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April 13, 1999 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-13

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 13, 1999

AMORPHIS MAKES MELANCHOLIC MELODY

Ness plays Solitaire

The closest Webster
Dictionary word to Finnish
group Amorphis' name is
"Amorphous," a word describ-
ing something that is ambiguous
in form. Judging from the
group's new release, "Tuonela,"
the group almost lived up to that
near definition of its namesake.
Throughout several albums
Amorphis has slowly shed its
Death Metal skin and has

Amorphis
Tuonela
Relapse Records
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Adlin Rosli
trademarks
Death Metal

e m e r g e d
through its pre-
vious release
"Elegy," head-
ing in a more
avant garde
'70s prog-rock
musical direc-
tion. The sub-
terranean
growls and the
double pedal
associated with
have been com-

fillers.
* The first track, "The Way,"
captures the listener's full atten-
tion with its amazing play of
loud to soft dynamics. The song
begins softly with a delayed
clean guitar line reminiscent of
U2's The Edge. It slowly
evolves, complimented by flutes
and other instruments, morph-
ing into a raging, mid-paced
monster of a song with the addi-
tion of distorted guitars to the
mix. Singer Pasi Koskinen's
strong and expressive voice
only adds to complement the
number.
Amorphis' record's title track,
"Tuonela," is also a sombre
masterpiece. The main guitar
melody from this number is
both memorable and melan-
cholic. Taking a ballad's pace,
the song lulls beautifully
through a minor key, and is pos-
sibly one of the best numbers
the band has ever written.
In marked contrast, the group
briefly dips into its Death Metal
style of old with the majestic
"Greed," where it attacks listen-
ers full on with heavy yet
melodic riffs complemented by
what else, subterranean growls.
This sudden change in pace is
actually a high point for
"Tuonela," as "Greed" acts as an
effective contrast to other songs
and reminds the listener how the
group has changed since it was
formed. Metallica, anyone?
It's a pity, then, that the rest of
the album is not able to keep up

On the back cover of "Cheating at
Solitaire," the debut solo album from
Social Distortion leader Mike Ness, a
paragraph of notes appears, which
serves as a mission statement for the
album. Ness' mission is to pay a sort
of musical tribute to his early influ-
ences through a few select covers and
a handful of original tunes inspired by
those various artists.
The opening track, however, sets a
standard that, unfortunately holds for
nearly the entire record. "The Devil In
Miss Jones" is virtually a carbon copy
of the country classic "(Ghost) Riders
In The Sky" - the similarity is so
striking that the song functions pri-
marily to draw listeners' attention to
the derivative nature of many of the
album's other tunes.

Mike Ness

"Solitaire"'s
high - profile
guest appear-
ances do little to
break the deriva-

pletely dropped by the group.
With its new offering,
"Tuonela," the band picks up
where "Elegy" left off and
showcases the group's efforts
put into fleshing out its tradi-
tional Finnish musical roots.
What results ,is an effort full of
immense potential, but in the
end, uneven.
While some of the songs on
"Tuonela" gloriously blend loud
guitars, exotic Scandinavian
instruments and catchy tradi-
tional sounding vocal melodies,
other numbers drag on, serving
as nothing more than boring

this level of intrigue and quali-
ty. The listener's attention is
quickly lost on tracks such as
"Divinity," "Nightfall,"
"Shining" and "Rusty Moon,"
where the music is immensely
self absorbed, slow and unmem-
orable. These tracks do show
Amorphis still being consistent
with the style it set on previous
releases, but they appear as only
second rate results compared to
the stand out numbers previous-
ly mentioned.
Following the direction of the
band on previous release

"Elegy," Amorphis, with
"Tuonela," shows that it is well
on its way to developing its own
niche in the music industry. But
as with most attempts at coming
up with something original, it
takes time, practice and several
attempts to get the job done.
"Tuonela's" mediocrity may
outshine its more inspired
songs, but one can be assured
that there's some hope for the
future. Ambiguity might have
struck Amorphis this time, but
the future looks a little more
certain.

Cheating at tive monotony of
Solitaire the music, offer-
Timebomb Recordings ing little in the
Reviewed by way of creative
Daily Arts Writer tension. When
Brian Egan B r u c e
S p r i n g s t e e n
shows up to sing and play guitar on
"Misery Loves Company," the track
ends up sounding like, well, a Bruce
Springsteen song. And "Crime Don't
Pay," on which Brian Setzer guests,
Finest'has

sounds more than a little bit like
"Stray Cat Strut."
Perhaps it is unsurprising then that
some of the album's finest moments
are found in the songs Ness chooses to
cover. The two best of these are a
slightly amped-up, bouncy rendition
of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice"
and an earnest cover of Hank
Williams' "You Win Again."
Returning to its mission statement
after listening to "Cheating At
Solitaire," it is difficult to judge the
success or failure of that mission. By
so closely adhering to the musical
visions of his influences, Ness does
treat them with a significant amount
of respect. But perhaps by not demon-
strating how their music factored in
the creation of his own original, sepa-
rate vision, he fails to pay them the
highest possible tribute.
rm"%11.

IN 1reach s

naughty fast-rapping

PMC jams into local hip-hip

First there was Slum Village, and then came
Eminem, Esham, Royce Da 5'9 and Proof. There

has been a recent
hop, especially in1

PMC

surge of interest in Detroit hip-
1999, as evidenced by indepen-
dent Detroit-based labels,
such as Federation being
thrust into the national spot-
light. Further down on this
rapidly growing list is the Re
Al label's first artist PMC,
starting things off with his
album entitled "Mindscapes."
The CD is planned to be a
sample of what he and the
label he represents has to
offer to the industry and the
hip-hop world.

Mindscapes
Real Entertainment
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Quan Williams

"My Brother's Keeper," is a head-nodder, featur-
ing PMC and guests Money Mogul and
Ypsilanti's own SUN, all flipping over a quirky
flute sample. The production by Oops
Entertainment is easy to listen to, and PMC's
lyrics fit well over them, as evidenced on anoth-
er track, "Power Moves."
The other songs, "Judas" and the low-key
"Mindscapes" are also good'listens.
As good as these five songs are, the problem is
just that - they're the only five songs worth lis-
tening to. The other 5 tracks on the album are
useless interludes and an uninspired freestyles
over a jacked Mos Def and Tarab Kweili beat.
Listeners could have gotten more for their
money if there were four or five more com-
pelling, original songs on the album instead.
Also, Proof is one of the hottest up-and-coming
rappers in hip-hop, and when people who know
of him see his name on a project, they expect
him to drop one of the verses that got him a spot-
light in April's "Unsigned Hype" section of "The

There aren't many songs to talk about on this
project, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up
for in quality. The record starts with a bang,
PMC delivering solidly over a smooth battle
groove on "Recognize." The next song, called

Source" magazine. What they get, though, is
Proof interviewing PMC three times. Bor-ing.
Flaws aside, PMC's debut shows a lot of
promise. When his full-length album comes out,
he may wind up as the next major name to come
out of "The D." Don't take my word for it,
though: Check him out and decide for yourself.

Okay, I admit it: I used to dislike
Naughty By Nature. I thought "OPP"
was corny, and "Hip Hop Hooray" was
cheesy. Treach's rapping style annoyed
me because I couldn't understand what
he was saying, and Vinnie just seemed
like a useless member of the group.
But it's been a while since the three-
some from liltown, N.J. have been
heard from, and there are rumors that
they will be resurfacing on a new label.
In the meantime, their former label,
seeking to milk a few more bucks off
of the group, has released an album
recapping the highlights of Naughty's
first three projects. I, being an open-
minded guy, decided to check it out,
and give the group that almost single-
handedly redefined mainstream hip-
hop, a second chance.
I was quickly
reminded that
**** there was more to
Naughty By this group than
Nature two hit songs.
Treach and com-
Nature's Finest: pany practically
Greatest Hits invented the
Tommy Boy Music catchy call-and-
Reviewed by response chorus
Daily Arts Writer repnecou
Quan Wiliams that is used by so
many rappers
nowadays. You can't help but chant
along when they yell "Dee-troit homies
are the Cray-ziest!!" on "Craziest."
Naughty by Nature was also one of the
first groups to successfully walk the
fine line between mainstream accep-
tance and street credibility. Were it not
for Naughty's following up "OPP"
with the hard-luck "Everything's
Gonna be Alright," would there be a
Jay-Z following up "Sunshine" with
"Hard Knock Life?" Probably not.
To those who can't catch Treach's
style, he says "you think I'm rockin'
too fast, I think you're listening too
slow," on "Craziest," and he comes as a
prelude to all of the superfast rappers

that are popular today. Vinnie more
than holds his own paired alongside his
more popular partner, checking in
notable verses on "It's on"and the ruff
and tumble "Nothing To Lose."
Historical significance aside, these
are some pretty damned good songs.
"Uptown Anthem" was a hip-hop clas-
sic that still gets people hyped when
they hear it. "Feel Me Flow" was a
much-ignored gem from Naughty's*
third album. "Mourn You Till I Join
You," "Poor Man's Poetry" and the
"Craziest" remixes are hard-to-find
treats. Even the megamix - usually a
useless addition to greatest hits collec-
tions - is well-done. The best songs
on the album are the smooth remixes of
"Clap Your Hands" and "Written On Ya
Kitten," the latter produced by one of
hip-hop's best-kept secret's, QDIII.
Once I had gained a newfound
respect for Naughty, I gave those*
"other" two songs, both on this
release, a second listen. I still can't
stand "OPP," but I do like "Hip-Hop
Hooray" a lot more than I used to. The
song is a sincere celebration of the
music and culture that defines the
members and fans of this group, done
in a way that everyone else can feel,
too. That pretty much describes the
style of Naughty by Nature, and in an
era where few are sincere, you can't
hate a group like that.

The Crabs emerge with love, from Portland, for spring

the crabs
sand and sea

the catchiest, most adorable ditties
about crushes and crushed hearts.
On their truly impressive fourth
release, "Sand and Sea," Jonn and
Lisa - no last names, thanks -
welcome aboard new member Sarah
(Cadallaca of the Lookers) and her
Farfisa organ for the band's most
infectious batch of love odes and
forget-me-nots.
From the get-go, the Crabs offer a
nice break from the hustle and bus-
tle of most pretentious modern rock.
The endearingly simple opening
track barely gets to the chorus
before setting sail with its love 'n'
laundry sing-along. On the next
song, the hand claps and "ooohs"
wonderfully complement the
album's newly radiant, hip-shaking
exuberance - bouncy enough for
Annette Funicello beach flicks, but
never corny - perfectly capturing
the exhilaration of a new infatua-
tion.
Give Sarah a pat on the back for

the album's more animated, fuller
sound. On previous releases, Jonn
and Lisa played sparse, guitar-and-
drums songs that worked in their
pleasant simplicity, but Sarah's
ever-festive Farfisa gives "Sand and
Sea" a spunkier, more retro edge.
And while Jonn still has main vocal

Forget Groundhog's Day: the real
indicator of the arrival of spring is
the release of a new album by those
joyously lovesick Portlanders, the
Crabs. With a jingle-jangle reminis-
cent of '60s pop, they'll undoubted-
ly put a pep in your step and the
bright possibility that new life
springs from new love.
Arguably the cream of the indie
pop crop, the Crabs record some of

The Crabs
Sand and Sea
K Records
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Jimmy Draper
broken hearts, the
often snapshots of
disappointments.
Summertime," Lis
doubt, while th

duties, this
album features
more intertwin-
ing melodies,
with beautiful
harmonizing
between Lisa
and Sarah.
"Sand and
Sea" isn't all
fun in the sun,
though. Like
polaroids of
Crabs' songs are
dashed hopes and
In "Snow in
a's voice echoes
e heartbreaking

"Bricks of Gold" could be the trio's
best moment. "It seems we're
always trying to catch our
breath/Until we come back up
again," Lisa and Sarah sing, offer-
ing the clearest glimpse into the
heart of the Crabs: it may be fool-
ishly naive to believe love is worth
the risk of a letdown, yet they see no
choice but to keep trying ("I want it
all/And I will take a fall").
Thankfully, though, the trio does-
n't sing from an emotional rock-bot-
tom: they may be down, but they
aren't down for the count. Beneath
the often melancholy lyrics, they are
full of enough optimism to put the
evil-doers of the world to shame.
This is the buried treasure of the
Crabs - through all the pain of true
love's pursuit, they manage to hon-
estly and affectionately capture the
romantic notion that love conquers
all.
And this, dear friends, is what
spring is all about.

Breaking Records Star System

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

- If you missed a week
of Breaking Records,
check out the Daily's
archives online at
http://www.
michigandaily.com

I ~ - mQ,

LD
Student

S

SA

Se

minar

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(U of M basketball and base I te
1NAA21f- n- Pprl C1cinn

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