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Pop Music | Record Rack

Tunes to Back Up the Beats

January 27, 2002

**1/2 Nine Inch Nails, "All That Could Have Been," Nothing/Interscope. On this document from NIN's 2000 tour (in stores Tuesday), the edgier songs gain some edge, but the more atmospheric stuff loses atmosphere. So that's a push. Perfectionist Trent Reznor is looser live but can't create the enveloping sonic spaces he gets in the studio. So that's a push too. The set list, if heavy on 1999's "The Fragile" album, is a career-spanning collection, but with no real revisions or revelations, and Reznor's someone from whom we should always expect revelations. So that's a minus. The companion DVD, with more songs plus visuals, is probably a better buy. --Steve Hochman

**1/2 Citizen Cope, "Citizen Cope," DreamWorks. Clarence Greenwood, a.k.a. Citizen Cope, tries too hard on this debut (due Tuesday), with his street-life short stories and snapshots, going heavy on biblical imagery (a confrontation with a Porsche-driving devil in "Salvation"), eccentric characters (the street-hustler portrait "200,000") and a wearily jaundiced vocal delivery. But the balance of quiet despair and perpetual hope bespeaks experience, echoed in the somber keyboard textures and understated rhythms. Affectations and all, at his best he's a John Prine for the hip-hop era. --S.H.

** Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Party, "Body and Soul," Real World. Recorded in Lahore shortly before the great qawwali singer's death in 1997, this set of four numbers (due Tuesday) was retrieved and mixed at Real World. The sound, however, leaves something to be desired, and Khan--despite the astonishing fluency of his melodic invention-- is a bit more subdued than usual. Any recording by this legendary artist is worth having, of course, but qawwali fans should look to his earlier work to experience the full, ecstatic eloquence of Khan's vocal art. --Don Heckman

*** Unwritten Law, "Elva," Interscope. This San Diego band has been bouncing along the beaten path between power-pop and punk since its '95 debut, "Blue Room." Its fourth release (due Tuesday) sees the quintet continuing to buff the fuzz and fury with hooks, harmonies and heartfelt expression. This effervescent collection has hit potential, but unlike the offerings of many of Law's pop-punk peers, it's never predictable. Tinges of '80s arena rock, metal and reggae help make "Elva" a mature yet rompish ride.-- Lina Lecaro

**1/2 State Property, "State Property," Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam. Anchored by respected rapper Beanie Sigel, this sextet delivers a debut collection (due Tuesday) that doubles as the soundtrack of the film of the same name. The group relies on its most prominent member to deliver its fiercest flows. Sigel, whose solo work has been wildly inconsistent, regains his focus here, rocking ravenously over the sinister beats from N-O Joe and Just Blaze. The feeble Freeway and Beanie's other pals pale in comparison. --Soren Baker

**1/2 Lil' Keke, "Platinum in Da Ghetto," In the Paint/KOCH. With his first national release, this respected veteran Houston rapper delivers largely upbeat, celebratory cuts that are difficult to resist. Keke's energetic flows and bouncy beats will likely have Southern deejays salivating, even though his lyrics are nothing remarkable. It's more about mood than meaning with this album, although he does offer some sage words to his son while the world swirls around them. --Soren Baker


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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