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November 29, 1995 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-11-29

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8 - The Michigan Daily -Wednesday, November 29, 1995

RECORDS
Continued from Page 5
Birdbrain
Bliss
TVT Records
in'e listen to Birdbrain and you're
assured that it's all coming to an end.
The whole grunge thing is seeing its
apocalypse. Bad music will make it
all come crashing down. Birdbrain is
surely the seventh sign. Amen.
Birdbrain are an amalgam of every
band you'd never want to mix to-
gether. Their sound is prototypically
loud, crunchy and distorted. They
worthlessly attempt to employ vocal
harmonies a la Alice in Chains, and
hopelessly fail. With each new song,
you hope for something fresh, but are
always left with a cheap Seattle cover;
thus the entire album takes on that "I
swear I've heard this somewhere be-
fore" feeling. Finally, boring, non-
sensical chord progressions and
choppy lyrics serve as a mark of
Birdbrain's true musical talent, or lack
thereof.
What's worse are the lyrics. It seems
as if every band needs to prove how
philosophical they are, so as to come
off as intellectual. Birdbrain doesn't
disappoint. For example, "Home-
town" brags, "We are the dead; this is
how we have been bred/ we cannot
escape our fate/there will not be more
put on our plate." Draw your own
conclusions. Birdbrain looks like a
group of high school dropouts; they
write like a group ofjunior high drop-
outs.
So when did cover bands start get-
ting record contracts? Birdbrain got
one. Maybe this will serve as that
finai warning to the record producers;
that the well is running dry and a new
formula is sorely needed. Let's hope
so.
- Brad Haywood
Onyx
All we got Iz Us
Def Jam Records
"I'm thinking 'bout taking my own
life/ I might as well/ 'Cept they might
not sell weed in Hell/ And that's where
I'm goin''cause the Devil's inside me/
They make me rob from my own na-
tionality."
Rapped by Sticky Fingaz in "Last
Dayz," this excerpt exemplifies
Onyx's somber mood in "All We got
Iz Us." Wrapped in a cover shrouded
in gray and black shadows complete
with a blood-dripping "X" and a
coined mask meant for Halloween
night, the CD inside contains 11 songs
and four interludes all as tight as the
faciAl expressions the Onyx members

Oooh. Birdbrain are like, so cool.

make on their bald heads.
No song on this LP breaks from the
depressingly woeful, yet critically hon-
est, mood Onyx creates on this CD. From
beginning (the skit "Life or Death" where
Onyx tries to convince a man to commit
suicide) to end ("Walk in New York," the
title alone is depressing) Onyx presents a
most sobering portrait of life the likes of
which haven't been seen since 2PAC's
"Me Against the World."
In keeping with the blue mood they
created, Onyx members Sonee Seeza,
Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz have
calmed down considerably. If you're
expecting something as acid-crazed
as "Slam," keep looking. All the beats
here are pure lay back, blunt up and
nod yo' head inspired.
Perhaps the most noticeable change
in Onyx's rapping style is its more
enunciated, logical structure. Never-
theless, Onyx still preserves its off-
beat, grungy rapping form while not
going overboard with it too often.
Best of all, Sticky Fingaz is now more
literate. So, instead of just hearing
"Nguh! Nguh!" you actually get some
English out of the man. I'm telling
you, it's never too late for Hooked on
Phonics.
- Eugene Bowen
Masta Ace
incorporated
Sittin' on Chrome
Capitol Records
Masta Ace is no rap scene newbie.
Some may remember this Brooklyn
native when he performed two cuts on
Marley Marl's "In Control, Vol. 1."
Others may remember his debut al-
bum, "Take a Look Around," which
featured hit singles like "Music Man"
and "Me and the Biz." Still others in
the know may have realized that Masta

Ace participated in the creation of the
"Crooklyn" soundtrack title song
alongside Special Ed and Buckshot.
If you didn't know any of this, that's
alright. You can experience Masta
Ace, and the rest of his crew grouped
under the title Incorporated, in his
third album "Sittin' on Chrome."
While Masta Ace continues to utilize
heavy bass both in his music and in
his voice which led many to label him
West Coast, he staunchly proclaims
himself East Coast, body and soul.
Ace is right. After a single hearing of
this LP, no one in his right mind
would find even an inkling of gangsta
rap in it.
What you find instead is a healthy
dosage of tight lyrics spit to the tune of
beats somewhat more musical in na-
ture. Cuts like "U Can't Find Me" and
"The I.N.C. Ride" feature cut-and-dry
rapping following a simple formula of
rhythm and rhyme. With hard bass,
tight lyrics and a touch of almost eerie
mysticism, "The B-Side" is another
must-hear cut, as is the title track where
Masta Ace's East-Coast style forms an
uneasy union with a child-sung refrain.
"People in My Hood," a song which
brings Masta Ace even closer to a
socially conscious rap style that he
has been slowly but steadily approach-
ing over the years, is a stark, realistic
and bluntly told tale about poor neigh-
borhoods' residents. Anyone from the
'hood will identify with Masta Ace's
stories about these people, their se-
cret lives, lies and relationships.
"Sittin' on Chrome" also features a
variety of interludes which, instead of
being listed separately, are attached to
the ends of some cuts (e.g. "Turn It
Up," "Ain't No Game"). True rarities,
these interludes, while incorporating a
very minimal amount of adult language
and content, remain very funny breaks
from some ofthe more serious cuts. The
one exception is the interlude which
concludes "Terror." Here the vulgarity
is rampant, but it's still funny.
"Sittin' on Chrome" isn't yourstan-
dard pro-blunt, pro-ghetto attitudes
release. On the same token, it isn't a
highly instructive CD; Masta Ace ain't
out to be anyone's teacher or preacher.
What this 16-cut release focuses on is
Ace's opinion-free observations of
life. He won't tell you what to think or
what to do; those decisions he real-
izes are yours alone to make.
- Eugene Bowen
Various Artists
Inner City Blues
Motown Records
Few R&B artists ofthe past or present
can match in sheer musical genius the
work of the late Marvin Gaye whose
untimely death over a decade ago cre-
ated a void no one to this day has been
able to fill satisfactorily. Now, some of
today's most well-known R&B, gos-

pel, pop and rap talents have teamed up
in the hope that, if one person can't fill
that hole, maybe a slew of them can.
No, they can't. But, at least they
tried. And the resulting album is not all
that bad; there's even a real gem or two
among the 10 songs presented in "Inner
City Blues." Take the title track, per-
haps best-known by its subtitle "Make
Me Wanna Holler," which opens with a
two-minute musical selection reminis-
cent of "Superfly." In covering this,
one of Gaye's best-remembered songs,
Nona Gaye has done a first-rate job in
re-creating the exact same soul-deep
feeling of anger, sadness and depres-
sion Marvin himself used to carry this
song to the top and beyond.
Unfortunately, Boyz II Men didn't
follow that same formula in singing
"Let's Get It On." Performing to a
faster, hipper beat, these Philly na-
tives have turned one of history's
greatest lust-songs into something
more reminiscent of "I-like-you-Do-
you-like-me" childhood crushes.
BIIM is highly harmonic and smooth
in their delivery -exactly what "Let's
Get It On" is not meant to be. It's
meant to be slightly rough, gruff and
a tad-bit off-key. It's supposed to be a
song an everyday guy would sing to
get someone for the night, not what a
balladeer would use to woo a life-
mate.
It must be for this reason Madonna
was chosen to sing "I Want You."
While no one could represent this
song's raw sex sentiments better than
Madonna, who sang it at one-third it's
original speed, I am still left wonder-
ing if just maybe Motown could have
found someone more musically in
sync with Gaye and less in sync with
Hustler magazine. After all, Motown
did get the very beautiful and talented
Lisa Stansfield to do an outstanding
remake of "Just to Keep You Satis-
fied."
Even more ingenious, though, was
the choice of Stevie Wonder to sing
"Stubborn Kind of Fellow." It would
take a man like Wonder - a musical
legend in his own right - to appreci-
ate the genius of the man whose mu-
sic he performed and translate that
appreciation to us. Greater apprecia-
tion for Gaye's legacy is shown by
Digable Planets in their three part
tribute "Marvin, You're the Man."
We can listen to "Inner City Blues"
again and again - skipping the one
or two flop cuts and constantly re-
playing the better-tuned songs - hop-
ing to regain, if for but a moment, the
feeling that only a man like Marvin
Gaye could instill. But, when it's all
over, the truth that was never really
forgotten slams upon us like a ton of
bricks. He's gone, and he's not com-
ing back, ever. And, none like him
will ever be. "Inner City Blues" isn't
perfect, and even if it were, it would
not in a million years be able to make
up for the loss Gaye's death brought.
But it is at least a sincere attempt.
- Eugene Bowen

New York quartet Lotion sets their rock machine
in motion tonight at the Blind Pig
Rock critics agree that Lotion Is a way-cool foursome hailing from the Big
Apple. After that, opinions on just how to classify their emotional, impressive
music differ, although hints of Sonic Youth, Sugar and REM can be heard on
their releases "Full Isaac" and their brand-new follow-up "Nobody's Cool."
Whatever influences are detectable in their music, the result is eclectic and
delectable; Lotion's appeal is such that the band numbers among its fans one
of the greatest writers of the 20th century, the eternally hip hermit Thomas
Pynchon, author of such classics as "V" and "Gravity's Rainbow." Pynchon is
such a big fan of the group that he wrote the liner notes to "Nobody's Cool." He
writes of the band's sound, "Between the metal anthems and moments of tonal
drama, the darkest of surrealist lyrics ... may also be detected the weird jiving
sense of humor of a cruise combo, even an allegiance to the parameters
thereof." Check out this literary rock tonight at the Blind Pig. Doors open at
9:30; call 996-8555 for more information.

The Bottle Rockets
The Brooklyn Side
TAG/Atlantic
Bottle Rockets leader Brian
Henneman has long been a vital
part of the St. Louis-area country-
rock scene once ruled (and defined)
by Uncle Tupelo, which recently
split into Son Volt and Wilco. But
the Bottle Rockets capture neither
the bleak, austere beauty of the
former band nor the good-natured
country-pop charm of the latter.
They don't have to, because the
Bottle Rockets emerge on "The
Brooklyn Side" with a hard-rock-
ing, heavy-riffing, trashy roots-rock
sound all their own. This is the ulti-
mate blue-collar bar band, best
heard with a beer in one hand and a
cigarette in the other.
Originally released in late 1994
and re-released this fall, "The
Brooklyn Side" contains 14 stellar
tales of life on the wrong side of the
tracks. Henneman sings in a gravely
holler about a loser auto-parts sales-
man "watching Sunday sports in his
boxer shorts" ("Sunday Sports"), a
hipper-than-thou goth girl who

"likes Dinosaur Jr. but don't know
why" ("Idiot's Revenge"), a dilapi-
dated car whose "life was over
50,000 miles before it ever got to
you" ("1,000 Dollar Car") and a
small-town cop in masturbatory ec-
stasy over his new speed-trap toy
("Radar Gun").
Henneman delivers his songs with
warmth and understanding, devoid
of smarmy Mellencamp-style ro-
mance. He reserves his wrath for
conservative cost-cutting politi-
cians in "Welfare Music," a dobros-'
and-all acoustic country tune in,
which Henneman describes a young
welfare mother abandoned by her.
partner who's "still chasin' women
and drinkin' beer" while she listens
to the "angry fat man on the radio"
spew right-wing rhetoric.
Henneman's also a fine guitarist.
leading a potent band. The Bottle
Rockets manage to blend Lynrd,.
Skynrd-style southern rock and an
earthy rootsiness into an engaging,
mightily rocking country-rock:hy-.
brid.
They'll be coming around soon
enough to a bar near you.
- Jennifer Buckley

Here we see Onyx.

The four very young, attractive and hairy members of the Bottle Rockets share a good chuckle.

p

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