All That You Can't Leave Behind

As one begins to navigate the packaging, the first thing one notices is the cover art: those glasses. Trademark Bono since (when?) Achtung Baby!? Well listen, baby, we all saw his eyes at some point back in around 1984 or so, and, as we recall, they were very pretty. But then, so was his voice (sort of). Was his name Bono Vox once upon a time? Which means good voice (hmmm).... And now, of course, it's the uni-moniker, Bono. But the glasses tell all. What's he hiding? Nothing substantial, that's what, and that's been the damned problem with U2 since The Joshua Tree. And then there's the Edge, which is a very sturdy-sounding name for a guitar player, but still dangerous somehow. On the cover, the Edge is wearing his trademark (since the cowboy hat) skull cap--very post-grunge. What is it that keeps U2 in the business of selling records? The far from excellent songwriting? Bono's self-parodingly impassioned lyrics? From the new record: "I'm not afraid of anything in this world/There's nothing you can throw at me that I haven't already heard/I'm just trying to find a decent melody/ A song that I can sing in my own company." That's not entirely true. Sure, there's nothing more Bono can possibly throw at us that we haven't already heard, because he's shallow, he's boring, and he's said more than he ever really had to say in the first place. But he's lying, because he's still singing for all of us. His voice rings like a dull, rusty saw-blade tearing hopelessly into some desperate pop production by the Edge, Daniel Lanois, and Brian Eno, none of whom are able to save what is already lost. Maybe they could at least try to leave it behind. JEFF DeROCHE


In the '80s, four musicians ushered in the "global sound." In America it was Paul Simon. In Britain it was Peter Gabriel. In Japan it was Ryuichi Sakamoto. In Senegal, and Africa as a whole, it was Youssou N'Dour, whose rise to global celebrity was initiated by his collaboration with Peter Gabriel on the super hit "In Your Eyes." His new CD, Joko (The Link), returns to familiar ground: He has a few triphop tracks, a few traditional songs, and he teams up with moody Peter Gabriel again, which is always a productive enterprise for both singers, despite the fact that they have such different voices (one growls like a melancholy bear while the other sings like an angel, an African angel). Save for the songs that come too close to rock, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this CD. CHARLES MUDEDE

Add Insult to Injury

I measure most music now by my child, who is closing on two. The test is very simple, very scientific: I put a CD on and raise the volume. If she dances, it is a CD with merit that deserves exploration. If she is unimpressed, the CD goes into the eternal bonfire of lousy music burning in my backyard. When I put on this CD, she danced so hard, she shit her pants--literally. Of course, such reactions might be common with this fun, silly band from Paris. Like a noisier, dirtier, more drunken, less elegant Stereolab, they combine the most basic, repetitive loops with the dumbest little yells and shouts in the background, roping the whole contraption together with a goofy sense of entitlement that is as refreshing as a lemon wedge in a glass of Evian. JAMIE HOOK

The New Song and Dance
(Gern Blandsten)

Radio 4 burst onto the scene with a debut record full of frantic rhythms and static, crisp guitar tones, putting them at the top of the class of the Gang of Four school of songwriting. Giving a nod to their influences without losing their own identity, Radio 4 pay homage to their record collections by offering within their music touches of Duran Duran and Haircut One Hundred, and a healthy understanding of the bass-driven dub years of the Clash. But it's their ability to interpret these invaluable bands and build upon them with their own twists and turns that creates a sound which not only respects the past but also fills a gap in today's indie music scene, allowing them to be current and retro at the same time. The band may have had a head start in the indie world, being ex-members of the post-emo unit Garden Variety, celebrated in the mid-'90s underground scene as one of the most consistent and solid rock bands around, but Radio 4 need have nothing handed to them. Their music will make its own way in the world, and, as a guitar and melody powerhouse with tense tones and pogo choruses, I think they'll do just fine. MARK DUSTON

Fully Loaded

Shit baby... DAMN! Who done let the FUNK out?! Who! Who! Who-who? Jamie done, that's who! Uh. Um. Sorry... see, my nephew, I call him Donut, ain't stopped singin' that damn song since it come out... and I PROMISE, havin' sung it for y'all, I'll never, EVER, sing it again! Anyway, so what WE get when lookin' down the barrel of a fully loaded funkty-fo' MAGNUM? A LP of ever so funky, jazzy/fusion HEAT loaded with Cubo-African tendencies. Cool? The way I figger it, if you've ever concocted a next-morning "hangover gettin' over" drink, fuck it, get this for slippin' in the deck to get yer motor back in gear. MIKE NIPPER

Shanti Project Collection 2
(Badman Recording Co.)

As benefit compilations go, the Shanti Project Collections are not only for a worthy cause (proceeds go to the Shanti Project of San Francisco, a service organization for people with HIV and AIDS), but they are a perfect example of how various artists working with similar creative means can create a cohesive mood. The first collection featured Red House Painters, Low, Hayden, and Idaho weaving a slow-motion spell of gloom and beauty. This sequel finds a similar tone with its female roster. Mimi Parker of Low kicks off the album with the stunningly minimalist "When You Walked Out on Me," which showcases the tensile strength of her voice. Kristin Hersh provides two acoustic renditions of Throwing Muses songs. Stripped down, "Hate My Way" sounds like a harrowing campfire song of the unspeakable. Hersh's voice is its usual ragged-edged force. Tarnations singer Paula Frazer turns in two divine songs, duetting with Mark Eitzel on "Rhymes of Goodbye." The Spinanes' Rebecca Gates provides the high points with her two songs, aided by Tortoise's John McEntire. The sublime nestles in her humble and splendid music. Julie Doiran and Edith Frost each turn in meditative slow-burn folk. This Shanti Project Collection stands proudly with the first addition, delivering more difficult beauty. NATE LIPPENS

Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down
(Fat Possum)

Fuck... not again. This record, like R. L.'s last, is a novelty record completely directed by producers lookin' to score VH-1 (?) hits by makin' 40-odd minutes of contemporary pop outta reconstructed bits of R. L.'s music. Thing is... R. L. sorta has the momentum to maybe MAKE it in the pop way. But for ME, this entire record is crap, save for the title track, a spiritual, which is... well, brilliant. As for the rest of the record... it's peppered with self-conscious melodrama, "blues" cliché, and DJ "scratching," which is SO fucking DISTRACTING. All of which don't amount to no clever hooks; rather it's a mess of sophomoric clutter. Oh, and that last "song" is, well... it seems a bit exploitative, as it sounds like R. L. got sat down and asked to recount some horrible personal loss, which was recorded and backed with creepy sounds, then stuck on the record as a token gesture of "blues legitimacy." Callin' this a "blues" record would be like callin' 'N Sync a soul group! MIKE NIPPER

Watering Ghost Garden

Perspective is one of the first things you lose when you fall in love--especially when you fall hard, at which point you may as well just accept the loss, because you're in too deep to regain it. Case in point, Creeper Lagoon. Take their newest release, the six-song EP Watering Ghost Garden. At first listen it's plain beautiful, with all that melody oozing out--full of yummy ear gems like those almost-hidden synth sounds in "Centipede Eyes," or even the moody piano in "Roman Hearts" that accompanies Sharky's affected vocals. You pop it in again while in the car, and pretty soon you're a full-fledged Creeper love zombie. What gets you so wrapped up in them is the amazing dichotomy between their music, whose core is basically (gasp!) folk-derived, and the fact that they still rock like they ought to. In the end, all the samples and extras wind up transcending any of your folkish expectations. This EP is moody, and it has a soul. Unlike most bland indie rock, Creeper Lagoon are truly sad on the inside, while unable to keep themselves from writing very pretty songs. LISA GUNTER

Everything & Nothing

This two-CD retrospective of the enigmatic cult-pop singer/songwriter David Sylvian was curated by the man himself, and shows his work to best advantage. Reaching back to his last days as a New Romantic drama queen with the band Japan, and guiding the listener across two decades of artistic and personal growth, Everything & Nothing is a pitch-perfect portrait of an artist maturing. Sylvian has not arranged the collection chronologically, but the songs flow seamlessly with a sensual feel of time passing just beneath the surface. Across the 29 songs the listener gets "Ghosts" (his departing song from Japan, an unreleased Japan outtake), obscurities like "Bamboo Houses" (a collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto), and "Thoroughly Lost to Logic," an improvisation with pianist Keith Tippett (on which Sylvian narrates a text about childbirth and elation), as well as his collaborations with Robert Fripp. Best of all are the four unreleased outtakes from last year's Dead Bees on a Cake, a career high point. Everything & Nothing shows Sylvian to be a canny archivist and a left-field pop genius with staying power and a vision to follow. NATE LIPPENS

One Bag, Two Lumps, Three Cozies
(Beggars Banquet)

Whenever I try and picture what it's like over at Beggars Banquet HQ, I imagine everyone walking around in turtlenecks, with great haircuts and really expensive eyeglasses, drinking espresso and talking about how great their record label is. They would be right--not about the turtlenecks (those are rarely right), but about being a great record label. Beggars bands are refined and complete. The label isn't in the habit of developing talent, but rather of signing a wide range of musicians who have refined their craft and know how to present it. They have a few gems sampled here, with Buffalo Tom being the best band overall on the compilation, covering the Jam's "Going Underground." Also included are new songs by Badly Drawn Boy, Mojave 3, and the Delgados. This may not be the kind of CD you go out and buy, but it is a great reminder of how many records you could have bought with the money you wasted on those glasses. MARK DUSTON