"WEIRD AL" YANKOVIC Running with Scissors (BMG) **

Part of what's funny about Weird Al is that he takes parody so seriously. Take, for instance, "The Saga Begins" (to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie"). He could have just tossed it off, but instead he recaps Star Wars: Episode I entirely from Obi-Wan Kenobi's point of view, and it's very smartly written and very funny. The other parodies are technically well made, but don't always hold up as a full song ("Pretty Fly for a Rabbi"), and I wish that, instead of "It's All about the Pentiums," the next single was the song about The Jerry Springer Show (to the tune of Barenaked Ladies' "One Week.") There's also the obligatory and always entertaining polka medley, and this one includes an upbeat bit of Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta." Weird Al still insists on writing originals (half the album), and they still don't hold up to his parodies. He has yet to write a "serious" crossover song like funnyman Ray Stevens' "Everything Is Beautiful," but that doesn't stop him from trying, and that's too bad. ANDY SPLETZER

THE DONNAS Get Skintight (Lookout!/Shock) ****

They're hot. They're young. They're from California. They play fast, infectious, three-minute thrash-pop songs in the style of the Ramones, the New York Dolls, and... all those other bands in that style. They're loud! They're obnoxiously bratty. They sing about hotboxin', teenage crushes, donuts, cupcakes, hangin' tough, and party action. Their names are Donna A (vocals, Gemini), Donna C (drums, Capricorn), Donna F (bass, Capricorn), and Donna R (guitar, Virgo). They cover Mötley Crüe's "Too Fast for Love," and simultaneously make all of old-school glam L.A. forget about bad hair days. Their guitars are a license to excite. They are the classic, snotty-nosed, "bad girl" garage group in the great tradition of the Shangri-La's, the Runaways, the Go-Go's, Bikini Kill, and the Shaggs. They're great to play at parties of 55-year-old housewives who want to feel naughty and young again. This is their second full-length album. What more do you need to know? EVERETT TRUE

THE LONDON SUEDE Head Music (Nude/Columbia) ***

Many years ago, the band formerly known as Suede delivered a shockingly good debut that threatened to bring back glam in all of its androgynous, debaucherous, hook-laden glory. Unfortunately, Brett Anderson and company seemed to spend the next few years elegantly wasting their considerable talents, producing material that favored style over substance. With Head Music, the London Suede finally make good on their initial promise, with an album that's as much about hooks as it is about looks. Anderson will never go down in history as the most profound lyricist ("She's employed where the sun don't set, and she's the shape of a cigarette," from "In Fashion," for instance), but Head Music is solid, sexy, and confident. BARBARA MITCHELL

GZA/GENIUS Beneath the Surface (MCA) ****

The Wu-Tang Clan's stock has dropped considerably since the release of 1993's incredible Enter the Wu-Tang--not surprising, considering its initial impact. Most commentators agree that 1997's ambitious double album, Wu-Tang Forever, was messy and unfocused. Still, most of the Clan's 11 members--Method Man, Ghostface Killer, Raekwon, Ol' Dirty Bastard, et al.--have released albums of stunning consistency since the Clan's emergence; GZA's mystical, mesmerizing 1995 debut, Liquid Swords, is foremost among them. His new one is as good, if less innovative--electro cut-ups and spaced-out ghetto dignity has been done before by GZA and producer RZA, and they need to find something new. Also, the press-bashing featured in the track "Publicity" is just tired. Still, the ominous mood of apprehension doesn't shift for one instant: not from the proud beats of "Intro" and the Cypress Hill-esque "Amplified Sample" to the old school Marvin Gaye social commentary of "Victim." The sound collage and hooklines are all present and throbbing; the wicked behind-the-beat rapping is fine. Method Man fucks shit up on "Stringplay," while Ol' Dirty Bastard sneers willingly on the distorted "Crash Your Crew." All is well and fine. ET

FACE TO FACE Ignorance is Bliss (Lady Luck Records) ***

Face to Face get my heart started in the morning; they make me giddy. Their new record, Ignorance is Bliss, is that kind of pop/punk hybrid that Green Day tries to pull off--call it friendly punk or whatever; it blows my hair back and makes me giggle. But unlike Billy Joe and the gang, Face to Face don't try to hearken back to another time. They are here, in the present, making good, solid music, not pretending to be anything other than what they are--a punk band that wants to kick your ass. Ignorance is Bliss demands space on your CD shelf. BRADLEY STEINBACHER

DONALD GLAUDE Off the Hook (Moonshine) **

Ask an out-of-towner if they know any Seattle DJs and chances are they'll name Donald Glaude. He's the closest thing this city has to a superstar DJ. Unlike most emotionless, robot-like DJs, Donald is part of the party, waving his arms in the air, singing along--he's more rave cheerleader than disc jockey. If you can't afford to book him for your next party, wedding, or bar mitzvah, pop this puppy in a CD player instead. The track selection consists entirely of floor-filling breakbeat anthems, which means there are no real peaks, valleys, or standout tracks. There aren't any big names on here either, but that's okay. It's still the perfect soundtrack for your own living-room rave party. Time to break out the glo-sticks, strobe lights, and whistles. COURTNEY REIMER

BILLY NICHOLS Would You Believe... (Tenth Planet/Castle) ****

Believe you me, Would You Believe... is stunning late '60s POP crafted with lovin' nods to Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds, but thankfully NEVER fergitin' the importance of the... (cough) London Social Degree. However, IF references are Billy's point, they're overwhelmed sonically as Would You Believe... is packed fulla lush, dense arrangements awash (wow, how writerly) with "SOUND," and this "SOUND" serves to unify the LP as a whole. It's absolutely gorgeous. Fact... I own two copies. Anyway, turns out, 30 years ago this LP was shelved for no "believable" reason, so this is its first-ever issue! The Loog, the fella responsible for the shelvin', oughta be ashamed. MIKE NIPPER