The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 23, 1999 - 9
BURNT BY THE ROCK
Crack Up roars into
Let's cut to the chase: "The Hot Rock" is one hot
Of course, Sleater-Kinney could bang two twigs
together and critics would call it art. After the gobs
and gobs of text spent drooling over the band's three
previous albums, one doesn't need a crystal ball to
guess the reaction to this one. The real surprise, how-
ever, isn't that this album is great - the shock is how
the band manages to take such magnificent strides
between albums, shirking
expectations in order to pursue
a rock vision all its own.
Despite the pre-release
Sleater. brouhaha over how greatly this
album differs from the band's
Kinny R past material, "The Hot Rock'
The Hot Rock is not such a far cry from
KillRRock Stars 1997's "Dig Me Out." But
Reviewed by while it holds onto its signature
Daily Arts Writer sound, the Northwest trio has
jimmy Draper created more complex, varied
and layered songs that simmer
instead of explode. The caterwauling vocals and gut-
kicking guitar licks are still in place - they're just
not as prevalent, often replaced by a subtler urgency
that finds the band exploring themes of desire, hon-
esty and commitment.
The album opens with Sleater-Kinney's most dis-
tinct and familiar weapon - the untamed ferocity of
Corin Tucker's vibrato. Part opera and part rock 'n'
roll swagger, her love-it-or-loathe-it voice quavers
and quakes, roars and soars - a force to be reckoned
with. So when "Start Together" hits its explosive cli-
max, Tucker shatters any semblance of stability:
"Baby, don't you leave me!/Baby, don't you go!/I'll
roll with the punches!/Roll out the door!" It is full-
fledged desperation and determination, and with the
the plans, I carry out the act/But then I lose it all if I
can't bring it back," Brownstein sings, striking at the
heart of the album -the decision to risk it all for that
"gilded stone." While theband explored passion on
"Dig Me Out," this album ambitiously moves toward
a more intensely personal sound. Punk-purists may
cringe, but the band doesn't flinch as it struts forward
with such bravado that you'll wonder if the trio had
this album up its sleeve all along.
Long-time fans shouldn't be surprised by the
album's glossier feel. From the debut's Riot Grrrl
shrieks, to the political cage-rattling of "Call the
Doctor," to the fast and furious dance-punk of "Dig
Me Out;' the band has become progressively more
polished and elaborate, both lyrically and musically.
While still far from the mainstream, "The Hot Rock"
is the band's best bet at crossover appeal because it
perfectly bridges the gap between unpolished rock
and a pop veneer. With help from new producer
Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo), Sleater-Kinney has
developed its once-crude sound (see: "A Real Man")
into the band's most accessible and dazzlingly well-
crafted music to date.
Despite this new direction, the band still packs
quite a punch. "Banned From the End of the World"
is a B-52's-inspired, new wave anthem worthy of
some over-the-top dance moves. "One Song for You"
shimmers and shakes with abandon, and "The End of
You" goes for the jugular with a one-two punch that
knocks you back on your ass. If Weiss's powerhouse
drumming is any indication - she has never sound-
ed so ready-steady-go! - the band isn't about to sit
back and bask in the glories of past triumphs.
Instead, Sleater-Kinney puts its best foot forward
and takes risks on "The Hot Rock;' making the press'
Next Big Thing-hype obsolete. Like Brownstein
sings, "The future is here, look in the mirror!"
size of her voice - a cry so resolved it embraces and
denounces everything at once - one dares not deny
what she wants.
Co-guitarist and co-vocalist Carrie Brownstein
gets more vocal time than in the past and her newly
soft and restrained voice is the perfect foil for
Tucker's siren. As expected, "The Hot Rock" contin-
ues to utilize the singers' intertwining lines that slink
and slide around each other. Their vocal interplay is
smoother and more intricate than ever, creating a
push-and-pull tension that propels the songs forward,
while Janet Weiss's machine-gun drumming keeps
the songs from tailspinning into chaos.
One of the most noticeable changes on this album
is the inclusion of more ballads. "A Quarter to Three"
and "The Size of Our Love" agonize with late night
heartache, and the startlingly beautiful title track uses
a jewel heist as a metaphor for love. "You write out
One of the most interesting sub-gen-
res of the heavy music scene in the '90s
has been the emergence of "Death-
Rock," a combination of Death Metal
with bluesy Sabbath-style riffs and
grooves. Not surprisingly, the genre has
been mostly spearheaded by former
Death Metal bands (or former members
of Death Metal bands) who were looking
for a change, with notable appearances
in this genre including Carcass's
"Swansong" release, Entombed's last
couple of albums and Cathedral.
Now comes Crack Up, another former
Death Metal band, entering the genre
with the album "Heads Will Roll." Crack
Up's results certainly do justice to the
title, as this album
is a killer! From
start to finish,
there is never a
Crack Up dull moment.
Heads Will Roll Roll" opens with
Nuclear Blast USA the fierce anthem,
Reviewed by "Well Come,"
Daily Arts Writer which possesses a
Adlin Rosli '60s rock style of
with a simple but bruising guitar pro-
gression and a singer growling deeply.
The pace of the album is set with this
number and is kept up throughout.
The downfall of the album is that the
group seems to be in lyrical abandon, as
"Heads Will Roll" possesses lyrics that.
sound like they were made up on the
spot. On "Well Come" the words are
generally, "Everybody knows who I am/
everybody knows where I come from/
Hey hey hey." Words do not matter much
in the song anyway, however, as the
growl voice is usually undecipherable
and the album has plenty of super-catchy
riffs to keep listeners glued to the speak-
er on this 14-track release (plus a bidden
The best track of this album, however,
must be "Bad Mongo," where the group
praises a bad-ass character going by the
name of the song. This tune embodies
the group perfectly with its ridiculous
lyrics and nice guitar riffs colliding
The stock cars and pin-up girls deco-
rating the cover art are a nice touch as
It is fitting that the woman on the
eover of "Dosage," Collective Soul's
newest release, has her eyes closed. The
boring repetitiveness of the songs that
comprise "Dosage" is enough to put
*yone to sleep - even the album's cover
The slow, eerie mish-mash of key-
boards, electric guitars and percussion
that introduces us to the first song,
"Tremble for my Beloved" does not start
the album off on a strong foot.
Fortunately, the song picks up a little bit
after a few measures, but not enough.
Pole mesmerizes with rhythm
Technology continues to push the limits of musical
composition. Thanks to Matador Records, America '
soon will be introduced to some of the most unimag-
inably beautiful sounds ever captured on a compact
disc, as the New York-based record label known for
bringing Liz Phair and Pavement to the masses intro-
Daily Arts Writer
riffs that resonate
than they should,
of the majority of
the record's tunes.
The slow, balla-
dy nature of
pretty acoustic ballad, made even better
thanks to the addition of a violin at the
Lead singer Ed Roland's vocals only
hurt the album. Although Roland has a
beautiful voice, its subtle softness on top
of slow melodies and instruments makes
it hard for the listener to stay awake.
"Dosage's" lyrics seem like they
should contain life-altering wisdom
thanks to big words and poetic style, but
they are actually too ambiguous and
confusing to mean anything at all.
Listener's will inevitably recognize
the single "Run," or at least its short gui-
tar solo from the numerous commercials
for the blockbuster film "Varsity Blues"
Unfortunately, the song is almost as
obnoxious as the film's advertisements.
A high point of "Dosage" is that track
six, "Dandy Life," almost breaks the
record's established monotony. The tune
is fun and poppy, but still bogged down
with unwelcome electric guitars. It was
written and sung by guitarist Ross
Childress, and is the only song not writ-
ten and sung by Roland.
The band should have recruited a few
more singers and songwriters to give its
album a little more spunk.
Next time you shop for a new CD, it
would be wise to spend your money on a
"Dosage" of something other than
Collective Soul's latest album.
CD1 and CD2
Daily Arts Writer
music of Pole (Stefan Betke)
demands challenging poetic
articulation. Without any
vocals, percussion or recogniz-
able instruments, the only ele-
ments of the music capable of
being described are the resulting
emotional responses. In the con-
structed reality of Pole's music,
hypnotic states of lush serenity
merge with atmospheric moods
of tranquil repose.
Repeated listens slowly
uncover the secret formula to Pole's majestic audio-
poetry. Betke samples the subtle crackles, pops and
scratches of a phonograph needle exploring the dusty
grooves of an old vinyl record and carefully organizes
them into a rhythmic structure. Hidden deep beneath
these very minimal sounds lies a sea of warm, flowing
basslines. Strange melodies constructed from the
echoed and muted fragments of electronically pro-
duced sounds float on top of the deep bass.
The nine songs on "CD1" utilize these aesthetic
concepts quite successfully. Barely audible, oceanic
bass functions as the foundation for each of the tracks
on this album. Onto this framework, Betke then begins
constructing simple rhythms with the looped crackles
while simultaneously inserting the small melodies.
The songs are structured very securely, resulting in
nine distinctly unique reorganizations of similar
sounds. "CD1" functions as a calm soundtrack for
sleeping, reading, thinking or meditating.
While "CD2" retains the same elements, its six
songs deviate in form. Instead of organizing the vari-
ous sounds into rhythm and melody, the songs on
"CD2" promise serenity, but instead drift towards
chaos. The quiet modulating sea of bass reappears on
"CD1" rising to a much more salient position in the
mix. Betke then mutes and filters other sounds to the
furthest degree, allowing them to shower onto the
unsteady basslines randomly like snowflakes falling
from the sky. Still mesmerizing, these songs weave
webs of haunting paranoia and dissonant instability.
The sounds seem less ordered than simply echoed
from one speaker to the next and then back again,
sounding like "CDI" being played within a cavern.
Keep in mind the subjective nature of Pole's music:
This is its appeal. Connotations are few. The album
covers reveal no image, only sublime dark blue.
Without a German dictionary, even the song titles
("Tanzen," "Lachen") provide no hint of subject mat-
ter. Similar in nature to abstract expressionistic paint-
ings, Pole may be a bit too "out there" for most. The
music appeals to those searching for music with
depth. Repeated listens reveal deep undiscovered lay-
ers of sound, yet the hypnotic nature of Pole makes
attentive listening a near impossibility. Through tech-
nological means, Stefan Betke attempts to create a
style of .music capable of transcending any possible
Defari focuses on gangster rap and hip-hop with 'Daily'
"Dosage" is simply not conducive to the
nstrumentation the band brings to the
jigs. The album could have been sig-
nificantly more successful if Collective
Soul would have replaced the electric
guitars and keyboards with acoustic gui-
tars and a piano.
The band at least made the change
from electric to acoustic guitar on a few
tunes, which are noticeable better than
the rest of the record. "Needs," one of
"Dosage's" strongest tracks, is a very
There are many who would make
it a point to differentiate all differ-
ent kinds of hip-hop music, pointing
out to the need to recognize the
variety of styles
the genre has to
** * offer.
Defari categorize it all
as either "gang-
Focused Daily ster rap" or
Tommy Boy Records "hip-hop," cit-
Reviewed by ing the problems
Daily Arts Writer with over-cate-
Quan Williams gorization, and
with the need
for a more unified hip-hop front.
Every so often, an album comes
along that gives credence to both
arguments. Defari, hailing from the
Likwit, crew does that in his debut
What makes this album unique is
the fact that while Defari (who is
also a high-school history teacher)
hails from the west coast, his music
does not in any way resemble the
laid-back, radio-friendly tempo,
synths and P-funk cadences that has
become a west coast trademark.
Songs like the DJ tribute "Juggle
Me" are actually more reminiscent
of the hardcore underground hip-
hop that's popular on the East coast.
This is in no way a bad thing,as it
forces west-coast riders to broaden
their horizons to hip-hop sounds
other than their own, while forcing
east coast heads to recognize the
lyrical skills of areas west of
The album is solid all around.
After hearing gems like the ominous
"Keep it on the Rise" it is obvious
that Defari has serious mic skills,
and songs like the desolate "Killing
Spree" showcase E-Swifts's superi-
or production. Aside from the bor-
ing "Yes Indeed," every song on the
record is high-quality. Defari shines
best alongside his Likwit compatri-
ots, exemplified on "Likwit
underground hip-hop of the early
90's with songs like the militant
"These Dreams" and the relaxed
"Lowlands Anthem pt I."
While not a negative aspect, he
doesn't really present fresh sounds
that might entice people who aren't
hardcore hip-hoppers to try his
In some circles, Defari worild be
lumped into the "hardcore under-
ground" category, and others would
note his Likwit affiliation, dismiss-
ing him as just another west coast
Still others would label his music
as "hip-hop," as opposed to "gang-
ster rap." All of these people are
looking at rap music in general -
and Defari in particular - as fitting
into neat little categories, and easy
to ignore if that category isn't what
they normally listen to.
Don't let that stop you from
checking out a solid debut from a
Breaking Records Star System
* - Excellent
* _ Good
No stars - Don't Bother
- If you missed a week
of Breaking Records,
check out the Daily's
archives online at
Connection," which includes the tal-
ents of the Alkaholiks and "Thunder
& Lightning," in which he enlists
the aid of Xibit.
What keeps this album from
being a classic is the fact that all of
the songs were composed at the
same mid-range tempo. After listen-
ing to the album for a while, the
songs seem to blend together. Also,
Defari's style hearkens back to the
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