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January 29, 2002 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-29

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8 -The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 29, 2002

C

From Here On In, South; Kinetic
Records
By Matthew C. Borushko
Daily Arts Writer
Ambient-rock trio South, on the
verge of releasing their first stateside-
album, drip with pretense. You can
buy From Here On In on Feb. 5, but
good luck tracking down any of
South's previous releases on British
label Jagjaguwar. The band released
three 7-inch singles and a 12-inch EP,
all on vinyl. These limited-edition
vinyls were recorded on a four-track
and left alone, purportedly to preserve
the raw edge of the sound. Though
basement recordings have a place in
the heart of anyone associated with
indie rock, South thankfully went into
the studio to make From Here On In.
The release is a partnership between
Kinetic Records and Mo'Wax, two
labels usually known for their elec-
tronic rosters.
South have both American and
British roots. The band was formed in
Richmond, Virginia, but the boys met
in English grammar school. Playing
together since they were wee chaps of
14, South's sound has been cultivated
by the studio practice of trading
instruments. All three members -
Joel Cadbury, Brett Shaw and Jamie
McDonald - are adept at guitar,
bass, drums and keyboard. Cadbury
handles most of the vocals, and the
instruments are wielded with panache

and sophistication. Just take a listen to
"I Know What You're Like," an
acoustic, slide-guitar driven blues
number that would make Eric Clapton
smile.
Toss in a pinch of the Stone Roses,
add a shake of Ian Browne, top off
with a healthy portion of Radiohead,
and you have South's From Here On
In. And what a magnum opus this
album is - a 16-song, 70-minute tour
de force of source-borrowing, guitar-
playing, and computer-fiddling.
"Here On In" is an attempt at a pop
song, featuring female backing-vocals
with a frenzied climax and denoument
reminiscent of the early days of Oasis.
Cadbury's voice even has a taste of
Liam Gallagher's Manchester accent
and rasp - a good thing, by the way.
"Sight Of Me" showcases the harder
edge of Cadbury's range and the abili-
ty of South to fuse efforts at rock and

roll with efforts at ambient electroni-
ca. And "By The Time You Catch Your
Heart" is an excellent acoustic ballad
with a melancholy arrangement of
bass and cello. Four tracks later is a.
reprise, one of South's strategies for
linking the album together.
It would be remiss to analyze From
Here On In song by song; indeed, the
most thrilling aspect of this album is
its quality as a whole. South have
made an album in the most visionary
sense of the term: Tracks flow into
and out of each other, and the disc is
strung together by segues and excur-
sions that link the songs musically
and thematically. Tracks, on the aver-
age, run past the four-minute mark,
but not once do South aimlessly wan-
der or noodle around on the guitar or
computer. The aforementioned "Sight
Of Me," for instance, veers danger-
ously close to eight minutes long, but
South knows what they're doing -
layers are added and stripped and
there's no impetus to the skip button.
Some tracks do stand out, though.
"Southern Climbs" is soulful and
beautiful. The three-part instrumental
"Broken Head" is fantastic, as is the
reprise to "All In For Nothing," which
comes before the eponymous song.
Cerebral touches like that hardly
hinder From Here On In. If anything,
the bit of artistic pretense South seem
to be after only mars a fine effort at
genre-bending music.
Grade: B

I

Stillmatic, Nas; Ill Will

By David Mosse
For The Daily
Nasir Jones, a.k.a. Nas, may never produce anoth-
er album quite like Illmatic. Yet his latest release,
Stillmatic, should be enough to restore his place as
the King of New York. While the mainstream public
continues to fall head over heals for Jay-Z and his
commercial brand of hip hop, Nas' latest album is
vastly superior to the overrated Blueprint and puts
to rest any debate regarding who is the better rap-
per.
The album begins with "Ether," a scathing attack
on Jay-Z and his Rocafella crew where Nas calls
into question, among other things, Jigga's pension
for quoting his old pal the Notorious B.I.G. The
next song, "Got Ur Self A ... " is the first single off
the album and includes an ode to fallen rappers
Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. "Ether" is not the
only dis record on the album. On "Destroy &
Rebuild" Nas takes on three former proteges -
Cormega, Nature and Prodigy - whom he feels
have betrayed their Queensbridge roots.
While rappers butting heads can provide good
entertainment, as long as the differences are kept on
wax, Stillmatic really heats up when Nas puts aside
the beef and gets back to doing what he does best,
prophesizing. Blazing tracks like "You're Da Man"
and "One Mic" are undeniable classics and should
help Nas restore some of the street cred he lost after
the disastrous Nastradamus.
Songs like the feel-good "2nd Childhood" and the
fiery "What Goes Around" display the Queens-
bridge native's unparalleled lyrical skills and clever
wordplay. The closest thing to a commercial song is
"Rule," on which Nas samples the beat and chorus
from "Everybody Wants to Rule The World" and
calls for peace in the wake of Sept. 11. But no track
even resembles the ill conceived "Hate Me Now" or
"You Owe Me," which raised the ire of hardcore

Come With Us, The Chemical
Brothers; Astralwerks

.}:sty w 4F : . 1.. 1F
Dig Your Own Hole are here as well
on "Come With Us, a track with a
dramatic build up and "Denmark,"
which blends a psuedo-disco sound
with dark atmosphere.
The Chemical Brothers show us
what they've learned from previous
albums like Surrender with their
lean towards dreamier psychedelic
surfaces. The subdued "The State
We're In" features a collaboration
with fellow Astralwerks label-mate
Beth Orton, and "4foops" is a
chilled journey through psychedelic
house. Along with Orton, Richard
Ashcroft- also makes an appearance
on "The Test." Unfortunately, only*
on these vocal tracks does the album
fall short. They seem like an anticli-
mactic ending to what is otherwise a
solid buildup. But Come With Us
still flows as a whole album -
working the emotional highs and
come-down lows expected more
from Trance DJ's like Sasha and
Digweed or Paul Van Dyk. However,
The Chemical Brothers are a unique
animal - they resist the anonymity
that so often plagues electronic
music with their fresh take on sam-6
pling, psychedelica, and their funk-
influenced house. We should bask in
the glow of this Chemical Brother's
Renaissance, but also take it with a
grain of salt.
Grade: B+

By Jeremy Kressmann
Daily Arts Writer

fans.
Never one to rely on guest appearances, Nas nev-
ertheless showcases some friends including the
grossly underrated AZ who swaps verses with him
on "The Flyest,".and the Bravehearts who make
their presence felt on the street banger "Every
Ghetto." Yet none of them come close to doing to
Nas what Eminem did to Jay-Z on the song "Rene-
gade"- completely outshine the album"s star.
The reality is that Nas will forever be haunted by
the masterpiece that was Illmatic. The standard he
set for himself will be nearly impossible to match.
Stillmatic is certainly not on that level and probably
falls short of his sophomore album, It was Written.
But it does represent a strong bounce back from the
disappointing Nastradamus and a welcome return to
his roots. If this album does anything it proves Nas
has not been completely lost to the world of com-
mercialism, unlike another New York MC.
Grade: B

Let's take a survey: Is electronic
music blessed by its increasing num-
ber of sub genres? Or do they curse
it? Well, the answer depends - does
the new genre aid in categorizing an
artist who is unique? Or is that new
genre name (something along the
lines of Euro-Disco-Trip-Tech-
Ambient-Progressive-House-Trance),
merely a fad naming-scheme to help
make a particular artist more inter-
esting? The Chemical Brothers,
composed of partners Tom Row-
lands and Ed Simons, have always
managed to occupy a unique musical
niche, thus avoiding the trendy nam-
ing phenomenon. While we could
say The Chemical Brothers are "psy-
chedelic funk house," the genre is
one that seems catered to them
specifically, not a manufactured
record label attempt at "cool." The
Brothers' breakthrough release, Dig
Your Own Hole was both a commer-
cial and critical success, yet, their
follow-up Surrender, while
acclaimed, did not appeal to the
same pop-culture, big beat success
that had characterized Hole.
Come With Us combines the best

of the two previous albums into a
successful mix. The big beat that
brought The Chemical Brothers
fame is still rocking the show, but
some of the restrained aspects of
Surrender are there to balance
things out. If DJ's who use samples
are like northern European artists,
then Rowlands and Simons are most
certainly Dutch Masters - sitting at
the top of their craft like a pair of,
DJ Rembrandts, applying strange
sounds and voices like strokes of oil
paint to canvas. "It Began in Afrika"
hums with droning house beats,
screeching wildcats and tribal
drums. You almost feel like you
should break out the pith helmet and
start searching for Dr. Livingston.
The characteristic ferocity and high-
energy levels well known to fans of

I

New Ground, Robert Bradley's
Blackwater Surprise; Vanguard
Records
By Sheila McClear
Daily Arts Writer
Robert Bradley and his band of
musical rogues have a mixed bag of
surprises on their forthcoming
album, New Ground. Bradley seems
to want his music to be construed as
a backwoods cauldron of rock n' roll,
gospel, and country. This self-con-
scious record produces an indecisive
blend of pop pretending to be rock,
blues and soul. Imagine Lionel
Richie trying to do a roots-rock
Americana album.
Lyrically, Bradley has a deep
respect for storytelling and oral tradi-
tion. On "Lindy," Bradley reminisces
about listening to the old hits of the
day with a girl - "she turned it up /
on Jerry and Bob / you know it's a
shame y'all / but a lot of souls have
gone back to God." Sadly, the song's

funky vaudevillian piano beat is
buried under a perplexing array of
electronic noises, dog barks, and
handclaps.
Thereis a Mr. Hyde side to
Bradley's lyrical abilities as well, evi-
dent in songs like "Nightlife," which
apparently only consists of one line
-"Don't let the nightlife/ don't let it
get you down, girl." Indeed.
"Born in America" gives us the last
thing this country needs right now -
another song referencing the "home
of the red, white and blue." Leave it
to the experts, guys - Springsteen
and Credence Clearwater Revival
pretty much raised the bar on that
one, and nobody (no, not even Kid
Rock) should be messin' with the
patriotic-rock-song record.
"Profile" is New Ground's undis-
puted ball-buster - a hard rockin',
hard livin' anthem that would make
AC/DC envious. Folks, this is serious
arena-rock material, and is, in fact,
worth the entire $16 you're going to
have to shell out for the record.

If you're an ad exec looking for a
CD to listen to on your way to work
that makes you feel slightly
"rockin'," (but not too rockin'!) then
look no further. The rest of you,
please file New Ground under "rock
n' roll shouldn't be this difficult."
And in the meantime - don't let the
nightlife get you down.

Grade: B-

California Crossing, Fu Manchu; Mammoth
By Rob Brode
Daily Arts Writer
Those no good long hairs are up to it again with their
greasy brand of dirty stoner guitar rock. Actually, not all of Fu
Manchu's members sport long hair, and not even one of them
sports a Fu Manchu but they all know how to make you tap
your foot, raise one clenched fist in the air and bang your head
a la Beavis and Butthead. The Fus owe as much to Black Sab-
bath as they do to the vehicles they drive, or wish they could
drive.
In Sabbath style, the axes blaze but in a noticeably different
way than previous Fu discs. Extraneous fuzz has been shaved
off to cram more crunch into each track; but make no mistake,
guitars still roar and push forward at full throttle with the
incalculable horsepower of the vehicles they sing about.
The CD explodes with a refreshing blast of good ole' hon-
est to goodness guitar driven rock: mid tempo, chunky and
percussive in "Separate Kingdom." The vocals (half spoken,
half sung) give the feel of a very well rehearsed garage band
with a wholly irreverent swagger. The band pounds its chest in

macho juvenility
on "Mongoose" a
song about riding
BMX bikes.
"The story lies
behind / the mon- k
goose flies oh my
/ Out on the
streets they ride /
the mongoose.
flies on by."
Rapid fire
machine gun
rounds shoot out
of Brant Bjork's snare drum, mowing down listeners on the
album's title track "California Crossing".
California Crossing is a soundtrack for everything that
comprises a lazy Southern California day. From convertibles
to bikini clad women, it's the party atmosphere that makes a
California summer day seem like a dream to Michigan resi-
dents immersed in bleary winter.
Grade: B-

0

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