PROLAPSE
Ghosts Of Dead Aeroplanes

(Jetset)
*
*

Oh dear. Prolapse have heard (Scotland's story-telling, foul-mouthed, humanistic) Arab Strap. Haven't all of us hipsters? Hence, their usually abrasive Fall-style guitar-trashing rock has been pared down to something approaching Mogwai-style electronica on the opening track "Essence"--all muted vocals and mysterious backwards sequenced sound-effects. It's okay... but not exactly original, hmm? Very late '80s. I prefer Prolapse when they mutilate straightforward pop, as on "Fob.Com" and the Sonic Youth-esque "Cylinders V12 Beats Cylinders," where Scottish Mick provides a richly sarcastic counterpoint to English Linda's honey-dripping vocals. And what's the final Thrill Jockey-style track, "Planned Obsolescence," all about? Dull, dull, dull. Ghosts is an okay album, but it doesn't begin to reflect the great things Prolapse are capable of. EVERETT TRUE


VARIOUS ARTISTS
Traveler '99
(Six Degrees)
*
*

DJ CHEB I SABBAH
Shri Durga

(Six Degrees)
*
**

Dedicated to exploring the interstices between contemporary dance music and the traditional music of many lands, the Six Degrees Travel Series debuts with these two releases--and their failures and successes are instructive. Jumbling together French New Age music, Brazilian bossa nova, Celtic violin, Indian ragas, and slide guitars--frequently remixed by an international cast of DJs--the first CD is unlistenable in the same way any casually sequenced, all-over-the-map world music album is.

DJ Cheb I Sabbah, on the other hand, more or less gets away with his dance-floor reworkings of Indian ragas. The familiar presence of American bass player Bill Laswell (who's done similar work with his band Material) helps, as does the large group of traditional singers and musicians Cheb brings in to layer over his samples. A couple of songs make the mistake of trying to sweeten the sitar with digital effects, which is like putting extra butter on a cinnamon roll. Overall, the CD is varied and fresh-sounding, and maintains enough connection to its source material to succeed. ERIC FREDERICKSEN


TOM WAITS

Mule Variations

(Epitaph)
*
*

His first album in seven years--and one question beckons: Why did he bother? Mule Variations is well-named--it's a stubborn rehash of former glories. The bluesy, night-time "Hold On" could be from Nighthawks at the Diner, the eccentric "Lowside of the Road" could be from Swordfishtrombones, "Get Behind the Mule" could be from Frank's Wild Years, and so on. There's no sense of urgency, no sense of direction. Since he made his millions by successfully suing a corporation for ripping off his "trademark" sound without permission (a sound Waits lifted wholesale from Captain Beefheart in the first place), perhaps the need to struggle and explore has disappeared from Waits' life. That would be a real shame, as Tom Waits is, without doubt, one of the late 20th century's more fascinating characters. This record may be comforting, but it's mediocre. While Waits' fans won't be able to resist liking it, they'll still feel vaguely cheated. ET


D GENERATION

Through The Darkness

(C2)
*
***

I'm guilty... I lerb D Generation, always have. Thing is, this band gits folks MAD--the "aged" scenester "rocker" types I know ABSOmuthafugginLOOTLY hate 'em. Welp, NOW DGens gotta another LP fer them to despise... but I figger it might be the RIGHT time fer DGens to hit, what wif so many GLAM kids about! Hell, why NOT? DGens got affection fer N.Y. Dolls melody, a goot 'n' plenny dose o' "punk," plus a li'l G'nR pop charm--thankfully less "kept" kilt fashion--'n last but NOT least, they produced by Tony Visconti! Who dat? Check yer T Rex LPs! There, stick THAT in yer Velvet Goldmine 'n dig it! MIKE NIPPER


JAD FAIR AND KRAMER

The Sound Of Music (An Unfinished Symphony in 12 Parts)

(Shimmy-Disc)
*
**

Knowing these two geniuses, I'm extremely surprised they're back in the studio together again. Jad is almost painfully shy, obsessed with love and monsters, primal, inspirational. His influence has been felt on bands from the Pastels to Nirvana and beyond. Kramer, meanwhile, is gregarious, stoned, obsessed with production and psychedelia, cunning, inspirational. They collaborated once before, on 1988's Roll Out the Barrel, a record that was extremely raw and edgy. The Sound Of Music is more fully rounded--despite having been conceptualized, created, performed, and finished in four days. Shades of Kramer's previous bands (Bongwater, B.A.L.L.) sometimes shine through; shades of Jad's spooky obsessions always shine through. A most engaging album. ET


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

18 Tracks

(Columbia)
*
**

There are two sides to the Boss: good and bad. On one level, he's an honest troubadour--forthright, thoughtful, naturally empathetic toward those around and below him, able to pen great tunes like "Streets Of Philadelphia," "Candy's Room," and pretty much the whole of Nebraska. He's also a crashing bore--needlessly sentimental, overtly patriotic, and way too worthy (see "Born In The U.S.A."; also the whole of Human Touch). On the plus side, 18 Tracks --a collection of outtakes, rarities, and the like--showcases mostly the former, veering toward the acoustic and sensitive (particularly his never-released "The Fever"). On the negative side, 18 Tracks is basically a "best of" culled from his 1998 four-CD rarities collection, Tracks, but with four extra tracks added (of course!). It's still cool, though. ET


THE WIRETAPS

Recording

(Super Electro)
*
***

DAMN... my ASS done got SHOOK all the FUCK UP!! Whoo! I mean like 'at... GOTDamn! [Cough... HACK!] Ahem. Sheesh. Please pardon the near-descent into my usual unintelligible mess! God forbid I insist all people read aloud the written word in order to uncover my thoughtful and somewhat educated insights and references, right? Now, on with this review! The Wiretaps are EXACTLY what this town needs, if only as a counter-measure to the abundance of "teddy boy" punkers. However, the Wiretaps ARE more than just a smart "scene" or a political stance: they play strong and clever "punk"-inspired Power Pop--"punk" as in mid-'80s Angry Samoans. Thankfully, their reliance on Paul Collins and Cheap Trick is so insignificant as to make Recording SOLID, start to finish--and few Power Pop LPs from the last 30 years can make that claim. MN

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