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March 19, 2002 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-03-19

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10- The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

a

BREAKING

RECORDS

REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

BRENDAN BENSON
LAPALCO
STAR TIME INTERNATIONAL

By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
Singer/songwriter Brendan Benson shares more than a
series of alliterative ties to the Alex Chilton/Chris Bell/Big
Star songwriting combination. Before Big Star's fractured
deconstruction (led by Alex Chilton's demented pop-mas-
terpiece Third/Sister Lovers), Big Star pioneered what has
come to be categorized as power-pop. Combining vocal
and pop panache from the Beatles and the Beach Boys, plus
the sonic grind of the Who, Big Star is a band whose influ-
ences touches much of today's indie-rock. Where Alex
Chilton successfully sabotaged Third/Sister Lovers with
haphazard disjointed songs that rang as erratic as the mar-
keting and distribution firms that handled the record, Ben-
son's 1996 debut One Mississippi (Virgin) was
commercially dismantled by poor label support and lack of
a to-radio-single.
Benson strikes a similar songwriting chord with the
Chilton/Bell collaboration, he is involved in a songwriting
partnership of his own with former Jellyfish guitarist Jason
Falkner. The Benson/Falkner credit appears on five of the
album's twelve songs, although Falkner's presence doesn't
invade on Benson's amiable pop sensibilities.
Following in the musical mold of the Raspberries,
Benson's tunes bounce with wit, and kitsch alike. At
times the young songsmith sounds vaguely like John
Lennon, whose songstylings he often borrows from
throughout the record. The Benson/Falkner vehicle"Tiny
Spark," utilizes a rich combination of Beatles' back-
ground "la-la's" and guitar-driven pop with darts of key-
boards throughout.
Benson's solo penned tune "Metarie," builds to a cho-
rus that brings Radio City immediately to mind, a per-
fectly arranged series of male/female harmonies sliding
around the song's gummily-building hook, "There's
something I've been meaning to say to you / I've run out

of gas and I'm stuck like glue."
The infectiously clever arrangements extend through-
out the record, with Falkner and Benson's voices compet-
ing brilliantly for lead vocal credits. In "Folk Singer" the
song's ironically dirty-guitar driven verses break into
open-ringing flange-sounding guitars.
Comparisons to classic power-pop acts simmer during
the introduction to "You're Quiet," which is dominated by
a keyboards waxing a new wave homage to the Cars.
If there is a weak point to Benson's songs, it may be
his over-excitement for generic lyrics, but as in the case
of The Beatles, the best lyrics don't make the best songs.
Benson is wholly aware of his bold-face nods to Chilton
and Lennon, his female speaker reminds him of the fact
in "Folk Singer," joking, "Stop pretending, you're not
John Lennon." Brendan Benson understands that he is no
John Lennon, but he is a smart songwriter, crafting an
album replete with clever pop tunes.

SAUL WILLAMS
AMETHYST ROCK STAR
UNIVERSAL

By Dustin J. Seibert
Daily Arts Writer
Poetry and spoken word slams are the
new hot shit in the urban set these days,
and the Michael Jordan of the art form
has finally dropped a full-length
album to whet the appetites of the
new-age beatnik followers fiending
for a major release.
Amethyst Rock Star is the debut
release of New York poet laureate Saul
Williams, whose extraordinary talent
led to a starring role in 1998's definitive
street-poetry flick "Slam, which in turn
gave him even more prominence. He
and the movie have singlehandedly
inspired a number of modern-day Gins-
burgs to try their hand at the art.
Williams' spoken word manifests a
number of human emotions: anger,
X-ECUTIONERS
BUILT FROM SCRATCH
LOUD/COLOMBIA
By David Kerastas
For the Daily
With the recent break up of the Invisibl
Skratch Piklz, the X-Ecutioners (formerly
X-Men) have been left standing alone in
the hip-hop spotlight as arguably the best
DJ crew in the business. To follow up their
groundbreaking first album, New York's
Finest have released Built From Scratch,
further testament to the instrumental pos-
sibilities of the turntable. Much to their
credit, the X-Ecutioners have managed to
craft a sound that is entirely their own, a
sound characterized by abrasive, bass-
heavy beats and skillful scratching. They
are no longer simply mixing music but
creating it, and they have managed to
quiet all the music bigots who still
insist that the turntable is not really an
instrument.
Unfortunately, for all their talent, the X-
Ecutioners join today's long list of talented
musicians (MCs and DJs alike) who, for
some reason, merely produce half-assed
hip-hop. Built From Scratch is an album

hatred, love, motivation, etc. and man-
ages to roll them all up in eleven power-
ful tracks. "Penny for a Thought" is an
amusing poem where Williams chal-
lenges the masses to understand the
absurdity of its wasteful ways. "Om Nia
Merican" is a blazing piece that appears
to be almost mocking the cliches that
Americans tend to hold so dearly.
"Wine" is a joint that has Williams
singing praises of divinity over a melan-
choly instrumental.
Die-hard slam fans will have mixed
feelings about the instrumentals on the
album. The band plays a blend of rock
and hip-hop, and more often than not it
fuels Williams' words accordingly.
However, the music occasionally dis-
rupts his flow inadvertently, and it finds
itself in a position where it would have
better been suited to be left off com-
pletely.
The man is nationally renowned for a
reason - he has mastered the art of
metaphors and wordplay, and the album
that possesses plenty of quality scratching
and experimentation but lacks much of the
creativity and musical insight that made
X-Pressions so great. The several big-
name MCs that grace the tracks only offer
some uninspired battle rhymes to balance
out all the scratching. Perhaps some metal
fans will enjoy the collaboration with
Linkin Park on "It's Goin' Down,' but any
self-respecting hip-hop head can steer
clear of this 4-minute serving of dung. The
only impressive lyrical performance
comes from Pharoahe Monch on "The X
(Y'all Know The Name)." Intermittently
placed between the tracks are a couple of
skits (brought to you by the same people
who create the WHATFM skits), which
should have people reaching for the skip
button on their stereos.
Fortunately, Built From Scratch is saved
by a number of worthy tracks. "A Journey
Into Sound," innovatively combines beat
boxing by Kenny Muhammed and bizarre
scratch samples. On "Premier's X-Ecu-
tion," producer DJ Premier offers pleasant
beats to go along with some quality
scratching. Aside from that, there remain a
bunch of decent songs that smoothly com-
bine all the elements of turntablism and
should find their ways onto future mix

makes it all too clear that he is at the
head of his craft. Though it possesses a
hip-hop like ambiance, the album
shouldn't find itself labeled as or com-
pared to it - this is poetry, pure, uncut,
and almost in its essence. Turn down the
lights, get a frappucino machine and a
headwrap, and it'll be like you never left
the coffee house.

ALANIs MORISSETTE
UNDER RUG SWEPT
MAVERICK
By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
Sulking on a therapy couch comes
pretty naturally to Alanis Morissette,
whose last two albums consist pri-
marily of feminine proclamations of
independence and stories of love lost
- or more appropriately, love pissed
on. Morisstte's breakthrough album,
Jagged Little Pill, showed the big-
haired Canadian spitting venom at
men everywhere . Her follow-up to
Jagged, Supposed Former Infatua-
tion Junky, depicted a simmered-
but-still- burning Morissette.
Morissette's new set, Under Rug
Swept, keeps Alanis singing and
steers relatively clear of the searing
vocals that caused listeners to squint
on Jagged Little Pill. While Moris-
sette has made her career singing
about love, her songs are generally
not silly. Instead, in the past, they
have been quite the opposite, with a
self-indulgent Morissette bearing her
tortured soul for audiences.
Under Rug Swept features Moris-
sette abandoning her collaborator in
Glen Ballard, and penning all of the
album's tunes herself. Morissette's
DRESsY BESSY
SOUND GO ROUND
KINDERCORE RECORDS
By Gina Pensiero
Daily Arts Writer
This band is all handclaps, beat-
lesque guitar tones and shit-eating
grins. Oh, they're also sugary
retro ultra-pop with a chick
singing lead. And here's the kick-
er: she's dating the guitarist of
Apples in Stereo, who's also in the
band.
The name of the band: Dressy
Bessy. Didn't you just guess it was
going to rhyme?
Their newest album, Sound-Go-
Round, is a masterpiece in pop

arc of record-making has found the
canuck's sound softening, a trend
which began in the interim between
Jagged Little Pill and Supposed For-
mer Infatuation Junky.
Chunky power-chords open Under
Rug Swept in Alanis' lengthy list of
ideals for "21 Things I Want In A
Lover. " The irony-free tune outlines
Morissette's preference in character-
istics that she hopes for in her lover.
While Morissette usually writes
songs about love, the tunes on Under
Rug Swept aren't love songs. Instead,
Morissette is complacent and reflec-
tive, losing some of her edge.
Replacing relational backfirings like
"You Oughta Know" (from Jagged
Little Pill), Under Rug Swept fea-
tures tiny train-wreck s of relation-

ships. Alanis confronts her own inse-
curity with "So Unsexy," pining
about how she "can feel so unsexy
for someone so beautiful." This inex-
cusable camp continues to pop up
throughout Alanis' latest batch of
couch-confessionals.
Perhaps more unsettling than Ala-
nis' regressions away from her
angst-filled tunes into a more melo-
dramatic complacency is her need to
bring the album to some sort of clo-
sure with a therapeutic purge during
"Utopia." Her need for album reso-
lution is nearly as discouraging as
other artists' inappropriate reaches
for album-wide circularity, (fear not,
Sir McCartney , Band on the Run is
exempt here). Morissette sings about
her own utopia in disjointed deliv-
ery. The song speaks on a resolute
level, proclaiming the rectification
of relational turmoil.
Under Rug Swept's resolution suc-
cessfully undermines the importance
of the tiny-relational problems that
don't sink nearly as deep as the spit-
toon-puddled lyric "are you thinking
of me when you fuck her?" In this
candid lack of depth and pain, Ala-
nis' musical regression barely makes
it off the couch for a sandwich, let
alone therapy. Isn't that ironic?
No.
who truly completes the songs and
causes them to stick in your head
for hours/days/weeks.
From the first track, "I Saw Cin-
namon" to the last one, "Carry
On," the listener is bombarded
with major chords and hooky cho-
ruses. The album hits some major
peaks on the upbeat, happy-go-
lucky "That's Why" and the woven
melodies of "Flower Jargon."
Overall if you're a sucker for
infectious tunes, happiness, things
that are good because they're sim-
ple or America's smart pop renais-
sance, you'll be a sucker for the
poppy sing-along songs of Dressy
Bessy.

tapes.
The essential fault of this sort of album
is that provides a poor venue for the art of
turntablism. Most of time, the four DJs are
forced to hold back their skills so that they
can all contribute in harmony. Conse-
quently the scratching and juggling on this
album are certainly impressive but hardly
spectacular. In addition, an album cannot
convey the important visual aspects of
turntablism. We cannot witness Rob
Swift's creativity or Roc Raida's incredible
beat juggling tricks. It is difficult for any-
one who isn't highly knowledgeable of
dee-jaying to appreciate what is taking
place.

4

that's so good it's bad and back to
good again. Lead singer/rhythm
guitarist Tammy Ealom makes the
band with her enthusiastic jangley
style. However, it is lead guitarist
John Hill, of Apples in Stereo,

MOMM9

fUD .bIfWS atUofM
Bun Micresystem,
sun representatives
will be on hand
Wednesday, Morci
1am - 3pm
In the Michigan Unio
first floor Pond Room
*0 Sun
microsystem
We make the net work. presents:

Who
needs a teacher."

ka,2W2
,o*in

hh 2th

The nlursity lMichigan
colle of Uterature, Science,
adthe Arts
presets
M--m e Joan Crawl"ord and
GaY Male SuijectivityP
David M. Halperin

Muom - 3pm

eunBlude workstations &
Ounflre servers product demo's

Teach(
TA Ia

Saturday, March 23, 2002
LA 8am. to 4 pm.
at the Sports and Expo Center
11 Macomb Community College South Campus

I

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