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  Listen Up! 2/25/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Feb. 25

Departure Lounge, "Too Late to Die Young," Nettwerk America Records. Here we have a band willing to make a cute pop music reference by naming a song "Alone Again And," calling to mind Love's classic "Alone Again Or." Departure Lounge aren't quite up to writing music as invigorating, penetrating, or downright inventive as Arthur Lee's pop combo of the 60s did, but they do alright for themselves. (They also have a cute instrumental with some sonic references to Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" called "Tubular Belgians in My Goldfield.") Rather schizophrenic, these guys jump around from synth soundscape pop to guitar rifferama to gentle acoustic balladry, which I guess is another thing they have in common with bands from the olden days. The melodies are simple, but engaging, and they often play against fairly intricate washes of sound in the background. Departure Lounge likes to mix in samples and beats with their basic rock arrangements, and the result is a mish-mash that actually sneaks up on you. You don't always realize just how thick the sound is until you notice you've been hearing a lot of extra noises beyond the vocals and guitar/bass/drums. Robyn Hitchcock lends slide guitar to one cut, and harmonica to another, for those of you who like to be obsessive.

Garrison Starr, "Songs From Take Off to Landing," Back Porch Records. Not what I was led to expect, this is Americana transferred into the realms of bad AOR rock. She can sing alright, but the songs ain't nothing, and the arrangements are just pounding drums and loud guitars. It claims to be a natural favorite for fans of Aimee Mann and Sheryl Crow, but there's none of the former's taste or the latter's chops.

Echo and the Bunnymen, "Live in Liverpool," spinART Records. They're back, recorded live last year, doing all the old familiar favorites, and sounding a little less emotionally devastating, and a lot more solidly professional. They deliver the goods musically, but you ain't gonna be moved by these recordings unless you were already moved by the originals back in the 80s.

Cher, "Living Proof," Warner Bros. Records. Oh, the sad sad sound of follow-ups to fluke hit singles. Desperately trying to recreate "Believe," using the vocoder, redoing the same old thump-thump rhythms, the same kind of sing-song melodies. Desperation is the worst thing to hear in pop music, and this album may by among the most desperate I've ever heard.

Alanis Morisette, "Under Rug Swept," Maverick Records. There are people out there who really hate Alanis Morisette's hit singles. I'm not one of them, but I can't say I like them much, either. I will say, though, that if any of these songs wind up as hits, I may switch to the hate camp. There's not been much music more insufferably strident, more devoid of meaning beyond the assertion of one woman's right to be noticed. Look, I've got nothing against ego, but I'd like to hear something in the music besides that. Oh,hey, one of these songs is actually called "Narcissus." And I'm guessing it's not ironic, either.

Various Artists, "Drunk on Rock Volume One,"1-94 Recordings. A bunch of bands you've never heard of try to recreate the New York Dolls or Johnny Thunders other bands, all without much effect. One guy does try the novel idea of singing like John Mellencamp over the Thunders-styled rock, but the joke wears thin really fast, and I'm not even sure it's supposed to be funny.

--Steve Pick



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