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March 27, 2001 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-03-27

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I - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 27, 2001

American Hi F,Amerlcan HI Fl; Island Def
1BjLuke Smith
y Music Editor
Former Veruca Salt and Letters to Cleo member
Staey Jones' band American Hi Fi has more in
common with the Foo Fighters than a drummer
gone AWOL. Like the ex-Nirvana stick swinger,
.ones' ear for melody is as becoming as his ado-
ration of pop. American Hi Fi's pop-soaked songs
ooze with over-processed vocals, all covering
fuzz-filled guitars and momentarily clever shred-
Claiming in no way to be original, American Hi
Pi isn't a groundbreaking record. It harkens back
post-grunge pop steamrolled with metal solos.
organ-style vocals coos open "Safer On The
Outside" a song driven by the pulsing chorus and
i~I 72

drummer days, and now he is "unleashing."
Jones' lyrics are decidedly personal, and at the
same time grounded in clich6 "I'm a Fool's" hook
drives this home. "Cos I've been waiting for a girl
like you/and I know there's nothing I can do."
Assaulting modern rock radio and MTV for air-
play at the same time "Flavor of the Weak" ironi-
cally plays on the double entendre of "weak."
Garnering immediate appeal with the video-game
generation Jones' quips and couples "Too stoned,
American Hi Fi's debut is surprisingly
respectable, baked in pop chord changes and sur-
prisingly witty tunes. Its lack of originality is
crowned by the fact that AHF doesn't care that
they are pulling pop back towards grunge.
After all, the last thing the drummer said before
he got kicked out of the band was "Hey guys,
check out the song I just wrote."
Grade: B-

100 Broken Windows, Idlewild;
Capitol Records
By Luke Smith
Daily Music Editor
Shamelessly ripping off American
indie-rock is one thing. Doing it bet-
ter than Americans is another; and
Idlewild does both equally well.
Idlewild's 100 Broken Windows shat-
tered overseas almost a year ago and
was sluggishly tapped for a state-
side release nearly a year later.
Indeed Idlewild is a band with no
regrets about nicking indie-rock
dynamics, empty verses and cranked
out choruses mainlined with bright
"It's a better way to feel/Don't be
real be post modern," opens "These

an empty guitarless verse. Stacy Jones' body of
work during Veruca Salt probably dropped all of
these songs onto eight track tapes during his

Wooden Ideas," which showcases
some of Idlewild's loud/soft dynam-
ics, and pirate-like craft with hooks.
Lyrically the song barbs at its own
"Ideas" claiming "you don't know
how to spell contradiction."
Spelling wasn't a priority in the
Scottish lads' upbringing.
In a musical time that has gone
completely to the post-grunge nu
metal rap/rock dogs, Idlewild is
truly old school. Old school in a
primeval pre-pubescent Nirvah-ic
dominated airwaves sort of way.:Old
school in a Pearl Jam is now a clas-
sic-rock band kind of way. Old
school in a good way.
Import bands are gaining slow
notoriety with Coldplay and Travis'
quasi-Beatles-y pop charting state-
side. Neither of these Euro-ports
table the musical abiltities of the
wild ones. Dynamically Idlewild is a
burst of sonic flamethrowing, paying
homage to the Pixies' ethereal
Idlewild's ability to shed uber-
generic Stock Rock status and gen-
-erate a sound completely derivative
of grunge isn't unique at all. It's the
fact that they play it better than
actual grunge-era bands that is as
indelible as the anthems they
Grade: B+

Girls Can Tell,S
yChristian Hoard
Naly Arts Writer


,. .


Like Alex Chilton, master song-
writer and frontman for the power-
,pop group Big Star, Britt Daniels
of Spoon is a sensitive guy with a
gift for melody. And like Big Star,
s STpon have suffered more than
.'thefr share of music biz misfortune:
neeremoniously dropped from
Elektra Records just after their sec-
ond album was released, they've
bounced from Matador to Merge to
tthd tiny Saddle Creek label, Thus
relegated to obscurity, Spoon's
brand of pop/rock -, sparse, hook-
laden, resonant - has been crimi-
hally underappreciated, just as Big
tar's elegantly Beatlesque output
slipped past '70s record-buyers like
a stranger in a crowd.
But unlike such power-pop
:evivalists as Matthew Sweet and
Teenage Fanclub, Spoon don't cop
Big Star's sound so much as their
M.O. - poppy yet emotionally
deep, catchy but never gimmicky.
I What's more, Daniels is a '90s guy,
less earnest and less mopey than
' Chilton ever was. Which isn't to
say he's much for mainstream rock-
rs like Stephan Jenkins or indie
orchbearers like Stephen Malkmus
= his hooks are neither glossed-
over nor fuzzed-out, and he'd rather
,write songs for twenty-somethings
who're smart enough to avoid1
M4dcrn Rock radio but aren't nec-
esarily smart*asses.*
Amid this happy marriage of'
ne and affect, Daniels and his
~ates pack Girls Can Tell's I1
wcks full of angst-y vocals, Elvis
tello-like punchiness, early
ice-style grooves. They keep
dse grooves extra sparse for
elieving Is Art," a hard-drivin',
minor-key tour-de-force, then shift
ears for "10:20 AM," a wickedly
m rhelodic baroque pop number wor-
thy of Chilton at his most tuneful.
gut while those tunes stick out
right away, the real treat comes
"when you listen to this record the
h or fifth time: As "Everything
at Once" and "This Book Is a
Movie" bear witness, melodies that
d sounded nondescript suddenly
me alive, lyrics that seemed non-
quiturs suddenly make sense.
-And though it's too bad that
Fitted Shirt" -- which unselfcon-
«.ciously pilfers the groove of Led
ep's "Kashmir" - doesn't use a
better medium than nostalgia for
.the well-fitting apparel of yore to
xpress the sorrow inherent in los-
ng one's innocence, growing up,
etc., it's clear that Girls Can Tell is
rot only Spoon's best record, it's
also one of the finest rock albums
-that'll be released this year. Alex
hilton should be proud, and Elek-
ra execs should be kipking them-

Scorpion, Eve; Interscope Records
By Christian Hoad
Daily Arts Writer
Defiant, tenacious and fly to boot,
Eve is a Philly-based rapper who
burst onto the scene two years ago as
the swaggering fem voice in the Ruff
Ryders clan, playing the straight-up
tough-girl to DMX's spazzed-out
pimp. Judging by her second record,
her mettle has only grown tougher,
and she busts through Scorpion's 16
tracks with all the confidence of a
young star who's got everything she
needs to make a great record. And
that's true, in a sense - Dr. Dre
drops beats, heavy-hitters like DMX
and Da Brat turn in cameos, Ruff
Ryders contribute hooks, and a whole
slew of friends come along for the
ride, giving props to the mistress of
ceremonies where needed.
What she's missing is the ability to
keep all of the stalwart energy from
congealing into a mass of cliches.
There's nothing wrong with thuggery
and sass in theory, and Eve does well
to prove that she's sexy, that she
doesn't take shit from anyone and
that everyone she knows thinks she's
tops. But after the 12th time she diss-
es her ex or tells you how fortunate

you are to be listening to her none-
too-dexterous rhymes, it becomes
apparent that a big part of what keeps
Scorpion from recoiling is the
strength of those groove-meisters -
including Teflon and Swizz Beatz as
well as Dre - she hired.
Lucky for Eve, those grooves
indeed go a long way, as bouncy G-
funk rhythms and buoyant synths
bump up against sing-song hooks and
blinged-out conceits. Tough though
she no doubt is, Eve's thug persona is
too overblown for her own good and
her hooks too gimmicky, but on Scor-
pion she keeps up the inyaface inten-
sity for a full hour, and for that she
deserves to be heard.

The Professional: Part 2, DJ Clue;
Roc-a-fella Records

By Dustin Seibert
Daily Arts Writer

Grade: B

Contrary to popular belief, not
everything with a big budget and even
bigger names supporting that budget is
necessarily going to be of good quality.
There are plenty of big-time hyped up
stinkers in the entertainment industry.
In the movie world, Star Wars: Episode
I was a prime example of this (Jar-Jar
Binks? Are you serious?!?). In music,
New York's reigning king DJ Clue
takes the stale fruit-cake award for the
wackest hip-hop album featuring guest
appearances from everyone and their
baby's mother.
The Professional: Part 2 is Clue's
second venture into the commercial
release of his "mixtapes." For years he
has been releasing mix joints that you
could only find in the back of a trunk,
or in the "mom & pop" neighborhood
record stores. In '98, he gained notori-
ety from the original Professional
record, which featured the widely
acclaimed "Ruff Ryder's Anthem"
remix by DMX. It seems that ever
since the release of that record, rap fans
everywhere have become accustomed
to his signature cry, "Clue!" on as-yet-

unreleased tracks. His newest release,
however, presents a number of prob-
First off, he is passing this off as a"
"mixtape," when it is actually a compi-
lation album. Not an ounce of mixing
or scratching can be heard oil this
record. Passing off full-length albums
as mixes seems to be commonplace
with former grimy underground DJ's-
cum-super-popular MTV icons. Next,
Clue somehow successfully botched an
album containing the most prominent
artists in hip-hop. Seriously, if you
name any rapper that has gone plat-
inum in the last three years, chances
are they are on this record. It's the pro-
duction from Clue and his cohort Duro
that leaves so much to be desired. They

successfully ruin the sound that we
often equate with certain artists
("Cream 2001" by Rae and Ghost is
blasphemous at best). Even otherwise
impressive flows from the likes of
Royce Da 5'9" and Nas are tainted by
lackluster beats. Impressive is the
Mary J. Blige remake of the '80s Soul
II Soul hit "Back to Life," and the Jay-
Z "Change the Game" remix featurihg
the reunited Dogg Pound.
What's the worst thing about the DJ
Clue album? DJ Clue himself. He can
single handedly jack any song by con-
stantly screaming his damn signature
over the record. "Clueminatti!!!"
"Desert Storm!" I fail to believe that
no one in his entourage has yet toAtll
him that it is highly bothersome to be
riding the vibe of a song only to hear
his high-pitched voice in the middle of
a hook. Clue, we know who you are,
and we know what label you are on, so
do us a favor and shut the hell up! If
you have some knock in your car, a'nd
you really need a hip-hop album to tide
you over, then maybe this will whet
your appetite. If I could go back in
time, though, I would utilize Napster
and my CD burner so I could put :the
15.95 I spent towards something more
profitable. I suggest you burn it too.'
Grade: C-

Hell Below/StarsAbove,Toadies; Interscope Records
By Erik Johnson
Daily Arts Writer
It starts with a scream, and you
know that Texas' premiere rock
band, the Toadies, are back. 7 yearsf
after their multi-platinum debut,
Rubberneck, Hell Below/Stars Above"
has finally arrived. The second track,
and debut single, "Push the Hand," <
is classic Toadies from Lisa
Umbarger's thumping bass to Todd
Lewis' wailing vocals. Some tracks, ;
like "Little Sin," are distinctly remi-
niscent of Badmotorfinger-era
Soundgarden. It's very nice to finally
hear a band that is satisfied playing
rock 'n' roll without rapping or
wearing make-up, or both (just for the record, Crazytown
If the Toadies ring a very distant bell, but you still can't
place them, think back to 1994 (you remember that long ago,

don't you?), when a little single called "Possum Kingdom"
dominated the radio waves. Still don't remember it? "Be my
angel/Do you wanna die/I promise you, I will treat you
well/My sweet angel/So help me Jesus." There, now you've
got it. The differences between the two
albums are not many; lots of grinding
power chords, great vocals and lyrics,
and excellent musicianship fill both.
The main difference this time around is
that the band seems more willing to
take chances. They use a piano, for
instance. Possum Kingdom was a loud
album from start to finish, whereas
HB/SA holds some mellow moments,
like "Pressed Against the Sky" and
"Dollskin." This is probably due to the
fact that while Rubberneck was
almost completely written by Lewis,
HB/SA is a much more collaborative
effort. The result is a sound that is
both refreshing and familiar.
Buy this record.

Greatest Hits, Billy Idol; Capitol
By Gautam Baski
Daily Arts Writer
It's been over a decade since British
bad-boy Billy Idol has churned out one
of his trademark testosterone infused,
chart-topping singles. Is the world
ready for a second coming? Certainly
not. But for a taste of nostalgia, or for
those truly demented fans that still
worship the original "Generation X"-
er, the Greatest Hits album brings back
many fond memories of the good ol'
days of wanna-be punk and glam rock.
The CD opens with Idol's first big
U.S. hit, "Dancing With Myself" and
follows through with memorable '80s
tracks like "White Wedding" and
"Mony Mony," Overall, this release is
very similar to a 1992 European CD
entitled Idol Songs, sharing I1 of the

same "greatest" songs. Idol craftfully
combines a snare drum driven peat
with a loud and pulsating bass line but
the idea wears thin halfway through the
CD as every song repeats the same
Though Greatest Hits highlights
songs off all three of Idol's releases
(Billy Idol, Rebel Yell and Vital Idol),
there is a lacking element throughout
most of the tracks: talent. Idol may
have scored big on the charts in his
heyday, but with the advent of Alterna-
tive rock, little Billy's music sounds
dated. Add to that a horrible rendition
of Simple Minds' Breakfast Club clas-
sic "Don't You (Forget About Me),"
and there's little reason to fork out
more than a dollar for this CD. Purists
will enjoy the hardly unplugged
acoustic version of "Rebel Yell"
recorded live in L.A. back in '93. :
Grade: D+


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