Forget all those bad U2 white-boy funk imitations his previous band would sometimes indulge in, and forget the morbid feeling this project naturally arouses in any fan's breast. Michael Hutchence, the former INXS singer's first solo album, has a resonance and tentative magic to its grooves that isn't only present through hindsight. Some of these songs are genuinely moving: the haunting, Tim Simenon-produced "I'll Show You," and the quiet "Possibilities," for two. All of these songs are fresh, alive in music. Perhaps that should be no surprise, although it is to me. I expected Michael Hutchence to be typically bombastic, shorn of subtlety and grace. In fact, it's mostly the opposite. The lascivious sneer on Hutchence's lips on "Get on the Inside" and "A Straight Line" could do the Sleaze Prince of Funk, Rick James, proud. The opener, "Let Me Show You," is a rabble-rouser, partly thanks to Joe Strummer's backing vocals. The final track, "Slide Away," meanwhile, with its terse last verse vocal added by Bono after Hutchence's death, is unavoidably eerie.
None of this should come as a surprise, however. Obviously, Hutchence's record company was going to go into overdrive once they decided they wanted this album to be the dead singer's untimely swan song. Obviously, someone somewhere was gonna make sure Michael Hutchence stands as a fitting monument to Hutchence's libidinous swagger, his pretty boy charm. And they've done a damn fine job. This album's list of producers reads like a Who's Who of '90s mainstream rock--Gang of Four's Andy Gill, assisted by Danny Saber (Black Grape, U2, Rolling Stones), Bomb the Bass' Tim Simenon, and Tim Palmer (Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins). They all produce virtually out of their skins, clearly spooked by the magnitude of their task. And all present have contributed to an album which is satisfyingly, heartbreakingly mature and fully realized. It just makes one wonder what Hutchence could've achieved, given time.
Yes, the manner of his death became him. Don't we all wish we could die in such mysterious circumstances, with such implied sleaze attached? EVERETT TRUE
LAND OF THE LOOPS
Hurry Up and Wait
Alan Sutherland of Land of the Loops is Prince Paul's clear descendent. He, like Prince Paul, is a "sampling geek," meaning the things he samples and the areas and themes he explores are all very Prince Paulish--more specifically, the Prince Paul who produced De La Soul in the late-'80s (Prince Paul has many incarnations, many faces). The art of this type of sampling is not finding meaningful samples (Public Enemy), or finding unknown and rare samples (Pete Rock), but instead finding samples that everyone will instantly recognize but will not know why. You've heard these words before but you haven't a clue who said them or in what circumstances. It is too far back, too mixed with other things. Do these words belong to Dorothy Hamill, or did I hear them on an episode of What's Happening?? It takes a lot of talent to mess with popular memory in that way; indeed it takes a geek.
On Bundle of Joy, Sutherland's first and only full-length LP, the track "Multi-Family Garage Sale,"--which was used on one of those hip Miller Beer ads a year ago--is "The Magic Number" of the late-'90s, a period that is on the brink of a post-race, post-inner city, and even, as the critic Nelson George recently suggested, post-American hiphop era. Like all of Sutherland's best work, "Multi-Family Garage Sale" uses dead TV programs or specials like the Brave Little Toaster ("Please don't leave me!") as effortlessly, as nonsensically as De La Soul's "The Magic Number." This is the world of an American childhood that was formed in the '70s. You have to have watched Electric Company, Welcome Back Kotter, Partridge Family, and What's Happening? a gazillion times to find these fuzzy mixes pleasing.
His new EP, Hurry Up and Wait, contains no surprises. It is a cross between the unrepentant silliness of his first LP and the suddenly serious tone of his 1997 EP, Refried Treats, which was released to remind us that Sutherland is indeed a grownup. There are five tracks on the new EP, with one featuring the obnoxiously girlish and garish vocals of Beat Happening's Heather Lewis. Overall, my conclusion is this: You can never be completely disappointed by anything that Land of the Loops does; his brand of suburban hiphop is the best in the bargain bin. CHARLES MUDEDE
IN STORES 11/30
GUNS N' ROSES, Live Era '87-'93 (Interscope/Geffen). "It's Terry from Interscope Records. Got your fax about getting a copy of the GN'R live album for review. Unfortunately we don't have any review copies available (since most people have heard most of the songs already). Please let me know if you have any further questions--thanks!"
Q-TIP, Amplified (Arista). Q-Tip's first solo single "Vivrant Thing" irks me. What is he, some kind of French dude, now? 'Cause "vivrant" is not an English word. It's not even a French word. And I believe if you're rapping in English, you should NOT be using foreign words.
SISQO, Unleash the Dragon (Dragon Records/Def Sol). The high-voice guy from Dru Hill, noted for shouting on Will Smith's summer hit "Wild Wild West," goes solo with the help of Babyface, Dru Hill's Nokio, andÉ Elton John? Five bucks to anyone who can explain how Elton John fits into this picture.
RAKIM, The Master (Universal). The first solo album from William Griffin Jr., a.k.a. Rakim, was 1997's The 18th Letter (it's "R," as in Rakim, get it? Get it?!), but most folks know him as the MC half of old school hiphop royalty: Eric B. and Rakim. So while many rappers are given to grandstanding, (e.g. Puff Daddy's Forever), Rakim can call his album The Master, and no one's gonna argue.