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fall preview | pop music

Is This Year for Rock to Right Itself?

September 17, 2000|ROBERT HILBURN | Robert Hilburn is the Times' pop music critic

If you look closely at the pop music landscape this fall, you might see an old, once-proud flag waving once more: the flag of rock 'n' roll.

Ever since Kurt Cobain's suicide six years ago, rock has been struggling to regain its credibility and footing in a pop world where the energy and artistry have been largely taken over by hip-hop.

Rock will attempt to reassert itself with a fall assault that includes studio albums by U2 and Radiohead and live albums from Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam. Adding to the fall rock resurgence will be CDs by Limp Bizkit, the Wallflowers, Green Day, Marilyn Manson, Everlast, the Offspring and dazzling newcomers At the Drive-In.

The season's most intriguing questions:

* Can U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind," which is due Oct. 31, connect with mainstream fans after the relatively disappointing commercial showing of the Irish band's last album, 1997's "Pop"? In "Behind," U2 draws on the more graceful themes and sounds of its classic "The Joshua Tree" period without sacrificing all the experimental edges of its "Achtung Baby" days.

* Can the arty and ambitious Radiohead, whose "OK Computer" won a Grammy nomination in 1997 for album of the year, hold onto its audience with a daring new album that leans more on lush sonic textures than traditional pop-rock song structures? The collection, "Kid A," will be released Oct. 3.

* Will Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water" finally be a much-needed creative step forward by a band that has shown a once-in-a-generation ability to tap into the psyche of its audience? It arrives Oct. 17.

Don't expect hip-hop to just roll over and let rock regain its glory. There are lots of high-profile releases on the way, ranging from "Restless," the third album from West Coast rapper Xzibit (with Dr. Dre as the executive producer), due Nov. 7, to the first album in three years by the unpredictable but immensely talented Wu-Tang Clan, in stores Nov. 7.

Adding to rap's fall presence will be albums from OutKast , Mystikal , Snoop Dogg , Master P and the highly touted Shyne. On the pop side of hip-hop, Erykah Badu will follow up her exquisite 1997 debut, "Baduizm," with "Mama's Gun" on Oct. 31.

Live, the teaming of Eminem and Limp Bizkit this fall for an arena tour (dates to be announced) may be the most dramatic pairing of red-hot cultural icons in Southern California since Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers played the Los Angeles Sports Arena in 1991.


Robert Hilburn, the Times' pop music critic, can be reached at

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