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September 19, 2000 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-09-19

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S The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

C
.IE H H AC NT sA 1T#S i l
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Hyacinths and Thistles, The
6ths; Merge Records
By !Christian Hoard
Daily Arts Writcr
With Hyacinths and Thistles,
prolific songwriter Stephin Merritt
revives the 6ths, who are less a
side project than another outlet for
his insatiable creativity. As he did
last year on the Magnetic Fields'
69 Love Songs, Merritt has
recruited a rag-tag crew of friends
and washed-up New Wavers to
lend their voices to Hyacinths' 14
tracks, which range in style from
folksy ballads to synth-pop and
stripped-down show tunes.
Granted, any set of songs by so
busy a songwriter as Merritt is
bound to be something of a mixed
bag. But Merritt is a man for
whom the song and little else is the
thing, and these tunes effuse a cer-
tain spartan charm which keeps
the. record (and Merritt himself)
from wearing out its welcome too
quickly.
You might think of Merritt as the
Carole King of the Indie Rock
Universe, a craftsman who culti-
vat-es his gift for melody and the
sardonic turn of a phrase not for
the&benefit of pop megastars but
for the edification of cognoscenti.
Wl'th another [P on the way
from the Future Bible Heroes
(another Merritt project) some
might call it overkill: but for any-
one with a yen for something that's
both cutting-edge and eminently
listenable, Merritt is the man of
the hour.
Grade: B

The Green World, Dar Williams;
BMG
By Joshua Gross
Daily Arts Writer
Dar Williams sings with a voice that
would have been your mother's had she
not gotten pregnant with you and
retained some hippie sensibility, pursu-
ing a music career that she had playful-
ly daydreamed about while absent-
mindedly washing dishes and preparing
meals, dragging the stool across the
stage and affectionately cozying up to
the microphone, singing those songs
that she hummed inwardly while preg-
nant with you, had you actually been
born. That's her voice.
Her new album, The Green World, is
similar in fashion to Harry Chapin's
Short Stories: each song is very distinct,
with its own characters, plot and tone.
Many seem to be answers in song to the
people who have come to her over the
past few years seeking help and advice.
It has been three years since her last
release, and in that time she has trans-
formed into a more confident per-
former, celebrating her voice and econ-
omizing on her natural songwriting
ability, crafting wittier, more personal
songs. Too loud to be folk anymore, too
happy and acoustic-guitar driven to be
rock, Dar is carving herself a new and

I

:; :# 1 i+i 1? 41

I

stimulating musical style.
Songs range from organ-laden
anthems exulting youthfulness
("Playing to the Firmament") to medi-
tations on the career of Yoko Ono ("I
Won't Be Your Yoko Ono") to civil dis-
obedience and the Vietnam War ("I Had
No Right").
Some songs, such as "We Learned
the Sea" are just plain pretty, even a lit-
tle boring. It is very challenging to
remain consistently entertaining while
softly singing about moments from a
quiet, reflective life, and the album does
drag at points. However, Dar knows
what road she is embarking on, is obvi-
ously enjoying the new direction of her
music, and above all still has a grip on
her muse, a grip that is continuously
tightening.
Grade: B-

Playmate ofithe Year, Zebrahead;
Sony/Columbia
By Justin Mann
For the Daily
Zebrahead's mesmerizing, body-
jumping, beat-pumping, lyric-spitting
1998 debut album Waste of Mind has
since been backed up, not only by
Playboy Entertainment, but also by a
much calmer, yet still electrifying, per-
formance on their second album,
Plaiynate ofthe Year.
Since their rap-rock-metal debut
album, this Orange County, Calif. quintet
has hit the ground running by striking a
deal with Playboy Entertainment. The
arrangement will allow Zebrahead to use
Playboy Playmates in a PG-rated MTV
video fortheir title song "Playmate of the
Year," as well as an NC-17 version of the
video to be aired on Playboy TV In addi-
tion to the two videos, Playboy will be
The Sound of Urchin EP, The
Sound of Urchin; RCA
By Sheila Chapman McClear
For the Daily
The Sound of Urchin has an
interesting heavy, funky, cartoon -
rock sound, the best of which is
reminiscent of Mudhoney and the
worst of which is reminiscent of
open-mike night down at the local
all-ages club. Luckily for them,
Urchin gets automatic indie-rock
points since the EP is produced by
the ever-popular Dean Ween.
The five-song EP is heavy and
guitar-driven, interspersed with
surprising melodies and substantial1
bits of rap and funk. The first track,
"Mr. Hanalei," is a crazy, dissonantI
song with crunching guitars. Even
better, it's about exploring a haunt-I
ed cave ("my grandfather said don't
go thereso I never go").
Things start to go downhill with
"Cherry Mountain," which has the
unfortunate resemblance to the hit1
Third Eye Blind had on MTV a few
years back. Complete with mean-s
ingless, generic riffs, it sounds like
the band got stoned and thought
that chanting "herdin' the sheep"
would sound totally awesome. .
The only ihing that (almost)
saves it are the magical effects that
come in right before the astute cho-r
rus of "'keep it going on 'cause it's
going on." The following song,
"Quiz Show Spy," doesn't get much

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inserting a cd-single/cd-rom of the possi-
ble hit song into an upcoming issue of
Playboy Magazine.
Although they have toned down the
speed and thundering sounds since the
first album, this original band continues
to make you "get down shake your booty
baby," as the lyrics of a track from the
debut album say.
Grade: B

i

Bait, Ruff Nation; Warner
Brothers
By Sheila Chapman McClear
For the Dally
The "Bait" soundtrack (what appears
to be another hi-tech action flick starring
Jamie Foxx) is a collection of mostly
empty, formulaic songs that are heavy
on gloss and light on originality. This
record is kind of like Diet caffeine-free
Pepsi - it resembles the real thing, but
lacks all the so-called substance and bite
of the original.
Mya sings unconvincingly on the
fluffy "Free," a song so meticulously
crafted that it is self-conscious, and
Donnel Jones follows with "Take It
There," one big cliche of a slow jam.
Majusty wins the dubious title of
contributing the soundtrack's most
nauseating piece with his maudlin,
piano-backed "Where Is the Love?"
"Quick Rush," (by Total featuring
Missy Elliot) is almost comical, as the
listener is informed that the song's sub-
ject "stimulate(s) me in places where
no one has ever been" and then goes on

Maroon, Barenaked Ladies;
Reprise Records
Gautam Baksi
Dily Arts \\ter
"Pinch me!" Its hard to believe, but
the once college-rock band Barenaked
Ladies from Toronto has turned its pop-
friendly music onto the masses. With
their latest release, Maroon, the Ladies
are certain to widen their growing fan
base with the light-hearted, acoustic-r(@
sing-along sounds we've grown to love.
Only this time around, they're taking a
step towards maturity and their resulting
efforts to enter puberty are admirable.
The CD opens with the toe-tapping
number, "Too Little Too Late." Though
not quite as radio-ready as earlier hits, it's
an enjoyable track that admirably sets the
tone for the remaining eleven songs.
Subsequent crafty lyrics effortlessly
blend goofy, pre-school references with
wiser words of an elder's wisddm: "Ci
a big chip, you want a fat lip? How 'bout
a mouthful of Chiclets?"
The premiere single "Pinch Me"
brings 'out the best and worst of the
album. On the one hand, the slick-auitar
work and catchy chorus is instantly lik-
able. However, allusions to underwear,
gym shorts and yawning are too adoles-
cent for discriminating listeners. Songs
vary from the slow "Conventionee A
and tragic "Tonight is the Night I
Asleep at the Wheel" to the self-degrad-
ing "Falling Asleep -for the Fiirst Time"
ala Violent Femmes.
Remarkably, all tracks on the album
contain buried allusions to serious
themes like loneliness, death, betrayal
and true love. If the Barenaked Ladies
had purged their songs of unnecessary,
silly references and focused more time
on underlying, intelligent themes and
gifted musical abilities, this album woo*
be far improved.

to ask "when are you getting out of
jail'?" Nelly's "Icey" (featuring the
Saint Lunatics), while musically weak,
has lyrics that might appeal to college
students everywhere, declaring "what
happens in Cancun, stays in Cancun."
On the other hand, the amazingly
powerful and honest "Why Me?," by
Cuban Link and Fat Joe, is the record's
sole bright spot. faunting loops cre-
ate a dark musical landscape, while the
lyrics reflect genuine anguish and
urgency.

better.
"Fearless Vampire Killers" is the
EP's high point --- it's nothing but
blissful vocal melodies that would
make the Bangles and Cheap 'rick
proud.
A cleverly constructed piece of
power-pop ear candy, this is a
quirky classic with great lyrics.
"Space Station on the 4, 5 &6"
there's some seriously wacky
70s-inspired stuff going on in this
fantastical piece that laments the
"permanent vacation" of Aerosmith
and fantasizes about meeting
Steven Tyler and Joe Perry while
working in an office.
Overall, the Sound of Urchin is
like riding on a spaceship -at
times it's a bumpy and uncomfort-
able ride, but you're ultimately
rewarded with glimpses of the
stars.
Grade: C+

Grade: C-

EL Disco FIESTA DEL ANO

Arepa 3000: A Venezuelani Journey into Space, Los
Amigos Invisibles; Luaka Bop
By Chris Kula
Daily Ats Editor
Every year, an album comes along that is the inevitable
soundtrack to party after party and gathering after gather-
ing.Like last year, the only thing being kicked out at more
house parties than Beck's "Midnite Vultures" was the guy
who breaks into the liquor cabinet.
l'm willing to say that the newest release from Latin
groove-mongers Los Amigos Invisibles just might have
"party album of the year" potential. True to its title, the 19-
song disc really is a "Venezuelan journey into space," fea-
turing a mix of electronic-inspired dance tracks and dis-
tinctly exotic Latin flourishes.
Just getting signed to David Byrne's Luaka Bop label is a
testimony to Los Amigos' musical dexterity. The former
Talking Heads frontman turned world music master has a
stabel of artists that span the various realms of Latin music,
so the little Luaka Bop sticker is literally a stamp of south-

of-the-border quality.
Want to get in on to Los Amigos' formula to an irre-
sistible groove? Start with a solid foundation of percussion
(some sequenced, some organic), add both live bass and
programmed, booty-bass, toss in an array of funky keyboard
patches and some rousing Spanish chants ("Cuchi cuchi!")
and you'll feel like you're clubhopping in Havana.
And here's the clincher: Los Amigos are like musical
chameleons when it comes to constructing Latin-tinged
dance-floor throw-downs. On one track, they're exploiting
the slick sounds of the Hammond organ like Booker T and
the MGs, and then a few tracks later they're tearing the roof
off the mother like George Clinton and Parliament
Funkadetic.
Futuristic electronic music and traditional Latin styles
have seemingly little in common -until you consider their
goal of making the people shake their respective thangs.
Like a saucy Latina woman once said in the mid-'80s, the
rhythm is gonna get you. Get on your feet, get up and make
it happen. C'mon, baby, do that conga beat - beat.
Grade: A-

Readysexgo, Marvelous 3
Elektra
By Christian Hoard
Daily Arts Writer
These days, radio-friendly rock usuat
ly comes in one of two forms: Wack
Blink I 82-esque schtick-rock or the sort
of melodramatic stuff which the Goo
Goo Dolls and Matchbox 20 specialize
in. On Readysexgo, the Atlanta-based
Marvelous 3 reveal that they're firmly
oriented toward the former, dishing out
13 songs full of stupid, jokey rhymes
and giant "oy!" choruses unabashedly
copped from Def Leppard and Motley
Crie albums. Nikki Sixx - who, no
surprisingly, guests on the album -
-would be proud.
It's nice that these dudes have a sense
of humor (what other band would put a
photo of themselves holding their own
album and flashing the sign of the beast
within its liner notes?), and some of this
("Little Head," "Better Off Alone") is
catchy enough to remind you of
Pinkerton-era Weezer. But no matter
how many car stereos this is pumped out
of or how much airplay it gets, you ca@
change the fact that this album sounds
like it was made by a bunch of sexually-
frustrated linebackers sucking nitrous.
Grade: D+

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