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  Listen Up! 3/18/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Mar. 18

N.E.R.D., "In Search of . . .," Virgin Records. I don't know what kind of lousy mood I was in the first time I heard this a few weeks ago, but right now this sounds so sly, so sexy, so exhilarating! This is the project of r'n 'b's hottest producers of the moment, the Neptunes. They recorded these songs with samples and computers, then scrapped the whole project, and did it again with a live band augmented by occasional samples. Whether or not the original was any good, I'll never know, but this record is a blast. It's a perfect mix of traditional 60s soul and rock songwriting - think Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Mayfield as strong influences - with slamming contemporary beats and quite a few 70s funk references. Music this danceable makes it difficult to sit at my desk and get work done.

Andrew W.K., "I Get Wet," Island Records. The first song reminds me nostalgically of some of the less interesting late 70s English punk bands, the ones that chanted with that working class accent while emulating Slade in their minds. This stuff is way more produced, with more tracks, and some synthesizer chords added to the mix. The second song reminded me of the first song. The third song reminded me of the reminder of the first song. Etc. He only knows one thing, and he knows it full tilt.

Ann Nesby, "Put It on Paper," Universal Records. Remember those bad r'n'b records of the 80s, with all the oversinging and none of the songs? This sounds just like that. Sadly, a duet with Al Green sounds like he might as well be from that decade, too. On the other hand, "Lovin' Is Really My Game" sounds like a lost disco classic.

The Dickies, "The Incredible Shrinking Dickies," Captain Oi! Records. A reissue of the first Dickies album, in all its hilarious glory. These guys understood punk rock as a lark, as something to skewer mainstream society with, as something to bring guys and girls together to unleash energy. Their big hit was "Paranoid," a frenzied speedy cover of the Black Sabbath song, with a singer who sounded like Ozzy Osbourned played on 78. Their originals were peppy and funny, too. I can't say I ever cared about the Dickies, but seeing them play back in 1981 was one of the highlights of my punk rock life. They always sound nostalgic to me now.

Raul Malo, "Today," Omtown Records. The single best recording I've heard in the last year has been "Every Little Thing About You," third track on this album. Malo has always been a great singer, spending all those years leading the Mavericks. Now that his band has broken up, he's gone headfirst into an interesting Latin/pop style, to excellent results. "Every Little Thing About You" builds and builds and builds, generating an explosive release of passion, revealing a love that consumes and bursts into flames, yet never losing the shape of the melody. There are no other songs this good, but the rest of them are all strong, too, whether sung in English or Spanish.

Roots Manuva, "Run Come Save Me," some label. Electro-reggae-rap, simplistic rhythmically, and dull to hear.

--Steve Pick



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