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Kronos Quartet


Nuevo


[Elektra/Asylum]

Doctors, order color therapy, Prozac and less Nick Drake. Based on a century of Mexican composers and folk songs, Kronos Quartet's latest album Nuevo bursts with firecracker emissions and serpentine rumors.

Many of Nuevo's songs were inspired by Esquivel's Copland-esque cosmopolitan and astronaut ear. The quartet's rendition of Esquivel's song "Mini Skirt" sets my lamp shade dancing-the one I'm wearing on my head since I began listening. That pile of books and unruly hair seem to be in on the joke and they bob round like a carousel. I thought your avant-garde was a bit sang-froid; I felt intimidated by your intellect. But not that you kicked off your shoes, danced the Mexican hat dance, and tossed back the tequila, I feel we could understand each other. That worm's thoroughly digested.

At other times unabashed retro romanticism and other times tribal, Nuevo's eclectic array offers something for everyone. Kronos collaborates with rock-en-espanol Cafe Tacuba for a shamanistic procession and Plankton Man for a remix of traditional Tijuana electronica drawing. Nortec techno combines northern Mexican traditional music, old electronica and new, with brassy tubas and the quartet's rapid-fire spicatto. This unusual and varied effort is commendable for its authentic brilliant odyssey of a hundred years of Mexico, this time not portrayed in a Brad Pitt movie entitled Mexico.

Anne Wilner

Foo Fighters


One by One


[RCA]

Just when you thought it was safe to get close to speakers again the Foo Fighters' new release shocks the rock world back to life. The first track, "All My Life," has Dave Grohl's vocals so high in the mix that he may as well be panting in our ears while a lone guitar keeps a pulmonary beat. Then the band explodes into action and keeps on 'till the album ends.

The whole record uses natural guitar sounds and toned down mixing which allows the songs to sing for themselves. Whether screaming at the top of his lungs or barely singing above a sigh Grohl is bound to move you to feel something.

Fans of the Fighters should be satisfied with songs like Overdrive and Halo, which are definite rehashings of the "Learn to Fly" sound heard previously. The rest of the album could turn out to be a pleasant surprise for all rock enthusiasts. It could be the front man's stint with the mutants from Queens of the Stone Age or maybe just a newfound sense of apathy towards radio friendly demands.

Either way, it's easy to get joyfully lost in the drawn out musical interludes and unexpected melodic twists found on numerous songs. "Lonely As You" is an experiment in twisted harmonizing and "Come Back" the other just an instrumentally compelling seven minute song which leaves the listener drained and heaving in the silence that follows this concluding number.

David Somlo

MC Paul Barman


Paullelujah!


[Coup d'Etat]

There's no doubt that MC Paul Barman ushers in a fresh era of white-guy hip-hop with his new full-length, Paullelujah!, an entirely sacrilegious, near-gem of satiric intelligence. It boasts all the elements of traditional hip-hop: solid beats, rhymes, worldly messages. Only Barman perverts all of these into a cocky set of tracks, with titles like "Burping and Farting."

On "Cock Mobster," Barman espouses the wannabe wonders of his own manhood ( "I would jizz early/ inside Liz Hurley"), while the rapper waxes political on globalization and corporatism on "Anarchist Bookstore part 1-"Will Barnes & Noble harm the global?/ Will Amazon.com be around when gramma's gone, mom?"

While he's not doing anything beyond the levels of crassness already established by, say, Tenacious D, Barman's brand of verbal chaos and clever rhymes are nothing to scoff at. But listening to Paullelujah!'s redundant, trumpet-soaked background music and his ever-whiny vocals make the album an experience better undergone when one isn't trying to multi-task.

It's almost difficult to say whether Barman's satire-rap is a by-product of hip-hop's creative fluidity or a lame attack on hip-hop itself. Is he utilizing it or satirizing it? It's a toss-up, as there is no doubt that this Brown University grad is smart and talented; like a thong line in a pair of tight pants, it's obvious. And just like a thong, it can get damn annoying.

Audrey S. Yap

Jackpot


Shiny Things


[Surf Dog]

Jackpot's Shiny Things isn't aiming for diamonds and big payoffs, but the glittering asphalt or lost opportunity. As promised by the album's shiny sticker, the New York Times has hailed Jackpot as "one of California's greatest unknown bands". They win two times out of twelve, better odds than any slot machine in Vegas, and the successes are huge. Many bands make it on one song, and that's all they need. But their wins are too great for radio-mainstream radios stations are adjusted to avoid disturbing any person's normal thought patterns and reduce traffic accidents. Anything meaningful, like a long piano passage without voice accompaniment, does not meet the radio's negative phrasing requirement.

Most of Shiny Things is lackluster and five years too late. What's "in" are songs that sound like a train ride in Tokyo, and others want a lick at least 10 years old. Combine the two, and you have a successful indie record. Five years old is in musical no man's land-the right territory for radio play, but yet...the best songs on this album really move somewhere well below 120 beats per minute.  Jackpot unsuccessfully experiments with surfer Pet Sounds and classic rock. It's practically a misdemeanor to do complaint rock. And a lot of this whining comes with too much drums, and predictable homogenized licks.

    

Jackpot's lead singer Rusty Miller skill as a pianist surprises at the end of the album, offering a mysterious, transcendental ending to an otherwise elusive and oft disappointing album. The album ends mid-sentence, just where it begun. As that which shines is bound to disappoint, the muted end sings a dusty trail better than the album's overwrought pop beginning.  From "Bring on the Chimes" and "When You Leave", we understand why Chuck Prophet has taken Jackpot under his wing and produced their album. The solo tracks are the best. The source of the failures seems uncertain, but we would hazard a guess that Rusty Miller, whose brilliant voice comes spiked with Gram Parsons lyrics and glow, could be a real rock and roll star if he could acquire a better band, a better drummer, a better bassist, and a better arranger.

Anne Wilner

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