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March 05, 2002 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-03-05

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I0*

8-The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

BREAKING

RECORDS

REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

*

BRANDY
FULL MOON
ATLANTIC RECORDS

By Devon Thomas
For the Daily
In this catty-cat world of young, one-named R&B divas,
what does a girl have to do to prove her maturity? Well, if
getting secretly married and being in your first trimester
aren't enough, how about releasing a new album? Titled
Full Moon, a reference to her emerging womanhood and
newfound personal assurance,
Brandy tries to prove just that.
The predictability level on Full Moon is as high as ever.
The album's mantra of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" has
been applied liberally throughout the 17 tracks. It's nothing
we haven't heard before from the Moe-ster. Heavily pro-
ducer-driven, the album follows the template that catapult-
ed her sophomore album Never Say Never to
multi-platinum status. The tradition (or condition) contin-
ues on her junior outing.
Full Moon's first quarter exhibits the same ole Jerkins
production we've heard time and time before, just slightly
altered (or "updated") and equipped with the latest in elec-
tronic blips and bleeps. Did somebody die and name
Brandy and her team the new rulers of the Vocoder-box? I
don't know if I'm listening to the latest Blackstreet cut or
the resurrection of Roger Troutman. The disc's last quarter
treads aimlessly with track after track of five-minute-
syrup-ballads in the style of Diane "By-the-Numbers"
Warren.
The sound of her third album is overwhelmingly Dark-
child, so much so that it's hard to differentiate Brandy from
her producer - they're virtually hip-to-hip on this album,
with Jerkins appearing vocally on almost every track.
Jerkins is obviously vying to be the next Jimmy & Terry to
Brandy's Janet.
Moon's guaranteed mainstream club play, especially
with the preprogrammed radio-ready singles "What About
Us?" and "I Thought." TRL kids will cream over "All In
Me" and "Can We." Lyrically, they're the same topics

we've all heard before - cheating boyfriends, love, lying,
love, arguments and love, love, love.
Mainstream R&B music is pretty typical and this just
shows it. Almost every song on Full Moon sounds reminis-
cent of her previous effort. That's the state of mainstream
pop music in 2002: Don't deviate too far from the sound
that garnered your initial success and you'll be guaranteed
prosperity. After all, music video outlets, A&Rs and urban
radio programmers don't want grand artistic musical state-
ments if it will curb record sales: Just give us the same
tired, interchangeable Timbaland/Jerkins drum-heavy pro-
duction and we'll give you maximum airplay. There are
few standout cuts here and nothing really memorable. Full
Moon breezily cruises by as each of the album's future
videos and singles come and subsequently leave the Bill-
board charts. Yeah, we know it'll be another hit, another
platinum plaque for the Moe-ster, but will this album go
down on any "Best of the Decade". lists? Highly unlikely.
RATING: * * j

IRON MAIDEN
IRON MAIDEN
SONY MUSIC

By Sonya Sutherland
Daily Arts Writer
To most, mention of the '80s metal scene conjures images of
groupies, hairspray and makeup. The era can hardly be taken
seriously when VH-l's approach involves Sebastian Bach (Skid
Row), a notorious player in the bombastic generation of arena
rock, hosting his own show dedicated to metal or with Tommy
Lee and his wife-beating, porno-filming misadventures. It's easy
to dismiss a whole genre based on bad exposure, and with the
decadent decade returning to Hollywood in the form of a fashion
a statement, credibility is waning with each eBay auction of a
Poison shirt.
Amidst the toiletries, tapes and makeup compacts that com-
prise the time when neon colors were all the rage, there actually
exists good music, influential music - Iron Maiden's music.
Just ask about any present-day metal band from Marilyn Manson
to Papa Roach who their influences are and Iron Maiden is at the
top of the list. Even TRL favorite Sum 41 gives a nod to Maiden
in the lyrics of their top single. Luckily for everyone whose 8-
tracks wore out and records are scratched, or for those ready to
experience the true roots of metal, these rock gods arere-issuing
their entire collection of oldies on today's medium of choice:
CD. Spread across a few weeks, all 17 releases, counting studio
and live albums, are being rehashed and redistributed.
Still maintaining an admirable career with a new album slated
for late spring, it's hard to pick a best of Maiden album when
they continue churning out the tunes. Hailing from England and
taking America by storm in the early '80s, Iron Maiden made a
name for themselves with their expansive, guitar-based music.
Their self-titled debut album's first (also self-titled) track of
dueling, howling guitars left the tonal calling card for the Brits'
entire career: Speedy, intense, straightforward metal. Catchy,

JOSH ROUSE
UNDER COLD BLUE STARS
SLOW RIVER RECORDS
By Gina Pensiero
Daily Arts Writer
"It's a gray world," sings Josh Rouse
in the song "Summer Kitchen Ballad"
off his new album Under Cold Blue
Stars.
You can tell he means it so much
that it makes you want to cry.
Rouse is the answer for those who
like Radiohead but dislike their pre-
tentious manner. He's more melodic,
poppier and extremely genuine. He's
sad and sleepy, but not really myste-
rious or dark.
He sings in a light falsetto over a
mesh of loops, guitars, cellos, horns and

complicated riffs and killer guitar solos further their songs'
melodies, dominating the trademark Iron Maiden sound. Com-
bined with clear, comprehensible lyrics actually sung with
dynamic range (as opposed to the current trend of hoarse
screaming) Maiden took the simple concept of a rock song and
expanded upon it infinitely, with critical acclaim accompa-
nying every effort put forth.
Other groups of the era, and even those on the radio
today, simply cannot claim the instrumental precision
these masters explore in each of their releases. While the
older albums contain Maiden in their prime and certainly
their more famous tracks like "Number of The Beast", "2
Minutes To Midnight", and "The Trooper", the releases of
the last decade don't disappoint either.
RATING:****
~ 0 E Rouse's lyrics are beautifully crafted
and sung with great feeling. It sounds
like he means every word he croons
over the highly textured music.
The seamless but complex track
"Ugly Stories" seems to sum up the
whole album. It is melancholy but
almost disturbingly truthful and clear.
"Feeling No Pain," continues along this
stark train of thought.
If one was looking to find any fault
rd album. It is not with the album, it might be the near
hat the record was excess of formulaic chord progressions
Moutenot, who has and the overuse of one style of singing.
Tengo and Freedy Altogether though, Under Cold Blue
Stars is a beautifully crafted record that
'tars is a loose con- is easy to listen to, even if it does make
ound the trials and you want to embrace what is pathetic in
all-town southern the world just that little bit more.
)s," according to
nto consideration, RAT I N G: ** * '

GINNY OWENS
SOMETHING MORE
ROCKETOWN RECORDS
By Will Yates
For the Daily
So-called Contemporary Christian
Music, sacred music explicitly
intended for popular consumption,
has led a contentious existence since
its development in the '70's and '80's.
Cynics have charged that it is a vapid
product devoid of artistic relevance, a
manipulation of the popular song
structure to serve a purpose for
which it was never intended. Such a
viewpoint is, of course, prejudicial
but there is something to be said for
the assertion that, in a purely musical
sense, the quality of the output of
CCM artists pales in comparison to
that of their secular counterparts. For
almost every type of popular music
taste imaginable there emerges a cor-
responding CCM act, whether it be
the as-seen-on-TV eclecticism of
Carman, the quasi-credibility of
bands like dc Talk and Pedro the Lion
or the pop-metal of P.O.D. and, yes,
Stryper. All this begs the question:
Can a CCM act establish for itself a
unique artistic identity to be respect-
ed and enjoyed by the sacred music
fan and secular listener alike?
Ginny Owens, a Jackson, Miss.

born singer/songwriter, probably had
this question in mind when she wrote
and recorded her sophomore effort,
Something More. On the opening
track, "Prelude," she admits the futil-
ity of self-righteous attempts to
"change the world," (read: bible-
thump). This realization tempers the
tone of the album's remainder, which
tends instead towards introverted
material; the resulting lyrical detente
allows the secular listener to enjoy
what is contained therein without
feeling ostracized by harsh religious
overtones. Nor will the average lis-
tener be terribly offended by the
music to which Owens' lyrics are set;
it never strays far from the adult-
alternative model as established by
the- likes of Alanis Morissette that
proved so popular throughout the
'90's. In fact, the music that Owens
and her co-writers provide is surpris-
ingly strong: The songs are consistent
and focused, the melodies are imme-
diately attractive, buoyed by her
assertive, if indistinctive, alto and
assisted by lively arrangements
throughout.
Unfortunately, Something More's
strengths often double as its weak-
nesses. In an attempt to keep the
arrangements hip, Owens & Co. fre-
quently overlook employing a real
drummer in favor of utilizing cliched
trip-hop-lite percussion and tacky

r

. ,mfxm

poptronica flourishes that only serve
to weaken the material. And while
she is obviously talented in the tradi-
tional sense both as a singer and
writer, Owens does not always do
enough in either department to dis-
tinguish herself as a unique artistic
voice, relying too often on copying
the sound of already successful
singers in what reeks of a calculated
attempt at radio play. So, while
Owens has made a noble attempt at
breaking free of the stereotypes asso-
ciated with CCM and moving into
the mainstream on Something More,
she ultimately offers secular listeners
nothing more than a pleasant, consis-
tent listen to tide them over until the
next Sarah McLachlan record comes
out.
RATING:* * '

0
0
0

HALF
HALF
EDENRIDGE RECORDS
By Joshua Palay
Daily Arts Writer

keyboarus on Is ttm
surprising to learn t1
produced by Roger A
worked with Yo La
Johnston.'
Under Cold Blue S
cept album based "ar
tribulations of a sm
couple in the 1950
Rouse. Taking this i

Delaware? Are you kidding?
Delaware? The last good things to
come out of Delaware were the Simp-
sons and Wayne's World jokes. But the
state whose claims to fame lie primari-
ly with Perdue chicken and a toxic
chemical industry may have something
to contribute to rock music. In their
four-song debut EP, the Wilmington-
based Half dispels the myth that rele-
vant hard-core must come from the
holy lands of Los Angeles and New
York and makes a statement that will
hopefully attract some outside atten-
tion.
The greatest strength of this album,

recorded on the independent Edenridge
Records, is. that it effectively moves
through a variety of musical spaces,
which is surprising given that this
genre is constantly plagued by records
regurgitating the same textures from
track to track. Singer Brian Pieslak
demonstrates his vocal prowess rem-
iniscent of Michael Patton on a
wicked remake of Aerosmith's "St.
John," but also has a subtle ear for
melody and harmony on the mellow
"Faded."
Don't get me wrong, we still get
the heavy riffs that serve as the,
backbone of hard-core, Half just
presents this music in an interesting
new way. The final minutes of
"Chain" layer a Batucada drum beat
(a Brazilian dance rhythm) with a
quasi-Tibetan monk's chant under
the conventional metal groove. It
creates an atmosphere that loyal fans

of this genre will enjoy, but will
have an appeal to those of us who
have grown tired of hearing the same
song for 50 or 60 minutes.
Another refreshing component of
Half's music is the lyrics. The songs
are not filled with unintelligible
metaphors .and nonsensical phrases
loosely strung together. "Whatever"
is a powerfully and intensely ironic
depiction of young, white male apa-
thy in American society.
Unfortunately, the production on
the EP is not at par with that of cor-
porate backed studios: The recording
signal is a little low, and Pieslak's
vocals are set too far back in the mix
at times. But what the music lacks
in technical expertise, it more than
makes up with in creativity and orig-
inality (just crank up your stereo).
RATING:* * * '

I

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BREAKING
RECORDS STAR
SYSTEM
* * * * CLASSIC
**** GREAT
** * FAIR
* * SUB-PAR
WORTHLESS
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