In a stunning tactical switch, this week's New This Week post is being written while listening to two of the albums under discussion!
And you know what? It's actually kind of weird to listen to this stuff!
However, considering each album's comparative importance in the world of rock 'n' roll, how could I not give each one the critical listening it surely deserves?
Shall I cut to the chase? When the new Limp Bizkit album is dropped on concrete tile, it emits a fairly anonymous, sharp "CKKK" sound--much like, say, that of a standard CD-R one might accidentally drop while copying a friend's CD collection!
On the other hand, the latest Taking Back Sunday CD repeatedly sounds like "THHHMMPP" no matter how many times it hits my office rug! And it's kind of catchy!
Covers? They're both fantastic!
Beyoncé: 4 (Columbia) Word is that the lovely Beyoncé recorded more than 60 songs for this new album before whittling down the finished result to 12! Apparently she lost the other 48 on her way to work! But that's OK--heck, this review began as a 20,000-word essay before I decided to cut out the fluff! So what does it sound like? Well, much of it is surprisingly blues-based; between the fetching young singer's tragic loss of the buttons once populating her shirt, and her 21st century frustrations with the world of Photoshop and the new album's cover image, she appears to have that whole Etta James thing down pat! I'm thinking that between "1+1," "Countdown" and "Start Over"--three of the finest tracks here--and the actual album title, her future as a math professor is assured! Hey, so is ours!
Limp Bizkit: Gold Cobra (Interscope) Wow--I just listened to this whole album in the time it took me to get to this paragraph! And I must admit I found it fascinating! While I was expecting the typically foul-mouthed, obnoxious white-rap-metal spiel that made this band so popular last century, I was pleasantly surprised! For starters, lead singer Fred Durst's apparent conversion to Mormonism has mellowed the band considerably: Tracks such as "Get A Life," "Shotgun" and the thoughtful ballad "Douche Bag" have a philanthropical core some may find surprising, and Durst's reputed new motto, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," permeates nearly every other fabulous track! I'm so impressed I plan to listen to this again and again--but can I make a prediction this early on? By the end of this year, when anyone utters the words "Limp Bizkit," the entire world will think "Douche Bag"!
David Cook: This Loud Morning (RCA) While I'll admit I haven't watched American Idol as often as I should--it conflicts with the RFD Network's fabulous reruns of the Porter Wagoner Show, and I'm also into brushing my teeth a lot--I certainly know who David Cook is! He's the guy with facial hair who was once on the show, apparently won or something, and now gets to make records while other, more interesting artists face financial ruin, leave the business entirely, and perhaps contemplate a life of washing dishes for The Man! So yeah, he's pretty good--especially if you like music that seems precisely tailored for an '80s AOR radio audience that by definition no longer exists! It's great! I like all his songs best!
Various Artists: Rave On Buddy Holly (Fantasy/Concord) Who in their right mind doesn't like Buddy Holly? And who doesn't think nearly every song he recorded is completely fab? So put those songs together with an impressive cast of characters including Paul McCartney, Kid Rock, Modest Mouse, Patti Smith, Cee Lo Green, the Black Keys, She & Him and Nick Lowe, among many others, and you've got a sure-fire pleasant listening experience bound to make you wonder which contemporary artist will be similarly covered 50 years from now! This week I'm completely thinking Fred Durst!
Taking Back Sunday: Taking Back Sunday (Warner) OK, just finished the new Taking Back Sunday album and I'm awed to report that it...it...wasn't bad at all! Especially if you're into the kind of emotional, uplifting songs that always get thrown on at the end of movies while the credits roll--you know, to juice up the soundtrack--so that when you get out of the theatre and into your car, you maybe drive a littler more recklessly than usual, and your girlfriend asks you to cool it, but you ignore her and just drive that much faster, and your eyes start to water, and then suddenly, there in the distance, you see a great big IHOP logo and you stop for pancakes! Yeah, like that! Great work, dudes!
Big Sean: Finally Famous (Def Jam) I think one of the more intriguing trends in contemporary Hip-Hop is the so-called "new honesty" that has served as a welcome replacement to the non-stop braggadocio that made so much of the genre tiring during the last century! And so here's up-and-coming Detroit rapper Big Sean with his much-anticipated debut Finally Famous--and let's face the facts, releasing a debut album does make you sort of famous! But Sean's shocking promise to name the album he'll be making in five years Yeah, I'm Still Around, You Got A Problem With That? and the one five years after that Formerly Famous makes him one of a kind! I wonder what the next new trend will be!
Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Junior Mance: Buddy & The Juniors (Hip-O Select) New surprises continue to emerge from the Universal vaults thanks to the Hip-O Select label, and this reissue--of a sort of cult item released by Blue Thumb Records in 1969--is one of the better. Featuring familiar Chicago bluesmen Buddy Guy & Junior Wells paired with jazz pianist Junior Mance, Buddy & The Juniors is low-budget, deliberately informal, and thoroughly delightful--and comes to us as the once-youthful Buddy Guy now celebrates his 75th year. Check it out.
Fever--Little Willie John: A Fast Life, Mysterious Death And The Birth Of Soul by Susan Whitall with Kevin John (Titan Books) One of the more fascinating figures in American popular music has to be '50s R&B singer Little Willie John, whose influence in many ways laid the groundwork for the best soul and R&B music of the decades that would follow. His rise to fame and his tragic decline are superbly captured here by Detroit author Susan Whitall--a terrific writer who, with the assistance of the singer's son Kevin John, tracks down the appropriate people, asks all the right questions, and masterfully puts together an account that is undeniably one of pop music's most enthralling stories. Highly recommended.
The Doobie Brothers: Live At The Greek Theatre 1982: Farewell Tour (Eagle Rock DVD & CD) It's mildly amusing that at the time this was recorded, distinguished bands like the Doobie Brothers, who'd had a massive run at pop radio in the previous decade, were being perceived as the "old wave" being pushed aside by bold newcomers such as A Flock Of Seagulls, the Thompson Twins and, I don't know, Flesh For Lulu--and thus this so-called "farewell" tour. But one look or listen to this project (available both on DVD and CD) puts things in immediate perspective: In their then-11-year career, the band produced an enviable streak of excellent hits, and both configurations of the band--with and without vocalist Michael McDonald--are on display here and in top form. Tough, preofessional stuff that sounds even better with age.
Selena Gomez & The Scene: When The Sun Goes Down (Hollywood) Sometimes Linda Ronstadt gets really out there!