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March 24, 1998 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-03-24

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8 - Tuesday, March 24, 1998 - The Michigan Daily

SEMISONIC'S 'FINE' ISN'T WORTH THE COST

New CD finds Cohn
wa ing in mediocrity

When only half of an album is worth listening to, should music fans pay the
whole $15 for a CD?
Those who say no should probably stay away from Semisonic's "Feeling
Strangely Fine." But listeners who are willing to risk $7.50 can look forward to
six great songs.
Semisonic's second album, "Feeling Strangely Fine," features the single
"Closing Time," an outstanding song that has captivated radio listeners across
the country. "Closing Time" is by far the best song on the album. Its thought-
ful lyrics and arrangement make it worthy of radio airplay.
Although the other five songs that bring quality to this album are not quite
as good, they are still catchy, honest and a little confusing. That confusion, par-
ticularly in Semisonic's lyrics, is the key to the album's best songs.
Perplexing in its message and moody in its guitars and vocals, the song
"Made to Last," is a prime example of musical beauty on "Feeling Strangely
Fine" Lyricist/vocalist Dan Wilson's words at first seem like mere babble. But
before the piano and the slide guitar kick in, he neatly ties everything together
with lyrical elegance. This song, like the other five, is so
emotionally driven that it is leaves listeners contemplat-
ing every word, synchronized with the cracks in Wilson's
voice. In these six songs, Semisonic shines in all aspects
Semisonic of music.
But the other six songs pale in comparison.
Feeling Strangely Fine Lacking any complexity in musicianship and lyrics,
MCA Semisonic dumbs down its ability, hoping fans will lower
Reviewed by their expectations. Songs such as "California" and
Daily Arts Writer "Secret Smile" seem contrived, showing only the poten-
Jewel Gopwani tial that Semisonic has already surpassed in "Closing
Time" and "Made to Last."
Although these songs are not downright terrible, they are
what listeners would expect from any mediocre pop band, not from Semisonic.
At most, the tracks, "Completely Pleased" and "Secret Smile"-- which are about
having good luck with women - are borderline easy listening songs.
Not only are half of the songs mediocre, the order in which the songs are in,
leaves much to be desired. "Closing Time" is the opening track. Half of the
people who purchase the album probably won't get past this hit. For those who

We're definitely not "Walking in
Memphis" anymore. "Burning the
Daze," Marc Cohn's recent release is
not full of the same emotion that was
present on his earlier projects. This is
not to say the production of this album
is bad, it just does not have any surefire
hits or soulful ballads that brought
everyone to enjoy Marc Cohn's music
in the first place.
Cohn did some experimenting with
different instruments on this album,
which definitely adds depth to each
song. He used the citern, mandolin, and
added horns to the repertoire.
The first song, "Already Home," def-
initely has the same feel and tone that is
reminiscent of his prior two albums, but
with a jazzy twist to it.
The lyrics are decent, yet have no
real emotion or driving force. "Girl of
Mysterious Sorrow" has a folky ambi-
ence - somewhat like "True
Companion," one of the better songs on

manage to hear it out, most of the quality songs are at the beginning, with two
near the end. The album closes on a disappointing note.
Semisonic is still a young band. Even though there are not very many hits on
this album, it is a step in the 'right direction. By following its natural instincts
in songwriting, composing and playing, Semisonic's next effort should be
something out of the ordinary - an album that is worth its price.

Marc Cohn
Burning the Daze
Reprise
Reviewed for
the Daily by
Ryan Malkin

Cohn's debut
album. Of all the
songs on this
album, "Girl of
Mysterious
Sorrow," has the
best chance at
getting any radio
air-play.
Several of the
songs on this
album sound as if

Preserve Us."
Along with the folky-rock songs on
"Burning the Daze,' a nice smooth
piano tune, "Healing Hands," shows
great harmony between the piano and
Cohn's voice.
It is quite reminiscent of Cohn's ear-
tier work. "Turn On Your Radio," has an,
eloquent arrangement and utilizes p6r-
tions of John Lennon's "I've Gt -a
Feeling:"
"Burning the Daze," is a relaxing=
album perfect to study to, but has-no
great originality. It doesn't seem' ike
Cohn pushed his musical talents to'their
limits.
He may not have wanted to loschi\
audience, but not striving to put ou
something terribly innovative may not,
be the best way to keep the audience
he had upon the release of his last
album.
All of the songs are producedand:
written well, yet do not evoke any reap
emotion from the listener. And while
"Burning the Daze" is listenable, Maer-
Cohn's first album remains, by farAis
best work to date. a

Propellerheads lift off on debut

With their debut LP "Decksanddrumsandrock-
androll," the British big .beat duo Alex Gifford and Will
White (a.k.a. The Propellerheads) have created a solid
combination of hip-hop, funk and dance music.
Granted, this type of act seems to come a dime a dozen
these days (with somehow every group having had a hit
on "BBC's Radio One"), but the Propellerheads show
they are better than the great majority of similar groups.
The disc begins with "Take California," which fea-
tures a heavy drum loop, some unique percussion
effects, and an ominous bass line. Then a keyboard is
dripped in, revealing the dense dance vibe that perme-
ates the track and much of the album. Now and then a
vocal sample enters the mix, most notably a man com-
manding "take California." The basic approach to this
track resurfaces in other songs throughout the album,
such as "Velvet Pants" and
"Bang On." The effect is similar
to that of Fatboy Slim's "Better
Propellerheads Living Through Chemistry."
While Slim's music could easily
Oecksan and- be featured on a beer commer-
cial, the grittier jazz feel at work
Dreamworks in the Prop's music makes it
Reviewed for more fitting for a smoky club.
the Daily by Before starting the
Michael Kegler Propellerheads, Gifford worked
as a studio musician for Van
Morrison and others, and this traditional influence
reflects on Gifford's work. In short, for a mostly elec-
tronic album, it seems quite acoustic at times: The
tdrums sound rawer, the bass sounds fuzzier, and the
keyboards sound less processed.
"Decksanddrumsandrockandroll" features two clas-
sic rap groups, De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers,
doing their thing over Gifford and White's grooves. De
La collaborates on "360° (Oh Yeah?)," a track whose

lazy drums and lethargic bass make the perfect sound-
track for a summer afternoon. The lyrical mastery and
tight production serve to remind the listener that cre-
ative hip-hop still lives, and is in fact flourishing. On
"'You Want it Back;' the Jungle Brothers do their best
impression of rap, circa 1990. While cheesy at points,
this cut has what so much of the current R&B inspired
rap lacks: speed. The result is a very catchy track,
which will be swirling through the listener's head for
days after the first listening.
The Propellerheads obsession with spy movie
soundtracks of the '60s and '70s is the most prevalent
theme throughout the LP. "History Repeating," fea-
tures the seductive voice of James Bond songstress
Shirley Bassey. Bassey, who performed the original
theme to "Goldfinger," seems perfectly at home with
the piano-laden backbeat of the song. While Bassey's
singing is a novelty, the song does not rely on this gim-
mick to sound great. Other soundtrack-influenced
pieces like "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and
"Spybreak" represent the crucial flaw with this album
- the conflict of old with new.
At times, both of these tracks devolve into a break-
beat over some loop from a '70s spy flick. One saw the
same mistake in David Holme's take on the Bond
theme song, "Radio 7." The horns and strings of the
original sources often seem disparate from the drums
being layered over them. Although this can produce a
cool effect at times, in the end the tracks suffer. Let the
listener remember, though, that this a debut album. In
order to hone such techniques, the Props should follow
the example of the DJ collective United Future
Organization, a group that has had greater success inte-
grating spy soundtracks into its music.
A tragic quality of almost all club-based music is
that once removed from the club atmosphere, the tunes
lose a lot of their magic. This is true with many instru-

they are meant to be sung by someone
else. For instance, "Providence" sounds
very much like a Counting Crows tune.
Along with that seemingly eerie tune,
Cohn unknowingly does a nice Tom
Petty impression on such songs as
"Lost You in the Canyon," and "Saints

Spicy All Saints don't
perform any miracles.

mental tracks on Decksanddrumsandrockandroll. Let
it be known, the Props are no DJ Shadow and have a
long way to go before their instrumental hip-hop can
truly draw the listener in. If one is looking for an
engaging listen, he or she should probably go else-
where. But throw this album in on a long car ride or at
a party, and it begins to score some serious points. If
one wishes to experience this album in its natural habi-
tat, there is going to be a record release party for it at
the Blind Pig tomorrow night. This event should find
the Propellerheads' music in a more suitable environ-
ment.
For "Decksanddrumsandrockandroll" being a debut
CD, it shows amazing potential and includes a good
number of singles that have been proven hits in the
English club scene. But there is a huge difference
between putting out a great single and putting out a
great album. Before the Propellerheads can make some
real headway in the album realm, they are going to
have to focus on making their music less appropriate
for a sound system and more appropriate for a set of
headphones.

Researchers in England are baffled
by a new phenomenon sweeping
through the country: the upsurge in the
popularity of the name Melanie -
especially among airy pop stars.
If it was not already confusing with
the Spice Girls' Mel B. and Mel C., a
new spice-wannabe band, All Saints,
appears with their own Melanie.
But with the release of their new
album "All Saints," these new girls on
the block show that the "Mel" thing is
getting old, and, regardless of what
their fashion consultants say, cleavage
can only sell the records - it can't
make them good.
The band goes too far in trying to
separate itself from its obvious spice-
origins. A sappy, overly hip cover of
the not-too-old Red Hot Chili Peppers
song "Under the
Bridge" leaves
the listener with
one question -
All Saints why can't that
bridge finally
All Saints fall down?
London The girls for-
Reviewed by get that they live
Daily Arts Writer in the '90s and
Aaron Rich not the cheesy
'80s in the dance
tune "If You

Cappadonna converts non-believers

They take a silly but fun song, leave it'
out of the fridge for too long andspoil
it. (Umm, I want some butter with rny
toast!)
One last seductive effort fails miser-,
ably in "Take the Key." This slow-song
over-emphasizes the beat and bass-line
and leaves the would-be lovers out in
the cold, banging on the motel roort
door. " .,
The fact is - whether they admit to
it or not - there would be no Samts
without some Spice.
The group takes a tired idem_
tries to run with it. They end up mere-
ly feet from the start-line, gasping.
fresh air.
Don't worry, Victoria, Geri, Ejnj,
Mel B. and Mel C. - your-tf
thrones are not being threatened,'

For all of you who are still non-believers (all three
of you), it's time to accept what everyone else knows:
The Wu Tang Clan is the single most dominant force
in music today. It's a fact of life.
There isn't any other group of musicians that can
put out seven critically acclaimed, gold and platinum
albums within five years (not to mention the countless
albums that claimed to be Wu-affiliated), as well as
starting record labels and their own line of clothing.
You know this. I know this. The millions of junkies
who will buy anything with a "W" on it know this.
The latest addition to the Wu-dynasty is
Cappadonna. The brash rapper isn't part of the core
group, but his numerous guest appearances on Wu
projects legitimates him as official Wu property. He
exploits that to the fullest on his debut album "The
Pillage," starting with a logo featuring the killer bee
mascot on top of the Wu's trademark W.
There is no mistaking that this is a Wu-tang album.
The music is handled mostly by Wu-Tang producers
Tru Master, Goldfingaz, and the RZA himself, laced
with simple baselines, hard snares, and mutilated
iovie and Motown samples. Fast-paced, aggressive
songs like "Check for a Nigga" will fit right in with

your collection of favorite Wu songs. As evidenced by
the ambitious "Milk This Cow" and the Heartbroken
"Young Hearts;" Cappa's lyrics and messages are sur-
prisingly clear, although from time to time he still falls
into the typical Wu-Tang jargon that makes sense to
nobody but core members (and sometimes you won-
der if even they know what they're talking about).
As on all Wu-tang projects, Cappa shines best when
paired up with his Wu-Tang comrades. Raekwon and
Method Man represent well on
the brooding "Dart Throwing;"
Ghostface drops a few gems on
**** the demented "Oh-Donna;" and
Cappadonna the sparse "Supa Ninjaz" fea-
The Pillage tures Meth and Wu-Tang's best
The Pllage kept secret, U-God.
Razor sharp But Cappa introduces two
Reviewed by new Wu-affiliates who more
Daily Arts writer than hold their own with their
JuQuan Williams elders. Rhyme Recca makes a
solid presence on the nod-induc-
ing "Everything is Everything," and Wu-singer
Tekitha gives the Wu a much-needed female rap pres-
ence on "Pump Ya Fist."

Want to Party."
All Saints smear

around a cover of

the disco classic "Lady Marmalade."

Breaking Records Star System

Every song on "The Pillage" has the cutting-edge
quality people have come to expect from the Wu-Tang
clan and Cappa proves himself a capable lyricist aside
from the group as well as with it. Cappadonna's debut
is a great jumping-on point for those uninitiated into
Wu-Tang Fandom. If you aren't a Wu-fan yet, stop
fighting the wave, and join the rest of us on the band-
wagon.

r - Classic
* - Excellent
*** - Good
** - Fair
*-Poor
No stars - Don't
Bother

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