ORANGE 9MM Pretend I'm Human (Ng Records) *

I hate those that would grapple and try to choke my potential/make me feel existential, planting bugs in my mental.... Why are sensitive rapper/screamer/spoken-word frontmen for souped-up '90s butt rock bands always compulsive about rhyming? Quick, what rhymes with "Whaa-whaaa, I'm a whiny baby who can't imagine expressing a genuine emotion, so instead I'm going to get two competent-yet-unoriginal musicians to help me create very loud music that I shout over, screaming about every teensy inconsequential experience I've ever had that pissed me off"? It was torture to listen to this entire CD. All I have to say is... calm down... breathe, baby. It's going to be all right. Another victimized and sad (but masculine!) tough guy. If you like Rage Against the Machine, you still won't like Orange 9mm. JEFF DEROCHE

SMASH MOUTH Astro Lounge (Interscope) *

If wacky is the sort of summer fun you're into, I bet you've already memorized Smash Mouth's hit single "All Star" ("Hey now, you're an All Star... blah blah blah blah... get paid!") It's the kind of song that serves to define a listener: If you've heard it twice and you still don't hate it, put this newspaper down right now--you're too dumb to be reading. The rest of the album lives up to the promise of "All Star"--each song is extremely catchy, and some are even worth hearing twice. "Who's There" is fun rock 'n' roll with a space-age twist that will make your toes tap. And "Waste" is special because it starts off all mellow and acoustic before the drums come in a few beats later than one would expect. If that sounds like the kind of fun you're looking for, or you were thinking about buying Astro Lounge anyway, go ahead. You're dumb, it's summer, and you deserve to be happy. JDR

THE SPELLS The Age of Backwards EP (K Records) ***

Featuring Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney and Mary Timony from Helium, the Spells combine the best of both bands and lock them in a neat little box--a four-song EP they've named The Age of Backwards. If the EP never really takes off, it's only because there are only four songs to work with. Still, with great records from Quasi, Cadallaca, and now the Spells, Sleater-Kinney's side projects are quickly overshadowing the band itself. BRADLEY STEINBACHER

VARIOUS ARTISTS Short Music for Short People (Fat Wreck Chords) **

Teen Idols, Chixdiggit, the Living End, Bad Religion, the Ataris, Blink 182, Green Day, Gwar, the Groovie Ghoulies, the Descendents, Sick of It All, NOFX, Rancid, the Queers, the Real McKenzies, Down by Law, Poison Idea, the Dwarves, the Muffs, the Misfits, and 81 other bands bang out 101 songs, each in 30 seconds or less. Short Music for Short People is a whacked-out experiment--a party sampler for the Attention Deficit Disorder set, or maybe just the lazy: Each song is a shot of adrenaline, quickly over and quickly forgotten. BS

MANUAL SCAN All Night Stand (Get Hip) **

This a retrospective collection o' San Diego's "MOD" revivalist band Manual Scan. Now, tho' they was--is, rather--tagged "MOD," they really were--as with most "revivalists"--simply another mid-'60s "inspired" power pop band. Y'all know the drill: clean '80s, solid-state, pop'n fresh, OVER production--which almost always did these bands WRONG by suckin' up every last drop o' loose 'n' outta control spirit! Maybe they'd git DOWN when live and "in le flesh," but like, the studio action sucks. MIKE NIPPER

BANTAM ROOSTER The Cross & The Switchblade (Crypt) ****

Detroit's gruesome twosome back with yell-pee numero dos! Oh... and this IS one o' the only TWO "non-reissue" releases this year from Crypt Records. Fuck, what with BOTH the Oblivians 'n' Teengenerate broked up, my ass'd wanna quit TOO! Anyway, fer y'all NOT inna know, le Bantam is rock tinged with thee well-lerbed Teddy Boy straightforward "punk" riff, BUT without affection fer lame METAL or lip servin' SoCal "hardcore" pretend-ce! Fathom that. Instead, they get it BENT with jus' enuff ridin' o' R&B leads, sorta like Pussy Galore... 'cept without the HATE, 'n' busy thumpin' drummin' to stand apart from--AND give the finger to--the pomped, tattooed posers. MN

VARIOUS ARTISTS Wild Wild West: Music Inspired by the Motion Picture (Overbrook/Interscope) ***

Generally speaking, I am "con" Will Smith rapping about the movies he stars in. He gives away too much of the goddam plot! However, there's something about Smith's "Wild Wild West" that's so infectious, I actually listened to the song five times in a row. Whether it's the Stevie Wonder sample ("I Wish"), the old-school charm of Kool Mo Dee, or the vocal gymnastics of the terrific Dru Hill, Smith is at his best here, managing to front and be funny under the most dopey of circumstances. The rest of the disc takes a darker tone, but scores some winners with Sergio Leone-inspired tunes like "Keep It Movin'" by MC Lyte and "Bad Guys Always Die" by Dr. Dre and (the honky Puff Daddy) Eminem. All in all, an interesting blend of rap and rootin', tootin', Old West style. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

BARRY WHITE Staying Power (Private Music) ***

What's the sexiest man alive (Barry White) doing on the sister label of the unsexiest record company alive (Windham Hill)? Why, he's showing her how to make looooove, baby! Though this disc doesn't show the same loin-inspired passion as his last outing (Practice What You Preach), nobody knows how to write the language of love like Barry White. Who else can construct a lyric like "Put on that dress/the one that oozes sex-i-ness"? Who else can conjure up an image as visceral as when Barry threatens to "work you over" with his tongue? And who else calls vital fluids "nature's body lotion"? Add this to duets with Chaka Khan and Lisa Stansfield, and a sexified cover of WAR's "Low Rider," and you'll find out pretty quick you still have a lot to learn about love--and Barry's got a lot left to teach. WSH

Support The Stranger