Loud, Fast & Out Of Control
Rock 'n' roll has been so sanitized, providing the soundtrack for commercials hawking soda and the alleged "inspiration" for pap like Happy Days, that it's sadly forgotten that when this beast first reared its head, it was scary as hell. Rhino's Loud, Fast & Out Of Control delivers a wake-up call and is also a testament to the context one needs when exploring a musical era. Instead of just focusing on the biggest rock hits from the '50s, this set focuses on songs that just rock, featuring plenty of musical miscegenation (which was what really bothered parents; if Elvis leaned on R&B in "Jailhouse Rock," Chuck Berry got "Maybelline" a-jumpin' with rockabilly) and lots of hot 'n' heavy material. Who needs sexually explicit lyrics when you have Lorrie Collins wailing "Mercy!" or the Johnny Burnette Trio melting down in "The Train Kept A-Rollin'"? GILLIAN G. GAAR
This Brooklyn-based label has pumped out an impressive number of dub and dubbed-out hiphop albums over the last few years. All WordSound work is done under aliases and acknowledges "The Almighty Unseen Force"--the idea is that the label is dedicated to the idea of beat music as a spiritual, not commercial, pursuit. The weird part is that WordSound is owned by rap writer S.H. Fernando, Jr., who regularly contributes celebrity puff pieces to Vibe and Rolling Stone--and Slotek is Fernando's project.
Hydrophonic will do little to change the minds of the label's critics, who complain that every WordSound release features the same heavily reverbed drum sound against some trippy samples. But Slotek's mixes are way more bugged than most of what passes for dub these days. He gets a certain garage sound, an analog feel, a mad scientist vibe--whatever you want to call evidence of a genuinely warped point of view. All but two tracks are instrumental (there's one chat and one rap), and many use rhythms too sparse and slow for use as background music. Sometimes it's hard to tell if Fernando is out of balance, or if he's really on to something. Either way, he engages listeners, challenging them to decide for themselves. (WordSound Recordings, 129 N. 11th St., Brooklyn, NY 11211; www.wordsound.com) ADAM HEIMLICH
Ryde or Die Vol. 1
Yet another barrage of hip-pop decadence from DMX and crew comes complete, again, with the obligatory guest roster (also-rans Jay-Z, Lox, Mase, and Jermaine Dupri, plus an underutilized Juvenile), comedy skits that aren't funny, and unabashedly radio-courting production by Swizz Beatz. The latter is to be taken seriously--his rhythms bump and bang with vigor. If you hear any eight seconds of any verse on this album pumping out the speakers of a low-rider as it cruises by, you're gonna want more. But by the first chorus you've had enough, and that chorus will be repeated at least 10 times before the track is through. If these choruses even approached the originality of "Ruff Ryders Anthem" that'd be one thing. They try very hard and fail, and that's another: a waste of talent. AH
This indie-rap compilation is subtitled "74 Minutes of Brand New Underground Hip-Hop From Rap's New Generation." Only the part about "74 Minutes" is not misleading. The Germans at Groove Attack put together a good roster with some interesting team-ups (Rasco with Planet Asia and Kut Masta Kurt, Brixx featuring Mos Def, Shabaam Sahdeeq with Mike Zoot, Mathmatik feat. Bahamadia), but the finished product sounds homogeneous and bland.
Superrappin' doesn't feel new because too many of its producers worship DJ Premier. Though the collection compiles artists from both the East and West Coast undergrounds, the two main categories represented are Gang Starr jackers and Gang Starr interpreters (they could have found plenty of each in flyover country, too). Heads should want to check out Frankenstein, who raps on and produced the excellent "So I," but nearly everyone else on this comp has better cuts out elsewhere. The album is in no way bad, but to the extent that Superrappin' aims to be a representative sampling of the independent hiphop scene, it's disturbingly narrow and tidy. It frames the underground as the musical equivalent of a golf match, where nearly every contestant shoots par. (Groove Attack, Brusseler Str. 89-93, 50672, Cologne, Germany; firstname.lastname@example.org) AH
Buggin' Out! (Hi Ho/Mammoth)
The Dust Brothers need to stop. They need to stop backing bad L.A. bands with their oh-so-delightful brand of "beat science." It appears as though they're trying to repeat the success they had with Beck and Hanson, only this time with a band they signed, and thus, presumably, own. This latest bullshit release on their bullshit label (formerly called Nickelbag)--following Sukia, Sugartooth, and about a dozen other utterly forgettable, gratingly cute acts--is the last straw. 10¢ drop every possible hint that they can't actually play a lick. The sing-song, half-rapped vocals sound digitally tuned, the guitar and keyboard parts are obvious, and the bass lines don't interact at all with the Dusts' by-now-familiar rainbow-brite beats. (Let's just skip the lyrics, which 10¢'s press release claims are inspired by "beatnik poets and authors.") This is a band created by its producers, and it's every bit as cookie-cutter predictable as the thousands of movies created by studio execs and magazine articles written by editors that are slapped together for paychecks every year.
That a couple of these songs (notably "Posters") are catchy and indicative of some savant-like intelligence makes it worse. 10¢ scratches the surface of something truly interesting that's going on in music right now (check the Beta Band, Sukpatch, and every other act on Seattle's Slabco label), but they don't get it. They're like explorers bumbling into the Promised Land to strip-mine for gold. AH
Japanese producer Nobukazu Takemura's latest ode to minimalism, Scope, is electronic music, except without beats or music. Rather, it's a staggered series of patterns based on a rotating stockpile of clean, crisp computer-produced blurps and bleeps. At its best, it's reminiscent of free jazz in that it progresses by adding subtly to the selected sound in measured intervals. At its worst, it's a random bunch of electronic farts and whistles. Either way, I found myself glancing out the window every 20 seconds, continually tricked into thinking a truck was backing up into my apartment. This album makes me want to go to Japan, just to see what the hell is going on--there must be some crazy-shit drugs over there, and the people who funded this record must be smoking them. NATHAN THORNBURGH
JOHNNY FERREIRA AND THE SWING MACHINE
King of the Mood Swings
DOC FINGERS AND HIS REAL GONE RHYTHM
In the Pink
THE DINO MARTINIS
Steak and Comedian Night
BLUE LIZARD RECORDINGS
Big Beat Ballroom
(Blue Lizard Recordings)
Finally the Lord has answered my prayers with a genre of music overrun by stupid puns, stupid gimmicks, and Canadians. Yes, it's swing, and though it's dying out (again!) in the States, swinging Canucks are massing at the border as you read this. Hence these four new swing releases that have come our way from Canada.
They all dabble in the tired hallmarks of the swing craze--things like drink umbrellas in the hinge of CD jewel cases, drink recipes in the liner notes, and puns like "The Dino Martinis." Looking beyond that to the actual music, I found that the Dino Martinis' lead singer sings through her nose, Ferreira's Swing Machine is malfunctioning, and Doc Fingers' CD has many problems. That leaves us with the Big Beat Ballroom compilation, which offers a fine cross-section of those swinging Canadians (with some Americans). Enjoy, eh? NT