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Pop Music | Record Rack

A Little Too Comfortable

July 14, 2002|Dean Kuipers; Natalie Nichols; Steve Hochman; Steve Baltin; Soren Baker

** 1/2

DAVE MATTHEWS BAND

"Busted Stuff"

RCA

Matthews has retreated even further into the sanctuary of his own sound, if that's possible, resulting in a gorgeous sonic flow with absolutely nothing to say. Perhaps it is the fate of jam bands to spiral into the black hole of their intoxicating live experience, but "Busted Stuff" (in stores Tuesday) crosses the line from being pretty compelling to just being pretty.

Nine of the 11 tracks were written for an earlier album that was scrapped in order to work with producer Glen Ballard on 2001's "Everyday." The songs reworked for "Busted Stuff" are not helped at all by being a kind of return to pre-Ballard form.

Despite the anthemic promise of "You Never Know," most of these tunes can't decide if they should perk up and be pop or just stretch into a Van Morrison mantra.

In lieu of a decision, the band digs its own ultimately listenable sound-hole from which the songs struggle to emerge.

The title seems to refer to the fragility of our emotional states. The irony here is that Matthews' comfort level is not nearly busted enough.

--Dean Kuipers

***

THE VINES

"Highly Evolved"

Capitol

This Australian group's debut album is distinctly evocative of "Nuggets," the mother of all '60s garage rock compilations--which makes sense, as singer-guitarist Craig Nicholls' dad was in just such a band, the Vynes. Still, the young group's music isn't strictly retro, but more of that modern-classic rock that mixes in flavors of '70s Detroit punk and '90s Seattle grunge.

The collection alternates between piquant and sweet, like Skittles for your ears. The players do a fine job of balancing the raw vocals and gutty guitar swagger of such exuberant numbers as "Outtathaway!" with more wistful, airy pop songs. Nicholls wails, screams and roars with an unbridled sense of that thing that groups such as the Vines (and the Strokes, and the Hives, and the French Kicks ...) have reconnected to 21st century pop: rebellious fun.

If the Vines fall far short of advocating revolution, they have a broader palette than many similar bands, and their pop sensibilities don't fail during such spacier moments as "Autumn Shade" and "Homesick." They even get away with a dash of ska on the Wings-like "Factory." The music's bright colors and crunchy-chewy texture don't make for a completely satisfying meal, but it offers a momentary pleasure worth savoring.

--Natalie Nichols

** 1/2

VARIOUS ARTISTS

"Music From the Motion Picture

'Austin Powers in Goldmember' "

Maverick

The third Austin Powers comedy drops Mike Myers' time-traveling secret agent smack in the middle of the '70s, and the soundtrack is appropriately cheesy, campy and funky. A mix of vintage numbers and new recordings captures the freewheeling decade's kitschier aspects while underscoring connections between pop then and pop now.

Beyonce Knowles, who plays the vixen Foxxy Cleopatra, bridges the gap with the single "Work It Out," produced by the Neptunes with sexy, angular oomph. Then she slips into her film persona for "Hey Goldmember," an unwieldy fusion of smart-mouth lyrics and bits of KC & the Sunshine Band songs.

The only true original version here is Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star." Instead, the old days are revised in a Dr. Dre remix of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You," not to mention Angie Stone's funky-smooth modern rendition of King Floyd's 1970 hit "Groove Me" and Paul Oakenfold's "1975," an uninspiring mutation of the absurd disco hit "A Fifth of Beethoven."

Myers' contributions amp up the comedy quotient, although the silly Dr. Evil twist on Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life" and the "poignant" Powers pop-rocker "Daddy Wasn't There" don't entirely jibe with the concept.

Still, there's plenty of fun to be had. And, really, bay-bee, isn't that where it's at?

--N.N.

In Brief

** 1/2 Robert Plant, "Dreamland," Universal. The stark emotions and simple beauty of bluesman Bukka White's dire "I Believe I'm Fixin' to Die" and the prayerful plea and Middle Eastern cast of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren" could well have composed the template for Led Zeppelin. Plant and his band over-fuss, and a few originals add little, but his time-weathered voice and perspective add meaningful spins to the old songs and such other choices as Bob Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee."

--Steve Hochman

*** N.O.R.E., "God's Favorite," Def Jam. The former Noreaga scores major points for his unorthodox phrasing and enthusiastic delivery. With his third album, he continues making danceable gangster rap. All-star production team the Neptunes creates warped magic on the single "Nothin' " and delivers muscular keyboard thumps on "Head Bussa." "Love Ya Moms," which samples Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," shows thugs need--and can give-- love too.

--Soren Baker

*** Orbital, "Back to Mine," DMC. As you might expect, the latest mix collection from the U.K. electronic act is anything but a standard dance compilation. The brothers Hartnoll establish the "expect the unexpected" tone with the opening selection, John Barry & His Orchestra's theme from "The Knack." The dance world is also well represented with the likes of EON's synthesizer-heavy "Spice." However, by venturing far out of the genre, Orbital allows fans to feel as if they're getting a look into the duo's private record collection.

--Steve Baltin

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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