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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Invisible, broken and homegrown
by Gregg Shapiro
2001-09-26

This article shared 1393 times since Wed Sep 26, 2001
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If you didn't know better, when you heard the first notes of "Let The People Know," the soulful funk of the opening track from Toploader's major-label debut disc Onka's Big Moka ( Epic ) , you might think you were listening to the new Jamiroquai album. You'd be wrong of course, although, like Jamiroquai, Toploader hails from the U.K. The next track, a cover of King Harvest's 1972 smash hit "Dancing In The Moonlight," is a blast from the past. Legitimately falling somewhere between Jamiroquai and Travis ( with a dash of the Black Crowes ) , especially on tracks such as "Breathe," "Do You Know What Your Future Will Be?," "Only For A While," "Just Hold On," and "Just About Living," Toploader is nearly top notch.

Almost ten years after the release of their debut disc, Tindersticks continue to create music that stands apart from their contemporaries. Moody and remote, yet thrilling and wrenching. Their all too brief new album Can our love... ( Beggars Banquet ) moves on like a summer shower, effecting the air pressure before and after its arrival. From the acoustic darkness of "Dying Slowly" to the slightly more rhythmic Al Green-soul of "People Keep Comin' Around" and the near-country balladry of "Don't Ever Get Tired" to the stormy combination of Stuart Staples's singular vocals and Dickon Hinchliffe's electric violin on "Chillitetime," you know that you are better off listening to this disc on the sunniest days.

Travis brings their own luminescence to the radiant The Invisible Band ( Epic/ Independiente ) . Following 1999's acclaimed The Man Who, on which they refined their sound, The Invisible Band doesn't waste a moment of the momentum. Lead singer Fran Healy gets full songwriting credit on the album, and one listen will tell you that he has developed into a first-rate pop songwriter. Each of the dozen songs on this disc could potentially be a hit on college, modern rock, and even adult contemporary radio stations. "Sing," the opening track and first domestic single, is already a success, and the video ( involving a fancy dinner party food fight ) is too. "Dear Diary" reminded me of early Radiohead ( that's a compliment ) , while tunes such as "Side," "Pipe Dreams," "The Cage," "Safe," "Follow The Light," and the delightful "Flowers In The Window," are sure to sound as good in twenty or thirty years as they do today. At this rate Travis won't be invisible for long.

Speaking of Radiohead, their latest album, the gorgeous Amnesiac ( Capitol ) feels like the third part of a trilogy that they started with 1997's OK Computer and continued on 2000's bold Kid A. Landing, sonically, somewhere between the two album, Amnesiac combines the synthetic instrumentation that dominated Kid A with the guitars, piano and other traditional instruments that grounded OK Computer. Rarely has a band been able to successfully speak to both the rock club and rave crowd in the way that Radiohead has done. Additionally, stunning ballads such as "Pyramid Song," "You And Whose Army?," "Morning Bell/Amnesiac," make Radiohead appealing to those wearing black ( long sleeves, long pants ) in ninety degree weather.

Polichinelle ( Atlantic ) by The Prayer Boat is also beautiful, in ways that connects it to the aforementioned albums by Radiohead, Travis and Tindersticks. Ironically, lead singer/ songwriter Emmett Tinsley has been compared to both Thom Yorke ( Radiohead ) and Fran Healy ( Travis ) . You'll understand when you hear songs such as "Saved," "It Hurts To Lose You," "Dead Flowers," "Soon The Stars Will Steer Me," "Dark Green," and "In My Arms Again."

On their latest album Know Your Enemy ( Virgin ) , the trio known as Manic Street Preachers, who gave a concert in Cuba in February of this year, are as political and punchy as ever. Beginning with the Susan Sontag quote in the CD booklet, you know this is not your average UK pop outfit. The proof is there in the "cosmetic polemic" of "Intravenous Acoustic," the Beach Boys jangle of "So Why So Sad," the civil rights campaign of "Let Robeson Sing," the funky EU slam of "Miss Europa Disco Dancer," the Cuba libre of "Baby Elian," and so on.

Idlewild makes a racket appropriate for a young quartet on their album 100 Broken Windows ( Capitol/Odeon/Food ) . The punky pluck of songs such as "Little Discourage," "I Don't Have The Map," "Listen To What You've Got," and "Mistake Pageant," are wild indeed. Hefner, on the other hand, has figured out a way to express themselves in a pleasant and agreeable manner this wanders in and out of glam and new wave and other musical styles that require both a sense of nostalgia and a sense of humor on their album We Love The City ( Too Pure ) . If Pulp and The London Suede had a son, he might sound like Hefner.

Speaking of The London Suede, JJ72 has been compared to that band. The young trio ( two men and a woman ) have also warranted comparisons to Joy Division, and you may as well throw in Placebo, while you're at it. Their eponymous debut disc on Lakota/Columbia was a big hit across the ocean. Tracks such as "October Swimmer," "Long Way South," "Undercover Angel," and "Surrender," could be just the ticket to stateside success. If you want some relief from the passionate fury of Manic Street Preachers and Idlewild, may I suggest a hit of XTC. As they did with their critically acclaimed comeback disc Apple Venus, Volume One, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding ( of XTC ) decided to share the demos for the songs on Apple Venus, Volume Two. Fans and followers alike get to hear early versions of tracks such as "Stupidly Happy," "In Another Life," "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love," "Lie For A Lie," and "Church Of Women," to mention a few.

**Beautiful Creatures @ House Of Blues 10.3

**Endo @ The Vic 10.4 & 5

The harder they rock

By Gregg Shapiro

If you've been wringing your hands and tattooed knuckles in anticipation of the new System Of A Down disc, unclench. Toxicity ( American ) has been released ( along with a whole lot of tension ) . Pissed off and passionate, the four men in System Of A Down distinguish themselves by adding exotic touches that sound like something they might have heard while growing up in their Armenian-American households. Political ( "Prison Song" ) and potentially popular ( the album's somewhat accessible first single "Chop Suey" ) , System Of A Down are on the rise, if Serj Tankian's vocal chords can last.

An endless supply of "nu-metal" angst can also be found on the shelves of your favorite music store. By the time you've listened to all of these albums, James Hetfield of Metallica might be out of rehab.

Right off the bat, the quartet called Alien Ant Farm earns points for having a sense of humor on their album ANThology ( New Noize/Dreamworks ) . Clever album title aside, their cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" has earned them "buzz worthy" status on MTV ( and the video definitely deserves it ) . Dryden Mitchell, the self-described "song sayerer," has a voice that can stand up to his band-mates' raging guitars without sounding as if he is earning polyps.

Drowning Pool , whose album is titled Sinner ( Wind-Up ) , is also making a splash on MTV with the video for their song "Bodies." With its propulsive beat and catchy chorus - "Let the bodies hit the floor" - I'm almost tempted believe that there's nothing wrong with lead singer Dave Williams, as he insists in the song. But seriously, I wish them all the best. I'll just sit here in the corner and nurse my eardrums.

A rehabilitated Scott Weiland is back with his glam-metal band-mates on their latest disc Shangri-La Dee Da ( Atlantic ) . "Days Of The Week," "Black Again," and "Transmissions From A Lonely Room," are worth a listen, but these guys are starting to sound really old compared to the young-bloods sneaking up behind them, reaching for the heavy metal crown.

Stone Temple Pilots probably don't have much to worry about when it comes to Adema and their self-titled Arista debut disc. "Freaking Out" is an almost slamming "woe is me" tune about "drying out," and "Speculum" is as unpleasant as a visit to the gynecologist. Derivative and dull, if this is the best that Arista has to offer in these post-Clive Davis days, they might want to try to woo him back.

Forty-year-old Henry Rollins has never looked sexier than he does in his tight-fitting black t-shirt and black leather pants on the back cover of Nice ( Sanctuary/2.13.61 ) the new album by Rollins Band. I've always preferred Rollins, credited as "throat" ( as opposed to vocals ) on the disc, in his spoken-word mode when he seems less threatening and more human. Less-metallic numbers such as the funky "Up For It" and "Your Number Is One," reveal another side to Rollins, although he seems to be most comfortable when the veins are bulging in his neck.

You can hear the influence of seminal metal band AC/DC on "1 A.M.," the opening track on Beautiful Creatures' major-label debut disc ( Warner Brothers ) . They maintain the metal-mania throughout, occasionally peaking on songs such as "Ride," "Kickin' For Days," "Goin' Off," and the Van Halen-esque "I Got It All."

There is plenty more where this came from. Here is a brief list of recent hard rocking releases: Evolve by Endo ( DV8/Columbia ) , the self-titled discs by Nullset ( Grand Royal ) and Onesidezero ( Maverick ) , Volume 1 ( Island ) by CKY, Tincan Experiment ( Ultimatum/Artemis ) by 6Gig, Perfect Self ( Loud/Columbia ) by Stereomud, New Killer America ( RCA ) by Skrape, Headtrip To Nowhere ( Columbia ) by Flybanger, From Bliss To Devastation ( TVT ) by Vision Of Disorder, Revolution ( Maverick ) by Insolence, and The Hammering Process ( Solid State ) by Living Sacrifice. Don't forget the expanded and enhanced reissues of albums by eighties metal/hair-bands ( the godfathers of the current crop of "nu-rock" acts ) Accept's Balls To The Wall, Europe's The Final Countdown, and Quiet Riot's Metal Health ( which contains the hit "Cum On Feel The Noize" ) , as well as The Best of Britny Fox ( all on Portrait/Epic/Legacy ) . --


This article shared 1393 times since Wed Sep 26, 2001
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