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Pop Music | Record Rack

Norah Jones Weaves a Haunting Allure; Super Furry Animals Study Anthropology

March 17, 2002|Robert Hilburn; Steve Hochman; Richard Cromelin; Kevin Bronson; Steve Baltin; Soren Baker; Agustin Gurza

Duplicity and rejection, loyalty and self-reliance--it's pretty much the same mud fellow Midwesterner Liz Phair wallowed in, but Elmore bakes it with resolve, guitars firing, keyboards fluttering, drums struggling mightily to keep up. One stride ahead of the pop/punk rattle, Elmore's flat-like-an-angel vocals belie some of her songs' feral content: You've learned to play the victim perfectly / If everything's my fault you're not to blame / for all your simpering diatribes on how I've caused you so much pain.

Her streaming anecdotes give the listener the feeling of walking right into the middle of life-altering events. Maybe, now that Elmore is hitting the clubs and not the law library, we have. The Reputation performs tonight at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, Monday at Spaceland in Silver Lake and Wednesday at the Glass House in Pomona.

--Kevin Bronson



"Blade II" soundtrack"


The teaming of some the biggest names from the genres of hip-hop and electronic music gives the soundtrack to "Blade II" a unifying concept. But despite the genre-crossing duets, including Cypress Hill with Roni Size and Paul Oakenfold with Ice Cube, this is still a collection (due in stores Tuesday) of various artists, and as such it suffers from the inconsistency that plagues many compilations.

Eve and Fatboy Slim's "Cowboy" is a complete mess, with Eve rushing out cliches over the normally skilled Slim's clanging instrumentation, which sounds like a child banging kitchen utensils. On the opposite end is Massive Attack and Mos Def's "1 Against 1," whose rhythmic digital beats make an excellent contrast for Def's up-tempo rhyming. Also notable is "Tao of the Machine," a natural meshing of BT's large trance hooks and the Roots' rapid-fire delivery.

These and the other successful tracks, including Moby and Mystikal's dark "Gettin' Aggressive," work because the styles find a way to coexist. But more often, one artist overpowers the other, as Redman does to Gorillaz in "Gorillaz on My Mind." The idea behind the "Blade II" soundtrack is a good one. Maybe by "Blade III" it'll be perfected.

-- Steve Baltin



"Walking With Thee"


Let's see: Hail from Liverpool. Endorsed by the alchemist laureate of modern rock, Thom Yorke. Named buzzworthy by Rolling Stone. Original shtick--they wear surgical masks while performing.

Good thing, because the arty babble emanating from this quartet's second album is so ... well, dirty. Imagine a surf/punk band with broken guitars locked overnight in a cobwebbed studio, and here is what you get--wobbly organ lines and assorted keyboard squalor that pulse behind Ade Blackburn's measured bleating. The haunting results feel as if the players have scared the songs out of their instruments.

While their sound makes for an intriguing change of pace, songs such as "Harmony," "Come Into Our Room" and the title track merely brim with drama rather than deliver any sort of payoff. Perhaps that's enough. But maybe--amid all that smoldering and no fire--you root for Clinic's drone to exceed its buzz.

Clinic performs Tuesday at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.


In Brief

*** Billy Bragg & the Blokes, "England, Half-English," Elektra. Having explored 20th century Americana via Woody Guthrie lyrics and collaborations with Wilco in two albums, the London leftist returns his social critic's attention with new insights and vigor to life as an "Anglo hyphen Saxon in" Bragg celebrates the proliferation of other multicultural U.K. hyphenations in both words (the Ian Dury-like title song) and music (with former 3 Mustaphas 3 string player Ben Mandelson and former Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan leading the Blokes). S.H.

** Ol' Dirty Bastard, "The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones," D3. With a real life more chaotic than any of the ones depicted on his crazed recordings, this Wu-Tang Clan member must have patched together his third album (due Tuesday) in between trips to rehab and prison. ODB's maniacal, rancid raps ring with his typical paranoia, but he seems like a guest on his own project. In fact, a bevy of cameos from less charismatic rappers and the collection's B-level production create their own set of tribulations--for listeners.

--Soren Baker

*** Vocal Sampling, "Cambio de Tiempo," Ciocan Music. It's been a long road to U.S. release for this third album by Cuba's astonishing a cappella vocal group. Recorded two years ago and released last year in Europe, the 14-song collection got derailed here by Sept. 11. The wait is worth it. The six-man group, founded for fun in 1992, has perfected its vocal ventriloquism and expanded its repertoire with outstanding original songs by leader Rene Banos, such as the clever narrative "Melodia de la Impaciencia."

--Agustin Gurza


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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