Uber-producer Timbaland has assisted Justin Timberlake in bringing "SexyBack" and publicly offered to pull Britney Spears out of her quotidian existence of wardrobe malfunctions and bad marriages with a forward-looking comeback record. The producer continues to push both hip-hop and pop into new territory with a conquistador's zeal.
But when it came to recording his second solo album, "Shock Value" (which came out last week), Timbaland's governing ethos was back to the future -- specifically, the Me Decade.
"It's '80s rock," he explains of "Shock Value's" sound. "Soul, hip-hop, reggae. That's what it is."
His guest collaborator list reads like a dossier from the cutting edge of now, however: Timberlake, Dr. Dre, Nelly Furtado, Jay-Z and even Elton John and She Wants Revenge all lend their hands. And while an overall '80s pop aesthetic is responsible for its electro-throbbed ambience, one particular rock opus of yesteryear informed "Shock Value's" organization.
"I structured the album like a movie, like Pink Floyd's 'The Wall,' " Tim continues. "I put it together in a way that makes it different. Some of everything rolled into one -- that's what I'm trying to give you."
Bad Religion backs off current events
A firebrand force in Los Angeles punk, Bad Religion is known for tackling Big Important Issues. Readying its 14th album, "New Maps of Hell," for July release against a backdrop of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and polarizing politics at home, you'd be forgiven for expecting a certain amount of social outcry on the CD. But the group's songwriter-guitarist Brett Gurewitz says that's not the case.
"It's pointedly less political this time," he says. "Well, it's not nonpolitical. What it is, is non-topical. I think we're more inspirational when we're less topical. The music can be more of a catalyst if it's less specific on topical things."
It's a return to past form of sorts; in the band's early days, Gurewitz would truck over to the UCLA dorm room of lead singer Greg Graffin to write and shape songs. Now, Graffin is an instructor teaching life sciences on the campus. "So it's kind of cool. After classes, he's been coming over to my house to work on this. It's just like the old days."
The band, which came together in 1980, has had a bumpy history. Gurewitz, also the owner of Epitaph Records, left Bad Religion in 1994 amid much rancor. But he returned to the fold in 2002 and played a central role two years later with its critically hailed album "The Empire Strikes First."
And now, he says standards for the new 17-song release are high: "We're looking for a strong return to form."
There'd better be plenty of snacks
The first Smoke on the Water Music Festival is set for the Queen Mary in Long Beach this month, boasting a roster of performers who never met a bong they didn't like: the Kottonmouth Kings, Cypress Hill rapper Sen Dog, Kingspade, Bedrin Daddys, Dogboy and Dirty Heads among them.
The event's codified marijuana motif also extends to its date: April 20, a.k.a. "420," which in cannabis culture circles is an internationally celebrated holiday -- a kind of Fourth of July for stoners.
-- Chris Lee