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October 22, 2002 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-10-22

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 22, 2002 - 8

ART S

BREAKING

RECORDS

REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

VARIOUS ARTISTS
RISE ABOVE
SANCTUARY RECORDS
By Joel Hoard
Daily Arts Writer
Henry Rollins approaches every-
thing he does with utmost intensity,
whether he's hunting down Charlie
Sheen in "The Chase" or screaming
irate lyrics and leaping about a
stage in little black shorts. So when
Rollins heard the saga of the West
Memphis Three, a group of
Arkansas teens believed to have
been wrongfully convicted in the
1993 killings of three young boys,
he reacted just how you'd expect
him to react: he got pissed off.
Rollins didn't just send a check
to the WM3's defense fund - that
just isn't Hank's style,-- instead, he
conceived a benefit album made up
of 24 classic Black Flag songs.
Rollins went all-out to assemble an
THE APPLES IN STER
VELOCITY OF SOUN
SPINART RECORDS
By Joel Hoard
Daily Arts Writer

impressive crew of old and new-
school punk, metal, rap and even
country artists, including legends
Iggy Pop, Lemmy Kilmister and
Tom Araya; modern metalheads like
Slipknot's Corey Taylor; rappers
Chuck D and Ice T; and country-
rock stars Ryan Adams and Hank
Williams III.
Every cut on the record hits with
Black Flag's trademark angry pas-
sion, from the moment Chuck D
declares war on West Memphis on
the title track to Ryan Adams's
soulful cover of "Nervous Break-
down." Rise Above's highlights
include Iggy Pop's Stooges-like ren-
dition of "Fix Me," Rollins's own
performance of "TV Party," and
Hank Williams III's surprisingly
hardcore howl on "No Values."
Rise Above is so faithful to the
original Black Flag recordings that
it plays more like a greatest hits
compilation than a benefit record.
Black Flag's angst-filled songs lend

themselves so well to the cause that
writing new material would have
just been foolish.
Rollins, et al. wisely sidestep the
usual pat-yourself-on-the-back bull-
shit of a benefit album on Rise
Above - you won't find phonies
like Bono and Sting on this one.
That's a good thing, because we
sure as hell don't need another "Do
They Know It's Christmas."
RATING:* *'*

7
JURASSIC 5
POWER IN NUMBERS
INTERSCOPE RECORDS
By Joseph Litman
Daily Arts Writer
Almost all sophomore rap efforts disappoint - how
you doing, Wu-Tang? This, of course, assumes that an
artist's debut album was a quality effort - not so fast,
Nelly. Otherwise, people simply don't care about a follow-
up LP since the first offering was bad anyway - thanks
for playing, Lil' Wayne.
This unfortunate phenomenon particularly afflicts rap
groups, the list of those who fell into the abyss after an
auspicious debut too long to
recount. However, when R
groups avoid this pitfall and
satisfy their fans' expectations
they become something spe-
cial. Jurassic 5 can now step
into that rarified class thanks
to the strength of Power in
Numbers.
Returning with a more .
diversified sound, Akil, Chali s
2Na, Cut Chemist, Marc 7,
Nu-Mark and Zaakir chal-
lenge their listeners to grow
with them. While J5's debut
LP, Quality Control, is
revered for its inventive beats
and charismatic interplay
between the emcees, its critics
found it to be monotonous
after a while with too much
harmonizing and too many
street-corner exchanges. Such
instances are not completely
absent on Power, but there are
fewer, and in lieu, a greater
assortment of arrangements.
Fundamentally, J5 is a
group whose roots run deep
into the past and draw on ele- The gentlemen of Jurassic 5.

IL

mentary hip-hop for inspiration and focus. Corresponding-
ly, too few "playground tactics" would necessarily change
J5's ethos, and the struggle to stay true to themselves while
accepting their fame and acclaim is addressed on the
album's lead single, "What's Golden". Recognizing their
role as hip-hop's old-school protector, J5 says "We stay
true to the game and never bring it to shame ... We still
the same with a little fame..." Power is not wholly a
rejection of critics, however. The sonic diversity previous-
ly mentioned is apparent when listening to the different
tempos of "Thin Line" and "A Day at the Races," or the
equally dissimilar tones of "Freedom" and "Hey."
Power can also be commended for the quality of its
lyrics. Less playful but more opinionated, J5's emcees
spit social conscience, industry assessments, and admon-
ishments throughout the
album, enrapturing and chal-
lenging listeners. This lyrical
intricacy takes on a self-ful-
filling aspect as it weeds out
casual listeners,,precluding
their reception of verbal
barbs aimed at people like
them. Truly, real hip-hop
fans will love this since it
isn't likely that one will
hear Power at the mall any-
time soon.
No review of J5 would be
complete without mentioning
the talent of producers Nu-
Mark and, particularly, Cut,
Chemist. Power becomes a
playground for these men,
composing, scratching, and
sampling with respect-
inspiring facility and style.
The next time hip-hop
fans are discussing the
disappointing returns of
groups like Camp Lo,
Jurassic 5 will not be
mentioned.

'NUMBERS'

With their endless pop hooks and simple, innocu-
ous lyrics, the Apples in Stereo are just too goddamn
catchy to ignore. Their upbeat '60s-tinged rock
recalls sunshine pop pioneers like the Turtles and the
Beach Boys and conjures images of carefree summer
nights spent cruising the town with your best girl at
your side.
Velocity of Sound, the Apples' aptly-named fifth stu-
dio album, sounds like Pet Sounds played at Ramones
speed. Lead singer and indie-pop grandmaster Robert
Schneider has always been a master of the hook, and
he continues his ways on Velocity with one sugary
number after another. Thick, fuzzy guitar riffs are
countered by Schneider's quirky good humor and
shrill, nasal voice that's so high it makes Geddy Lee
sound like Barry White.
Schneider carries on the naive-romantic tradition of
cool dorks like Buddy Holly and Jonathan Richman,
with lyrics like "I'm gonna drive right through the
night / When you wake up I'll be sleeping there right
by your side." His shrill, boyish vocals only add to his
nerdy charm, especially when he's singing lines such
as "She's a little girl who works at Dairy Queen / She's
talking to the kids when they get ice cream."
TONIC
HEAD ON STRAIGHT
UNIVERISAL LRECORDS
By Daniel Yowell
Daily Staff Writer
"I don't know when I got bitter / but love is surely
better when it's gone," sings Emerson Hart on Tonic's
second album, Sugar. It's a surprise that he doesn't
know the answer to this question, because it's right there
in his music. While Sugar did have its share of sunny
love songs, it also contained powerful, emotional songs
full of anger and bitterness over relationships gone
awry. Tracks like "You Wanted More," "Knock Down
Walls" and "Mean to Me" added force to Sugar and tra-
versed emotional territory left unexplored by Tonic's
debut, Lemon Parade.
On Tonic's latest release, Head on Straight, we find
an Emerson Hart cured of the bitterness that added so
much strength to Sugar. The third album in the Tonic
catalog consists of twelve well-crafted rock songs and it
sounds great, even if it is homogenous at times. Unfor-
tunately, though, much of the poignancy and bite of
Sugar is missing.
From the first listen, it is clear that Tonic is aiming
straight at FM radio with Head on Straight. Possibly
trying to knock Creed down from their stance at the
summit of Heavy-Handed Ballad Peak, Tonic chose to
fill half of the album with power ballads - which, inci-
dentally, are much better than Creed's. While these
songs are of exceptional quality - especially the lush,
beautiful "Ring Around Her Finger" - a few sound
suspiciously familiar. The final song, "Let Me Go," is
one of the most intricately developed on the record, but
its chorus is nearly identical to that of "Head on
Straight." Even more unfortunately, that same chord
progression has been used about a thousand times else-
where - like in Matchbox Twenty's "Push" from their
1996 debut album, for example. Tonic really should be
able to come up with something more original than such
an overused, tried-and-true chord progression.
Head on Straight is a picture of the band with its
chops well intact, and there is some added ambition in
Hart's vocal work. Some excellent harmonies appear
throughout the record; plus, Hart stretches out his vocal
range on the title track and others. Jeff Russo's chunky
guitar riffs drive a number of tracks - it wouldn't be a

The Apples' brand of perky, unassuming pop-rock is
refreshingly devoid of pretentious politics and contro-
versial lyrics, and they're the better for it. Robert
Schneider's writing is so innocent and harmless that
even Jesse Helms couldn't find fault with it, and in thQ
age of the teenage-whore pop star and angry rap-rock-
er, it's good to know that people like Schneider still
exist.
RATING:***

Courtesy of Interscope

RATING:* * **

I

THE GABE DIXON BAND
ON A ROLLING BALL
REPRISE RECORDS
By Graham Kelly
Daily Arts Writer

We all have dreams, some more special than others. Gabe
Dixon had a dream. He dreamt of one day making music
which would blow open the market of guitar-less pop/rock
bands, being monopolized in 1999 by
Ben Folds Five. Dixon rounded up a sax-
ophonist, bass player and drummer, form-
ing The Gabe Dixon Band. On A Rolling
Ball, their major label debut, presents a
cohesive four-piece act with little to say
musically or lyrically.
The uneven album sounds like the
band is moving in too many directions. If
they found a certain style, like the jazz of d
"Bird Dancer" or the up-tempo "More
Than It Would Seem" and stuck with it,
they might be able to put out an album
that didn't wander all over. Rolling Ball is a
a testament to their ablity to experiment
with so many styles and come out with fourteen listenable
tracks; but listenable is all that the album is.
Heavy influences from Stevie Wonder ("Everything's

Okay") and Elton John ("Corner Cafe") are easily heard. On
a whole, the 14 tracks are mellow, at times leaning more
towards Kenny G than pop music. Dixon is a talented key-
boardist and he tests a range of effects from a synthesized
sound to grand piano. Vocally though he lacks. His voice is
not suited for the type of music he's singing. It's note smooth
enough and sticks out from the music like a thumb, the sore
kind that you want to ignore. Lyrically, Dixon tackles the pre-
viously unexplored area of relationships, speaking vaguely of
women he has known. He breaks away once, however, on
"One to the World" to question man's purpose in modern
society, which he does with a plethora of
badly rhymed lines. Something always
seems to be off on a song, whether it's the
heavy presence of the saxophone, or
Dixon's use of falsetto when he should
have stayed low.
You may find a few tracks to listen to
again, but it is doubtful that you'll find
any lasting value in this album. They just
fail to be musically catchy or lyrically
interesting. With a bit more focus and
direction, The Gabe Dixon Band may be
able to preserve the enjoyable pop of
songs like "Expiration Date" or the
impressive piano work on "Love Story"
and duplicate that for an album that's not so forgettable.

0

SR-71
TOMORROW
BMC/RCA
By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer

Tonic album without them - and Dan Lavery's tight
bass never gets lost in the mix, thankfully.
Although there is little bitterness on Head on
Straight, there is still plenty of muscle. The opening
track, "Roses," as well as "Liar" and "Come Rest Your
Head" will not disappoint fans of Tonic's brand of
heavy rock.. But the standout track on this album is
"Irish." Reminiscent of "Celtic Aggression" from
Lemon Parade, this politically-charged, rock-infused,
modern Irish folk song, is as intense as anything Tonic
has ever done. The driving rhythm and shouted refrain,
"I won't die for England!" add tremendous force to the
song. "Irish" is destined to become a live favorite.
Even if Head on Straight sees Tonic lacking originali-
ty at times and is occasionally weighed down by its high
number of heavy ballads, the quality of the songwriting
and musicianship keeps the album from ever getting
boring. In many ways, Head on Straight sounds more
like the band trying to earn new followers than actually
growing musically. There are enough standout tracks
here to please old and new fans alike, but not much new
ground is broken.
RATING: ***

SR-71 are the kind of the band that
really should succeed - they have all
the looks, attitude, and marketing
push to drop bands like the Goo Goo
Dolls to smaller fonts on the great
rock radio billboard. They play a
tight, driving punk-rock that bores
with the same she-done-me-wrong
lyrics and buzz guitar antics as any of
their radio peers. So why isn't this
band on the radio every five minutes?
Songwriting. That's what it's all
about, and SR-71 are simply poor
songwriters. To be fair, they had a
brief dalliance with radio two years
ago with the semi-successful "Right
Now," but the fact remains that these
guys aren't tearing up the TRL
charts. You've got to have the songs,
and that's what's missing here.
Their debut, Now You See Inside

RATING:* *
the pipes for the big-chorus ambition
of "Tomorrow" and "Hello Hello,"
the likes of which comprise the
majority of this album. The rhythm
section is consistently boring. The
guitars churn on your standard power
chords with laughable results - the
tossed-off chorus and phasing effects
that appear on these tracks will pro-
vide plenty of fluff for a GuitarWorld
interview, but they do nothing for
these songs.
They earn their stars for the opti-
mistic riff on "The Best Is Yet to
Come," and "Non-Toxic" can hang
with anything by Jimmy Eat World,
but the big ballad lethargy of "In My
Mind" and the overproduction erase
any progress. Let's face it - these
guys make Our Lady Peace sound
like Matchbox Twenty, and Matchbox
Twenty sound like Big Star. The
songwriting just isn't there folks, and
unless it improves, they'll have a per-
manent home in the "S-used" section
of record stores everywhere.
RATING: *

employed pop-punk ditties a la Blink
or Good Charlotte. Times have
changed since 2000, however, and the
band's songwriting style has too.
More in tune with the neo-grunge
eating up playlists today, SR-71 have
slowed their tempos and upped the
solos with predictable results.
Included now are the obligatory
Superman references and indulgent
soloing. The singer may be able to
hold down quick-paced punk chorus-
es like "They All Fall Down" and
"She Was Dead," but he doesn't have

GOD is LOVE
'LOVE is the
presence of
JUSTICE.

I L --i-- I 1 Mlll#ull

AM

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