Anyone who'd dare suggest that today's pop music scene is getting "dumbed down" by design--and there's more than a few saying precisely that--will be in for a rude awakening this week! Sure, there's a lot of dopey music videos out there and, OK, maybe a tad too much emphasis on the risqué, but while you're out there complaining, you're missing the big picture! Common's new album is called Finding Forever! Yo-Yo Ma's new album is called New Impossibilities! Korn's new album is called Untitled!
I have seen the future of contemporary music, and at least two-thirds of it wants to teach us calculus!
Common: Finding Forever (Geffen) A hot return indeed for this soulful and intellectual performer, featuring some fine production from our old friends Kanye West and will.i.am, among others, and guest appearances from Lily Allen and D'Angelo--who, silly me, I had completely forgotten about! Largely because I was envisioning a future scenario wherein Common is at a bar, repeatedly asked his name, and forced to say "I'm Common" over and over again until he realizes it's all just a mean joke! Hey, that would be something!
Korn: Untitled (Virgin) Call me crazy, but I sort of like Korn! The big question, though: Can this daring album title live up to the high standards already set by the Byrds, Marc & The Mambas, Daddy Mack, the Mekons, Muslimgauze, the Mole People, Billy Porter, the Rembrandts, Squarepusher and Billy Joe Walker, Jr.? Even more importantly, isn't it time someone took the band aside and very carefully confided that they spelled their name wrong? Be that as it may, in the words of my favorite rock critic: This is one cracking album that pops, dawg!
Sean Kingston: Sean Kingston (Beluga Heights/Epic) The recent legal ruling proclaiming "Beautiful Girls" to be the official Song Of The Summer was widely acclaimed in both liberal and conservative camps--largely because those Supreme Court dudes are old enough to remember frolicking on the beach back when "Under The Boardwalk" was a hit the first time! A great debut album, mixing hip-hop, dancehall, and a guy I could swear used to star on some Nickelodeon show, Sean Kingston tells it like it is, baby! Dig the final irony: Sean comes from Kingston!
Bob Marley & The Wailers: Roots, Rock, Remixed (Quango/Fontana) Given the official seal of approval from the Marley estate, this version of classic tracks remixed by the sort of guys who do this stuff for a living not only sounds great--it doesn't sound that much different from the way the original songs sounded to people who took that ganja lifestyle-stuff seriously in the first place! At least that's what a guy I passed today on the street told me!
Raspberries: Live On Sunset Strip (Rykodisc) Though I missed this show here in LA at the House of Blues in 2005, I can now either buy this CD or actually purchase a deluxe 3-disc CD/DVD set documenting the entire event! Imagine that! Some said power pop '70s faves the Raspberries--featuring Eric "All By Myself" Carmen--tore the roof off the sucker in this reunion show, and here's our chance to finally see whether that actually happened or was just, you know, a figure of speech!
The 1990's: Cookies (Rough Trade) OK, well if you asked me personally, I would say this is the best album of the week--because it rocks, it swaggers, it's got personality, it's got lyrics like "why don't you start taking drugs again," it's by a Scot whose old band Yummy Fur featured guys from Franz Ferdinand, and, finally, these folks used to back ultra-cult cool-guy singer Damo Suzuki of Can. Plus, how many times have you heard a band dissed because they sounded "very '90s"? Talk about influential!
Kidz Bop Kids: Kidz Bop 12 (Razor & Tie) Haven't actually heard this, but I am distressed by rumors that an apparent lack of "quality" contemporary songs has forced our heroes to cover such oldies as "Dress Rehearsal Rag," "I'm Waiting For The Man," "Welcome To The Jungle" and "Hot For Teacher"! Don't take this the wrong way, but I've always wondered what that "Bop" in their name was supposed to mean!
Bat For Lashes: Fur & Gold (Caroline) Here's a treat: A fab new disc from a UK-based singer/songwriter named Natasha Khan--featuring diverse, atmospheric material, an unexpected bonus-track cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire," and more personality than you can shake a stick at. This music will appeal to anyone in the world who hears it--except, of course, Seattle band the Lashes, who should have never went to that party that night!
Dave Davies: Fractured Mindz (Koch) The first new album by Kinks guitarist Davies since he suffered a stroke a few years back, this should surely be worth a listen for Kinks loyalists worldwide, which is why I'm plugging it! That, plus it gives me a chance to mention that I had dinner with the guy once about 25 years ago and was stunned to find he was a huge fan of blaxploitation flicks, no lie! Also: his name is nearly perfect!
Mario: Go (J) With his massive fan base--particularly among young female teenagers--there's every chance in the world that this album will "go" platinum! Highlights include a massive cast of guests including Nelly, Akon and Alicia Keys and the probing, physiologically accurate single "How Do I Breathe." All things considered, only one thing could make this album better--but Luigi hasn't been heard from in years!