. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS

Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

(Anti-)
****

Blixa Bargeld, the German guitarist/organist whom Nick Cave considered "essential" to the Bad Seeds for almost 20 years, is gone, and--shockingly, perhaps--Cave and his Seeds are none the worse for wear. Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus is not only the first album the Bad Seeds have recorded without Blixa--and a double album at that--it just might be the kind of thing 45-year-old Britons who write for Mojo even consider definitive. Which certainly isn't to say the rest of us common folk can't enjoy it. In fact, it's a fucking fantastic pair of records. Elegantly packaged in a hardbound, cloth-covered slip sleeve, the two albums' 17 songs compose a grandiose, full-blown, beatific spectacle. Gone is the occasional musical and lyrical obtuseness of albums past; here every note makes sense, every word is in the right place. The band--Mick Harvey on guitars; Conway Savage and Cave on piano; Martyn P. Casey on bass; Warren Ellis on mandolin, violin, flute, and Irish bazouki; Gallon Drunk mainman James Johnston on organ; and Jim Sclavunos (Abattoir Blues) and Thomas Wydler (The Lyre of Orpheus) on drums--retired to a tiny studio in Paris with Birthday Party producer Nick Launay and some backup singers from the London Community Gospel Choir. They've emerged with every Seeds' fan equivalent of the Holy Grail. A blow-by-blow description of what makes almost every track great would make an exhausting term paper for anyone so inclined. For the rest of us, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have done that rare thing for a group of musicians loosely referred to as a "rock band": they've transcended analysis. J. BENNETT

MARK LANEGAN BAND

Bubblegum

(Beggars Banquet)
****

If there were a God, and if God had a singing voice, I'm pretty sure He would sound like Mark Lanegan, except maybe not quite as badass. Save the high tenor range for the angels; I want the deity to resound through the ages, the way Lanegan does, with a timbre so rich and deep and severe that it can shatter bones on contact. After a decade of sparely arranged, country-folk-flavored solo albums that limned the inner life of the alienated waster with varying degrees of interest, the former Screaming Trees frontman/Queens of the Stone Age member has finally made a record that lives up to the godhead voice that is his alone. Bubblegum is the best thing Lanegan has ever done, with a dynamic range that runs from intimate (opener "When Your Number's Not Up") to explosive ("Methamphetamine Blues," "Driving Death Valley Blues"); experimentally electronic ("Can't Come Down") to assuredly commercial (PJ Harvey duet "Hit the City"). The influences range from front-porch blues to Bristol triphop, but all are anchored by a voice that sounds like it has been dragged through the mud of a thousand hard-living centuries, only to emerge not weary (as on previous releases), but energized, motivated, and vividly alive. There's no sweeter sound in the universe. SEAN NELSON The Mark Lanegan Band performs with Nick Oliveri and the Icarus Line Thurs Oct 14, Showbox, 8 pm, $16 adv./$18 DOS.

BEANS

Shock City Maverick

(Warp)

***1/2
Beans is the Henry Miller of hiphop. For a brainy guy, he sure expends a lot of syllables on his genitalia and boudoir activities. But the guy gets away with such phallocentricity because he's endlessly clever on the subject. The former Antipop Consortium MC/producer has just dropped his third unique solo collection of minimal, electro-funk futurism with "no sample clearances or guest appearances," as he spits on "I'll Melt You," which is perhaps the ultimate boast rap. Also boastworthy is Beans' ability to combine strange textures with accessible vocal hooks, bass lines that raise sperm count, and a vertiginously surreal flow down the stream of consciousness. Throbbing with sparse, alpha-male funk and next-level tones, Shock City Maverick is as serious as a budget deficit, but it still turns out parties. DAVE SEGAL

DAVE THOMAS & TWO PALE BOYS

18 Monkeys on a Dead Man's Chest

(Hearthan)

***
Lots of folks want their way-out aural "ideas" to be taken seriously, even when they're convoluted, ignorant, or flat-out dumb. Well, in the spirit of trying comes 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man's Chest from veteran freakazoid Rocket from the Tombs/Pere Ubu's Dave Thomas and his Pale Boys pals. Basically, 18MOADMC is Thomas' poetry/prose backed by the Pale Boys' bizarre, disjointed art-rock-noise (the "art/rock" being presented without any lame pretense, meaning there's no DIY "free jazz.") But I reckon that ain't a surprise as Thomas is known for being clever and concise, so much so he never insists on demanding, complicated "it's gotta be explained to make sense" type ideas. Everything he's done is simple, honest, and presented relatively as is, which makes his sometimes-difficult work easier to digest. Even without Thomas' aesthetic, this album would be a curio, though, as the PBs make their noise without drums. And without drums there's an odd, gaping void. Pop's rules are strict and, with most of us being so conditioned to hearing drums in "rock," his concept can make this album uncomfortable. However, the conventional disregard on 18MOADMC is also brilliantly deconstructive, insisting you hear how "pop" is built--just by listening to this you're forced to understand the form differently. But of course in composing it's the things you don't hear that make for passive or imaginative listening, and 18MOADMC certainly makes for imaginative on that scale. MIKE NIPPER

Dave Thomas & Two Pale Boys perform with Steve Fisk Tues Oct 19, Tractor Tavern, 9 pm, $12.

SINGAPORE SLING

Life Is Killing My Rock 'n' Roll

(Stinky Records)

***
If you're looking for a new disc to wedge in that slim space between the near identical aesthetics of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Jesus and Mary Chain, Singapore Sling have drummed up a delicate bridge of their own. The Icelandic act return with Life Is Killing My Rock 'n' Roll, the follow-up to their 2003 debut and a record that buzzes with such a tremendous force of heavy-lidded pop, its vibrations could scramble your procreation abilities for years to come (even as the album seduces you into the bedroom). The electricity involved in their effects pedals alone could short circuit an entire dance club and the band pressurizes the narcotic elements of the best shoegazer rock until they explode in blasts of warring, Suicide-al electronics. Songs like "Twisted and Sick" fry in a hot oil of white noise as "Guiding Light"--a standout track of static-padded space rock and molten keyboard melodies--brings the heat down to a simmer that'll buckle your knees. While Singapore Sling's overall sound and most of their lyrics add little to the crowded post-JAMC game, this album is at least a very steady--and sultry--continuation of that seminal act's legacy. JENNIFER MAERZ

RTX

Transmaniacon

(Drag City)

***
Royal Trux subverted and inverted trashy rock 'n' roll cliches into some of the best specimens of '90s rock. Whether attributable to the allegedly alchemical powers of heroin, Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema's distressed genius, or a combo thereof, Royal Trux left a devastating canon of mind-altering songs before which even Keith Richards has to genuflect. Silent since Trux split in 2000, Herrema--singing better than ever--finally resurfaces with a new trio featuring Jaimo Welch and Nadav Eisenman. RTX resurrect late-era Trux's speedball garage-adelia, and then enlarge it to arena-rock dimensions. From its fused-skulls cover art to the flaming tendrils of guitar squeal that could straighten Slash's hair, Transmaniacon's almost a parody of dangling-cigarette, torn-denim rock. But against stack-heeled odds, RTX's '70s-infatuated debut more often than not kicks out the adrenalized boogie-rawk jams (epitomized by "Speed to Roam") that once again inspire law-breaking behavior. DAVE SEGAL

**** Kermit the Frog *** Fozzy Bear ** Miss Piggy * Beaker

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