This week's new albums by Britney Spears, Radiohead, Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis and Snoop Dogg drive home a point many of us may have--perhaps accidentally--overlooked!
Incredibly, word is that the last decade has in fact been a horrible dream--that's right, all this oil spill, earthquake and natural disaster stuff, let alone that weird business going on in Northern Africa, never actually happened! It was just a test--admittedly a grisly one--put forth by a mysterious power greater than humankind's, apparently just to see how we'd react to it all!
And you know what? Word is that our reaction--going out and getting ice cream, zealously downloading music for free on the Internet, and watching certain television shows--was enough to scare the daylights out of Him! So He decided to rip it all up, start again, and see how we'll get along without His interference!
So now that it's 2001 again, what say we enjoy this week's great new music and share a laugh about the idiotic artists we collectively envisioned en masse that never really existed? And then maybe go out and get some more ice cream, because surely that could do no harm!
Radiohead: The King Of Limbs (TBD Records) Well, this is the week it's finally out physically, as opposed to being available digitally and thus fully capable of being purchased by one of your friends and then shared among a dozen or so of you--in prime waveform quality--and listened to repeatedly until, I don't know, maybe you got tired of it and decided to move on to something else! Cool! I kind of like it, to tell you the truth, though there is a tiny part of me that finds this band mildly interesting but remains incredibly curious why this particular group of experimental doodlers has resonated so strongly among the world's population when so many other, better artists are forced to make an actual living driving taxi cabs in their off hours! Still, there's nothing quite like holding a physical object in your hands--and I'd venture to say that when you unfold the cover and see that the album's actual title is The King Of Limburger Cheeses, your appreciation of this group's artfulness can only increase by leaps and bounds! What else sits there in silence, waiting to be discovered?
Britney Spears: Femme Fatale (Jive) Aw heck, why fight it? I'm completely enraptured by the new Britney Spears album and can't help playing it over and over again! Why? Because my CD player's remote control needs new batteries! But that's beside the point! All I know is, when it comes to dopey dance music--you know what I mean, that stuff with a repetitive beat, a few catchy melodies, and some hot babe repeatedly stating how she has lost all inhibitions, needs a new man, and can give you the time of your life--you can't do much better than Britney these days, especially because, heck, it's probably all true! Now that she's past the stage of being perceived as anything but a major trainwreck--Lady Gaga's next in line--we can all enjoy her for what she is, what she represents, and for the fantasy of driving on Sepulveda Boulevard at 1 in the morning and seeing some blonde girl trying to change a flat tire on her exotic sports car but obviously being too wacked out to do it herself, so you generously pull over, provide her assistance, and finally, at her insistence, follow her back to her house, where she pours a few Brandy Alexanders and starts talking about her mother! Oops, ran out of room!
Willie Nelson, Wynton Marsalis & Norah Jones: Here We Go Again (Blue Note) It would probably be in poor taste to refer to such hallowed acts as Willie N., Wynton M. and Norah J., in the course of paying tribute to the late, great Ray Charles, as "appropriately" calling this album Here We Go Again, but I for one am not especially eager to hear anyone else but Ray Charles singing Ray Charles' best known material, and gathering a batch of inarguable American masters onstage for a live performance of such material is thus almost pre-destined to be something of a yawnfest! And so it has come to pass! Still, whenever I hear Charles' famous song "Busted" performed, I am reminded of hearing it in my youth and wondering a) what, exactly, "busted" precisely meant and b) what relevance cotton being "down to a quarter a pound" could possibly have to a pre-adolescent being driven around Miami by his parents in the early '60s! Later, a new episode of The Flintstones would make me--and, indeed, all my friends--forget everything!
Snoop Dogg: Doggumentary (Priority) It's hard not to fall in line and proclaim your love for Snoop, as he is one of very few rappers who has crossed over and now appeals to an audience of all shapes and sizes, and his drawling persona is just on the right side of obnoxious rascality, if such a word exists! His latest album, reportedly his "11th of all-new material," is more of the same, packed to the brim with superstars ranging from Kanye West and Willie Nelson to the Gorillaz, and laden with heartwarming material such as "I Don't Need No Bitch" and the easy-to-relate-to "Gang Bang Rookie"! I for one look forward to discussing Snoop's latest gem this Sunday afternoon at my church picnic; our typical discussions, which veer toward the philosophical after a few too many beers, will likely focus on the true meaning of this set's undeniable masterwork, "This Weed Iz Mine"! Hey, I'm completely into spelling "is" that way!
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart: Belong (Slumberland) Have to admit to being taken with the sound of these humans, who return here with a second album well-produced by Flood and Alan Moulder and jam-packed with catchy melodies, loud guitars, and a sound that on some levels borrows from the past but still sounds fresh, young, romantic, and buzzsaw-like! That the songs would sound equally as good stripped of all production and played solely on acoustic guitar may have something to with it! It's enough to make me not mind that I've just re-ripped two albums by Gilby Clarke since I can't find the old ones on my hard drive! You too?
Mary Mary: Something Big (Myblock/Columbia) I've always been a fan of Mary Mary, not just because they're sisters, and not just because they tend to color their music with religious overtones, and not just because if you like people named Mary, you're bound to like these guys twice as much! It's because they're excellent singers, they release albums with lead tracks entitled "Something Big" followed by tracks called "Something Bigger," and--I don't know--for the life of me, I find them quite contrary and don't know why! Perhaps I'll find out when I go up the hill to fetch that pail of water!
Peter Bjorn And John: Gimme Some (Star Time International) Unlike the Rolling Stones, who specifically demanded shelter, Swedish trio Peter Bjorn And John merely ask us here for some--and leave the unasked "some of what?" entirely up to us! I'm seeing it as a situation where the three dudes are surrounding a pretty blonde girl on a couch as she's opening up a canister of peanut brittle! I don't mean to stereotype, but the Swedish always strike me as a fairly polite people, so the fact that the three of them--collectively much stronger than the girl in this scenario--clearly could have asked for all of it, but in fact opt not to is part of why I like them so much! Plus, their songs are pretty good! But they could use more whistling!
Erland & The Carnival: Nightingale (Yep Roc) A great new UK trio with apparent ties to the Gorillaz--the band, not the species--well, no, wait a minute--no, never mind--these guys already proved their worth via their prior EP, which covered hip cult folkie Jackson C. Frank's "My Name Is Carnival," and show further growth on this fine set, which oddly recalls the early work of Tim Buckley at times without sounding much like him! Weird! Their hype kit mentions some memorable performance they recently gave at the Apollo Theater, but I mean, c'mon--you can't believe everything you read! Except here!
Heidi Spencer & The Rare Birds: Under Streetlight Glow (Bella Union) Recently saw and chatted with this Milwaukee artist at Austin's South By Southwest fest and liked what I saw and heard; soulful, deep, bluesy singing with a hint of mystery, a keen intelligence at work, and a sense of getting lost in the music, which unlike many other things, is difficult to fake! This album could've been released in 1964, and that's meant as a compliment! Shame about that name thing!
Various Artists: Sin-Atra (Eagle) Proving once and for all that song classics such as "Strangers In The Night," "It Was A Very Good Year," "That's Life" and "New York, New York" were meant to be sung by rock's finest voices--and by this I mean members of Twisted Sister, Deep Purple, Queensryche, Anthrax and Warrant--instead of that pesky Sinatra dude, Sin-Atra finally fills a need that none of us ever knew existed! Sadly, that need involves a deflated balloon, a large amount of saltpeter, a bicycle pump, and old copies of Argosy magazine!