confusion and frustration that makes great young bands great. The band seem to have their shit together too early in their career--like the Rolling Stones or U2 without the early years, at the point where their sound had already gone from struggle to stable. The French Kicks' press release boasts that they left New York for three months to live in some rich guy's country home, rent free, to write songs before moving back to NYC with their band defined and intact. Where are the daily difficulties to draw inspiration from, when burning the last piece of toast at breakfast or forgetting to water the rich guy's plants are the hardest moments of your day? French Kicks have a fine record here, but it sounds like the one that sells nine million copies, rather than a second EP. They should stick to the city while writing songs and send me the keys to the rich guy's house, because I've got plenty of angst to lose. MARK DUSTON

Dude, Where's My Car? Motion Picture Soundtrack


There are some totally bitchin' soundtracks out there, Dude, and this ain't one of them. It's not that it completely sucks--for example, there's "Authenticity," a track from Harvey Danger's King James Version. I liked it when I heard it a couple months ago; I like it now. You've also got "Voodoo Lady," a catchy and annoyingly played out Ween number to keep you interested. It's a soundtrack as smart as the stars of the flick it supports. Young MC's 1989 Grammy-winning "Bust a Move" almost saves things ("So come on fatso and just bust a move." Sweet!). Other than that, there's Zebrahead, Superdrag gone Gin Blossoms, Sprung Monkey. It's all the same in the end. LiveonRelease's "I'm Afraid of Britney Spears" could've been good. But alas, it's actually very bad. The irony is that the singing is actually reminiscent of Miss Spears herself, which is almost funny. Just like the movie. I put off writing this review as long as I could possibly stand. Writing the review meant facing the music more than once. It wouldn't be fair to pen my opinion after listening to the album only once, right? And for the record, I did listen to the album more than once. The punishment that it was. MEGAN SELING

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

(Mercury Records)

Joel and Ethan Coen have always had a great ear for juxtaposing music with the visual elements of their films. For The Big Lebowski's soundtrack they included Kenny Rogers singing "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," along with new music composer Meredith Monks' "Walking Song." That could have seemed merely perverse, but instead it had the slap of fresh inventiveness that few filmmakers manage to tap for their soundtracks. For O Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens take a more traditional approach, choosing period-appropriate American music that is interpreted by contemporary artists and maintains the grit and flavor of older music. The soundtrack is produced by T-Bone Burnett, and Gillian Welch is the associate producer. With these two delectable talents fashioning the simpatico environment for the contributing musicians, the songs soar. Some of the best names in gospel, bluegrass, and folk are present here: Welch, the Fairfield Four, Ralph Stanley, Norman Blake, and Emmylou Harris all turn in gracious and beautiful performances. Blake's rendition of "You Are My Sunshine" feels like an unreleased gem from folk-bible Best of Broadside 1962-1988. Stanley's searing trad-blues "O Death" is harsh in the way that only unflinching Americana can be, despair and resignation bum-rushing the listener. Much of the album is toe-tapping fun, but it delivers more than that. Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, and Alison Krauss perform an a cappella version of the traditional spiritual "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" that is the beautiful emotional center of the album. The scope and artistry of American folk music is given a respectful and gracious turn, and it returns the sentiment in kind. These song forms do not need to be dusted off. They never stopped living and growing. NATE LIPPENS

Black Stars/Seven Sixes/ Black Lipstick

Look at this... these locals done gone LOCO ROCK-OH. Shit! Seriously, these mens got one highly charged live act, you seen 'em? You oughta! And their name is certainly fittin' with their character... uh, like they're "explosive." Right, so lemme see... if I gotta put into words what they've put to wax... I'd figger they're playin' the punk, the good stuff, too--dirgy, like Black Flag (tho' it is NOT tainted by jerk-off Hank Rollins' "Weep for me, I'm an artist" flavorin's) with a very '90s Japanese garage/ punk "retelling." Okay fellas, now where is that other 45 and the LP y'all been promisin'? I'm done with my appetizer. MIKE NIPPER