There is Nothing Left to Lose
The first Foo Fighters album -- loved it. The next, The Colour and the Shape -- listened to it once, heard its singles forever on the radio. The new one, however, is worth some extended attention. Where Grohl's one-man-band debut was a post-denouement wingout that sounded a lot like Nirvana in its strictly slow and sweet or fast and furious tempos, it also was a glorious statement of defiance and regeneration, full of hard angles and soft corners that offered a vista of hope in the senseless aftermath of Kurt Cobain's suicide. The Colour and the Shape just sounded like one big radio hit, large and anthemic but without the desperation or baggage; a progression, yes, but not an advance in the right direction. "Monkey Wrench" was the sole track that captured any of Grohl's former corrosiveness.
With There is Nothing Left to Lose Grohl has given Foo Fighters an identity that sounds neither calculated nor rough, but an easy combination of both that makes for a compelling, cohesive album. Opening tracks "Stacked Actors" and "Breakout" lay down the grunge, caustic and cutting, a spoonful of battery acid to make the following mostly pop cuts go down easier. First single, "Learn to Fly" is a timeless -- and yes, radio-friendly -- blast of guitar rock and positive affirmation with a chorus as addictive as any '70s sugar pop. "Generator," with its talkbox hook is a breezy love song with sweet lines like "Can't you hear my motor?/You're the one that started it," and calls to mind the lovely earlier hit "Big Me." Grohl even tries out a little country wistfulness with the pretty "Ain't it the Life." Album closer, "M.I.A.," rocks hard with romantic dread, Grohl alternately scared and bittersweet. There's nothing wrong with a former grunge rocker going all goopy with the hearts and flowers. As a matter of fact, few things are more effective, but you gotta be honest about it, and There is Nothing Left to Lose wears its intention on its sleeve. KATHLEEN WILSON
HANDSOME BOY MODELING SCHOOL
So How's Your Girl?
(Tommy Boy Records)
Finally, an ambitious, high-profile, multi-artist project that doesn't embarrass everyone involved. So How's Your Girl? is a very tight collection of experimental hiphop, taking the sampladelic styles which its producers, Dan the Automator (Dr. Octagon) and Prince Paul (De La Soul), helped to create, and taking it to the next level. Trippier than hiphop and hipper than triphop, So How's Your Girl? layers the samples on thick but never seems artificial. Ranging from turntable workouts ("Holy Calamity," with DJs Shadow and Quest), to what could be Maxinquaye outtakes ("The Truth," with Roisin of Moloko and J. Live), the disc is all over the map of modern musical possibilities. "Metaphysical" has Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori channeling her inner HAL 9000 while Mike D. proves he's even more irrelevant than he was last year on UNKLE's "Psyence Fiction." "Magnetizing" features an angular piano sample from the soundtrack to some thriller, as well as an assortment of knob-twiddling electronic sounds designed to, as guest MC Mos Def raps, "get your third eye crying."
So How's Your Girl? gets spacier near the end, peaking with "The Runaway Song" (featuring DJ Kid Koala), and crashing to a close with the overdriven "Megaton B-Boy 2000" (featuring EL-P and Alec Empire). Tying together all these disparate songs is a concept: well actually, just a couple of Get A Life samples with Beethoven's 9th in the background. Which is good -- America doesn't need another The Wall or The Fragile or The Fragile Wall -- it needs more Chris Elliott. PHILIP GUICHARD
IN STORES 11/2
Mariah Carey, Rainbow (Columbia). Rainbow is the follow-up album to Butterfly, but no amount of innocent pink imagery is going to help Mariah's trashy reputation. That said, the first single, "Heartbreaker," is the best thing she's ever done, and the Missy Elliot/Da Brat remix is rad.
Counting Crows, This Desert Life (DGC/ Interscope). Annoying as it is, has anyone ever been able to get "'Round Here" out of their head once exposed? Sometimes I just wanna tear my noggin off.
Danzig, 6:66 Satan's Child (Evilive). The sewage-spewing, sawed-off little shit returns.
DJ Spooky, Vs. Scanner (Beggars Banquet). Have I mentioned that I think Spooky is pretentious shit? Any musician who cries foul at any and every detractor needs a big fat slice of humble pie. But Spooky at least has enough taste or good sense to team up talented people -- first by touring with Kool Keith and now by recording with art-dance Brit DJ Scanner for this release.
Dr. Dre, The Chronic 2001 (Aftermath). Only the most highly anticipated rap album of the year, The Chronic 2001 sees the reunion of Dre and Snoop Dogg, and despite not reviving the high-pitched synth whine that was The Chronic's much-copied signature, the new album delivers. Dre has one of the great, classic rap voices: smooth and deep. Partnered with Snoop's dragging phrases, plus guest shots from Nate Dogg and Mary J. Blige, it's pure ghetto bliss.
Ice Cube, War & Peace Vol. 2: The Peace Disc (Priority). Two CD follow-ups to the platinum-selling War.
Jewel, Joy: A Holiday Collection (Atlantic). Wouldn't the perfect holiday present be no Jewel?
Le Tigre, Le Tigre (Mr. Lady Records). Open letter to Kathleen Hanna: Just because you live with Ad Rock does not mean you know what New York was like before Giuliani. So saying "Giuliani is a jerk" in your stupid song only means that you're familiar with Manhattan artist/anti-Giuliani activist Robert Lederman, who uses that slogan on his paintings of the mayor as Hitler. You call your song "My MetroCard," but you act like your ass is too precious for the subway. I bet you take cabs everywhere.
Marcy Playground, Shapeshifter (Capitol). Six weeks ago this album was available for download. Sex, candy, and more profits.
Mel C, Northern Star (Virgin). Sporty Spice spikes her hair and goes all rock-chick in an attempt to leave the pop life behind. Rick Rubin produces, TLC's Left Eye guests, and the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." is covered.
Pet Shop Boys, Night Life (London/Sire). As if no time has passed since the '80s, the Pet Shop Boys sound exactly like they always have, and you gotta give them credit for that.
Rage Against the Machine, The Battle of Los Angeles (Epic). More Mumia-rock from the most political band of the '90s.
The Roots, The Roots Come Alive (MCA). I recently saw Rahzel take a crowd of 12-year-old white rave kids (not exactly a typical Roots audience) at a concert in the middle of the Southern Californian desert -- where, mind you, it was over 100 degrees in the shade -- and, by the sheer brilliance of his beatboxing and rhymes, keep it bopping for his whole set. All I'm saying is: I would guess that a Roots live album would not be redundant.