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Shooting from the lip

June 01, 2003|Natalie Nichols; Agustin Gurza; Steve Appleford; Steve Hochman


"Shootenanny!" (DreamWorks)


The album title was coined by wittily sardonic singer-songwriter E (a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett) as his idea of an "MTV-style street catch phrase for 'shooting spree.' " "Shootenanny!" is less sonically fractured and assaultive than last year's "Souljacker," as E and such musical collaborators as guitarist Joe Gore and Eels bassist Koool G Murder concoct a relatively organic sound, akin to Beck's more country-folk-oriented works or Brian Wilson's lush, lonely pop.

As usual, E adeptly blends whimsy and bile in bizarre takes on the wide-ranging things that bug or delight him. He savagely rips on the superficiality of "Fashion Awards," gleefully celebrates the virtues of a foul-mouthed "Dirty Girl" and perfectly recalls the endlessness of "Saturday Morning" when you're a little kid.

The music and songwriting are typically stellar, but this collection feels more scattershot, perhaps because it has no overarching concept. Such introspective moments as "Numbered Days" clash with both the lighter fare and such truly unsettling numbers as the cluelessly obsessive "Restraining Order Blues." But the mood shifts stop short of emotional whiplash, and the album subtly mines the dark psychological undercurrents E is so good at exploring.

-- Natalie Nichols

Latin music stars seek new glory


"Presenta ... " (Universal Music Latino/Mercury)


Jose Luis Rodriguez & Raul Di Blasio

"Clave de Amor" (BMG US Latin)

** 1/2

Camilo Sesto

"Alma" (BMG US Latin/Elica)

* 1/2

The music business has not been all that kind to these aging Latin superstars of the 1970s. All but forgotten, they return simultaneously with new releases, as if in some ill-advised class reunion.

Call it the Midlife Crisis Series. As comeback attempts, they underscore how much Latin pop has changed and how difficult it is to recapture old glories.

The biggest flop is Sesto, a singer-songwriter whose likable hits helped identify the era of smooth Spanish crooners. But "Alma" (Soul) is a schizophrenic and soulless collection, jumping from bizarre disco numbers to undistinguished ballads and, oh yes, a few tunes from "Phantom of the Opera."

Venezuela's Rodriguez saves some dignity by sticking to what he does best -- interpreting the classic songs of Spain's Manuel Alejandro, the top composer of that era. Teamed with pianist Di Blasio, "El Puma" renders classy new versions in his still robust voice.

By contrast, Mexico's Emmanuel reinvents himself, doing versions of salsa standards with flashy Miami arrangements. Surprisingly, it works. He has a tender way with the boleros that beats Luis Miguel, and his bold interpretation of Ruben Blades' "Pedro Navaja" reinvigorates a classic. But Emmanuel, known mostly as a singer, missed a chance to go back to his roots as a songwriter. His powerful 1977 debut album was ahead of its time but went mostly unnoticed. Today, its smart and provocative lyrics would truly be in tune with the times.

-- Agustin Gurza

Quick spins

Marilyn Manson

"The Golden Age of Grotesque" (Nothing/Interscope)

** 1/2

Rock's No. 1 ghoul filters his usual cirque du sex and violence through vaudeville and Weimar-era German decadence, offering the expected gleeful obscenity and obsidian-hard industrial-metal-techno. Like Madonna of old, Marilyn Manson has mastered the art of being controversial yet salable, and of making his persona his central art -- as he notes on the bad-breakup rant "(s)AINT." Given how sonically and emotionally repetitive the album becomes, he skirts self-parody by lampooning formulaic pop on one track. But the more subtle commentary of "mOBSCENE" captures the cynicism and pent-up aggression of our spent culture.

-- N.N.


"Serart" (Serjical Strike/Columbia)


System of a Down's Serj Tankian escapes hard-rock friction for the organic and avant-garde in collaboration with Arto Tuncboyaciyan. The result is a challenging mess of jazz and folk, freestyle gibberish and global beats. They share an Armenian heritage and a taste for diverse melody and modern madness. "Love Is the Peace" begins ominously with battle-zone gunfire, while "Devil's Wedding" is set against anxious African rhythms. Some tracks are barely a minute, suggesting ideas that are inspired but unfinished. Abrupt and ambitious.

-- Steve Appleford

Third Eye Blind

"Out of the Vein" (Elektra)

* 1/2

Stephan Jenkins took his time with this one. First, he fired guitarist Kevin Cadogan, co-author of the band's platinum hits. Then he lifted some mediocre ideas and embalmed them like the studio wizard he is. Jenkins still sings as if he means it, whining about all those Hollywood parties he's forced to attend, but the music exceeds even the Goo Goo Dolls' in blandness. Out of gas.

-- S.A.


"My Private Nation" (Columbia)

** 1/2

Name-checking Patrick Swayze and writing the 4,879th pop song built on a Superman reference doesn't exactly make you cutting edge. And singing "I don't want to be some average anybody," as Pat Monahan does in "Counting Airplanes," doesn't make that so -- this San Francisco band is still essentially Matchbox Twenty Jr. But on its third album, Train expands its menu beyond vanilla, with some playfulness in words and music, and producer Brendan O'Brien helping bring some imagination to the arrangements.

-- Steve Hochman

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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