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February 09, 1999 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-09

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 9, 1999 - 9

SUGAR RAY PRODUCES UNIMAGINATIVE ALBUM

Hefner has potential,
but fails to impress-

Remember the Play-Doh Fun Factory that we
all enjoyed when we were kids? The concept was
simple: By using various molds, you could
squeeze out the clay in all kinds of different
shapes or, if you so desired, the exact same shape,
over and over again. In recording "14:59," their
newest album for Atlantic Records, Sugar Ray
chose to employ the latter method, but instead of
playing with a child's toy, they used the Pop Hit
Studio Fun Factory.
In short, every song on the new disc is a cook-
ie-cutter clone of the track that precedes it. After
experiencing the filthy success of their freakishly
catchy 1997 single, "Fly," Sugar Ray must have
giddily exclaimed, as if dealing with a roller-
coaster, "Let's do it again!" Unfortunately, they
did it again a dozen times over on "14:59," and
the result is close to mind-numbing.
Would you like to know
the secret formula to record-
* ing a certified Sugar Ray
radio hit? First, start with
Sugar Ray some slick drum loops -
14:59 live drums to capture that
Atlantic rock feel, but with enough
sequencing to ensure the
Reviewed by ever-present hip hop vibe
Daily Arts Writer that inundates most top-40
Chris Kula playlists. Layer on some
dutifully simple bass lines,
and occasionally master them in that bottom-
heavy, booty mix style. The next time-tested trick
is to include a melodic, yet subtle acoustic guitar
hook that will plant itself deep into the heads of

through Ann Arbor.
The most insidious aspect of this album -
even more so than the horde of cloned pop songs
- is the fact that it's not even done in an original
manner. In nearly every song, Sugar Ray manages
to emulate a musical source that's already
achieved commercial success.
At various points throughout the disc, the band
steals sonic qualities from the likes of Devo, 311,
Foo Fighters, Usher (not even a credible figure to
borrow from!) and many others. Listening to the
11th track, I even thought they'd blatantly ripped
off the Steve Miller Band, until I realized the
song was an actual cover of "Abracadabra."
In fact, the only clever aspect of this album is
its self-deprecating title, "14:59." Apparently,
Sugar Ray was directing a statement to all of its
naysayers (read: knowledgeable music fans) who
claim that the band's 15 minutes of fame are
almost up. If only that was the case.
In actuality, I have no doubt that we'll hear
more from Sugar Ray. This album will sadly
become a success, driven steadily up the charts by
its stable of cotton candied, made-for-radio sin-
gles. MTV will put the corresponding videos in
heavy rotation, and maybe even do a Sugar Ray
episode of "Fanatic" so that a lucky fan can meet
McGrath and his hair in person.
So while Sugar Ray rides the teeny-boppin'
wave of success that this new album will surely
cause, I think I'll simply try to wait out their bor-
rowed time in the limelight by breaking out some
Phish or James Brown.
And my old Play-Doh Fun Factor,.

Without a motivating iota of energy in
sight, Hefner sits on the fence. There's
nothing wrong with them that you could
really point at, but at the same time
there's nothing right with them, either.
Their embarrassing self classification as
British "urban folk"just about says it all:
There's only a little harmonica, but it's
more than maddening enough.
"Breaking God's Heart" is a CD that
just lays there. The band has a sound that
seems to have something under the sur-
face that might be interesting, but that
thing of interest never seems to actually
bubble out. The thing jangles like all get
out, but like a tambourine that someone
keeps shaking in your face, it gets old
pretty quickly.
Y4With an indie
** rock vibe wrongly
recalling Lou
Hefoer Reed and David
Breaking God's Bowie during the
Heart '70s, Hefner
Beggars Banquet/ al
Too Pure amost makes
Reviewed by good songs. "A
Daily Arts Writer Hymn for the
Ted Watts Postal Service" is
annoyingly nearly
worthwhile. Like a sedate mainstream
version of the Flaming Lips, the song
barely fails to be catchy. You nearly want
to plead with it; "Why aren't you bet-

high school girls.
Finally, insert the strained, horsey vocals of
pretty boy Mark McGrath, the modern poster
child for reverb and other tricks of the studio.
Due to a fairly obvious amount of processing, his
vocals on the album are passable, but I shiver at
the thought of hearing him live.
Actually, to tell you the truth, I wouldn't mind
seeing a Three Tenors-style show featuring
McGrath, Stephen Jenkins from Third Eye Blind
and that portly gentleman from Smashmouth. It
could be marketed as the "Three Tone-Deafs"
tour, and they could perform a cappella covers of
classic Tom Waits tunes. Perhaps they could share
a bill with the Comedy Showcase when it rolls

ter?" Alas, the disc merely repeats the
same subculture aural cliches no matter
how much you dwell on it.
The occasional motivated song feels
like its agitation is merely tacked on.
"Love Will Destroy Us in the End" has a
faster beat than most of the rest of the
album, but it still feels like a Sunday
afternoon - hazy, headachy and
depressing. And it still sounds like every
other song on the album.
Hefner's main violation is that they
seem to have potential but fail to reach
any of it. Like a light cold they aren't
really important. They'll give you a
slight headache and you could do with-
out them, but it's better than a kick in the
teeth.

._._ .

Death' covers
indsy with
tew sound
Napalm's latest slab of post-grind mayhem is
finally making its American release. About time,
too, as this release has been out since October of
last year everywhere else in the world. Perhaps the
fact that the group is planning to embark on an
American tour soon has something to do in the
way of incentive for this record finally being
released here in the States.
fter all this time anticipating "Words from the
t wound" (and fighting off urges to pay exorbi-
tant import prices) the ques-
tion remains: Was it worth
the wait? Well, that's one of
** 7those questions where yes
palm Death and no answers apply.
Words From the There are generally two
Exit Wound types of bands in the world.
The first type are bands that
Earache Records do their best to include a
Reviewed by radically different sound on
Daily Arts Writer each album, such as Ween.
Adlin Rosli Then there are bands that
seem to release the same
album over and over again with different song
titles, such as Clutch. Napalm Death seems to be a
band that falls somewhere in between these two
categories. It generally releases the same album in
one style for a while and then goes for a complete
musical revamp and releases a, plethora of albums
in that new style before moving on to yet another
musical style.

Country star Skaggs serves up bluegrass

Though often lumped in
with country/western music,
bluegrass is light years away
from the style-over-substance
world of modern country,
where stars sell albums
through cleavage and tight
pants. Today, its influence is
mostly felt in rock circles,
where the traditional instru-
mentation and timeless
melodies have inspired "No
De-pres-
sion" bands
** like Uncle
Tupelo and
Ricky Skaggs jam bands
Ancient Tones like String
Cheese
Skaggs Family I nc id en t

Since leaving behind their glory days of the infa-
mous 30 second songs during the "Scum" album
era - which provided the blueprints for grindcore
as we know it today - and slowing things down a
tad from its "Harmony Corruption" era albums, the
group seems to have found a comfortable slump
consistent with the style of 1995's "Diatribes"
release.
To return to the question posed earlier, yes, this
is still Napalm Death and yes they still crush you
like an anvil falling from the sky. But no, there's
nothing all that new here and no, you won't be sur-
prised. But as the saying goes, "if its not broke,
don't fix it," right? Well just like "Diatribes" and
the follow up, "Inside the torn apart,""Words from
the exit wound" is more of Napalm Death experi-
menting and refining its mix of heavy crushing
riffs with catchy drum beats.
And in a heavy music world today filled with
whiny heavy music singers trying to be Korn's
Jonathan Davies, hearing Barney Greenway's
good old subterranean growl feels like coming
home.

where that album left off, with
a dozen interpretations of
songs from genre forefathers
like Bill Monroe and the
Stanley Brothers interspersed
with the occasional new com-
position. Skaggs has the credi-
bility to pull this tribute off; he
played mandolin with some of
the classic artists he covers
when he was only 13.
As with most bluegrass, the
most invigorating moments on
"Ancient Tones" come when
the tempo is kicked into high
gear. Songs like "Pig in a Pen"
and "Boston Boy" sound like
speed metal played on banjos,
fiddles, and mandolines
beneath tight, soaring vocal
harmonies. The solos ripple
like water in a thunderstorm
with streams of notes
unleashed at a breakneck
speed, provoking even the most
adamant country music-hater
to tap his or her feet.
The slower side of the genre
is also well represented on the
album, in heartbreak ballads
like "Lonesome Night" and "I
Believed in Yov Darlin'." At
their best, the playing on these
tracks is touching and emotion-
ally powerful. An example is
the song "Coal Minin' Man,"
where the music skillfully

Records
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Rob Mitchum

a n d
L e ft o v e r
Salmon.
B u t
m u l t i -

instrumentalist Ricky Skaggs
and his band Kentucky Thunder
have made it their mission to
bring bluegrass back to the
forefront of the country world.
A successful country star in the
'80s, Skaggs released the
enthusiastically -named
"Bluegrass Rules!" in 1997,
featuring renditions of classic
and original bluegrass tunes.
"Ancient Tones" picks up

reflects the song's haunting,
desperate first-person lyrics.
The album-closing "Little
Bessie" is an eight-minute epic,
beginning with only Skagg's
yearning voice for three min-
utes before building to a melan-
choly full-band shuffle.
Occasionally, as on "Give Us
Rain," the slick production on
the album drains the energy

from songs that feel like they
should be heard on a scratched-
up 78 rpm record. But the obvi-
ous reference Skaggs has for
the material, along with the
strong instrumental perfor-
mances from him and his band,
make "Ancient Tones" both
effective tribute and enjoyable
album for new and old blue-
grass fans alike.

Detroit underground rapper
Those readers who are unhip to Detroit's rap shiper - and opting for a me
underground may not know of the sordid career approach.
of independent artist Esham. He is best known for Esham's lyrical skill hasi
originating "horrorcore rap," some 7 years before though. He is still spitting ares
Gravediggaz and Flatlinaz appeared on the scene. about the underside of "tha D."
To date, he has been successful throughout the like the
with 10 albums and has produced six successful Mail" he v
albums for the group Natas (Satan spelled back- *** City bac
wards). Still generally ignored by the hip-hop badge. Est
world, Esham "the Unholy" has returned with Esham is still buz
"Mail Dominance." Mail Dominance you can't h
Those who are familiar with Esham might be overcore/Gotthom head to
surprised with the new directions he's taken with f u
this latest album. For the most part, he downplays Reviewed by "Getthefug
the "Wicked" image used in the past - an image Daily Arts Writer What r
that had many accusing him of being a devil wor- Quan Williams Esham's a

downplays 'Wicked' image with 'Mail'

ore experimental
not diminished,
senic-laced lyrics
In fact, on songs
demented "E-
wears his Murder
kground like a
ham's production
zzsaw-sharp, and
help but nod your
songs like the
n k y
goutmyface."
has changed is
pproach to mak-

ing songs. While he still has a lot of well-done
conventional rap songs like "King of Hearts," the
album's most interesting songs are the experi-
mental ones. "Whoa" and "Lightyearsaway" both
feature Esham dropping hardcore raps over old
Motown numbers. These songs are hilarious -
you can almost picture Esham rapping and throw-
ing gang-signs at a sock hop on "Happy Days."
What's even funnier is when he tries to sing on the
surprisingly catchy "Obiest" He also does his
best Prince impersination on "?." Esham even
drops rhymes over some Detroit dance music on
the mean-n-nasty "Ozonelayer" and the wierd
"Ah ha."
While these are all entertaining, Esham is still
at his best when he is kicking the Horrorcore rap

he's been building his reputation on for the last 10
years. "No More Mr. Nice Guy" is classic serial
killer hip-hop which includes a hidden potshot at
DMX. "Velveeta" is straight up psycho funk, and
"The Rev" is just plain sick. Esham's two
attempts at radio-friendly rap ("Twirk yo Body"
and "California Dreamin") are decent at best, and
some of his experiments (like the hard rock
"Reload" and the way too happy "I'm Lovin It")
fail miserably.
Loyal Esham fans won't be dissapointed by
Esham's latest effort. If you're a newcomer to the
"Detroit Wicked Shit," don't be afraid to give
"Mail Dominance" a chance. This album could
be the big push Esham needs to get the national
notoriety he deserves.

The I*p OMa you
can wear.
7

April GRE
#967

Test I
Class I
Class 2
Class 3
Test 2
Class 4
Ciac cS

Sat. Feb 20
Sun. Feb 21
Wed. Feb 24
Wed. Mar 10
Sat. Mar 13
Sun. Mar 14
Wed. Mar 1'7

9:00am-l:00pm
6:30pm-10:00pm
6:30pm-10:00pm
6:30pm-10:00pm
9:00am-1:00pm
6:30pm-10:OOpm
6:30nm-10:00nm

April GRE
#010
Test I Sat. Feb 20 9:00am-1:00pm
Class 1 Tue. Feb 23 2:00pm-5:30pm
Class 2 Thu. Feb 25 2:00pm-5:30pm
Class 3 Tue. Mar 9 2:00pm-5:30pm
Class 4 Thu. Mar 1I 2:00pm-5:30pm
Test 2 Sat. Mar 13 9:00am-1:00pm

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