OCTANT shock-no-par (Up) ***

You might figure that a band whose most prominent member is a robot might be a little boring in the live arena. Not so with Octant. Led by Satisfact/Mocket frontman Matt Steinke, Octant gets its characteristic sound -- syncopated whizzes, beats, and squeals -- from a most charming pile of nuts, bolts, and springs that also plays the drums, making for a live show that offers something you don't get much of these days -- whimsy. Does it translate to CD? Aside from the annoyance of not being able to get my computer to play the short films that accompany it, shock-no-par doesn't disappoint. And those lucky enough to possess post-crank-style computers will have the opportunity to view the robot without leaving the confines of your home. KATHLEEN WILSON

WHEAT Hope and Adams (Sugar Free) ****

I want to buy a car so I can drive across the country, meaningfully smoking cigarettes to Hope and Adams. Maybe I'll just snort a whole bunch of coke and break up with my boyfriend, so I can lie down on my bedroom floor in a death-sweat and have the greatest cry of my life to it. I'm giddy because Wheat is so full of that love and ache thing. It's an entire album of wide-open sadness, fuzzy pop hooks and... (at the point when I'm most likely to shriieeeek like a happy school girl) wonderment. I'd call it mid-tempo, low-fi, melodic indie-rock music, but I'd hate myself for it. JEFF DEROCHE

VARIOUS ARTISTS We Will Follow: A Tribute to U2 (Cleopatra) **

On paper, I should love this. I mean, I've spent close to two decades as an unapologetic U2 fan, and while most people would consider the fact that it's on Cleopatra (the mother of all goth labels) a liability, I'm a recovering goth. What synchronicity! What a bad idea!! With the exception of about three tracks (especially Dead or Alive's sprightly take on "Even Better Than the Real Thing"), this album is more frightening than the idea of seeing Robert Smith without makeup. However, I would like to know how Front Line Assembly managed to rope TIFFANY into appearing on their version of "New Year's Day." BARBARA MITCHELL

BREAKBEAT ERA Ultra Obscene (XL/1500) **

This is the new Roni Size thing. It sounds like generic all-ages-club fodder. It's so in-style, it's dated by the second time through. The last Soul Coughing album had more hot sounds than this, for chrissakes. It makes no sense to be so serious about music this shallow and formulaic. Size will soon seem like as big a joke as his no-less-overhyped, cyber-disco predecessor Goldie. American kids -- don't go in for Euro fashions! You'll regret it in just a few years! England is nothing but New Hampshire with a queen! ADAM HEIMLICH

ZIGGY MARLEY AND THE MELODY MAKERS Spirit of Music (Elektra) *

Ziggy's looking more like his father than ever. But his relative lack in the talent department is even more glaring than it was with "Tomorrow People." Lyrically, this album is a barrage of hippie platitudes that outdoes even Arrested Development, and the tunes are so corny and predictable they recall, well, Arrested Development. Most of it isn't even reggae -- just third-rate coffehouse folk with a band. Lilith Fair-worthy production values are the wax cherry on top of this effete mush. AH

PROZZAK Hot Show (Epic) *

Prozzak's Jason Levine and James McCollum (from the irrelevant Canadian band Philosopher Kings) hide behind goofy cartoon personalities who can't seem to get laid. It's a cute gimmick ruined by simplistic techno beats and Dave Matthews-style guitar solos. Good techno builds; this drones. MTV is sniffing around the single "Sucks to Be You," so be warned: Prozzak is annoyingly catchy. It'll grab you where you don't like to be touched. ERIN FRANZMAN

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