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  Listen Up! 3/31/03 Listen Up!

Monday, Mar. 31

Blondie, “The Hunter,” Capitol Records. Believe it or not, I’ve never heard this Blondie album before. It was the sixth of their career, and following the relatively disappointing and inconsistent “Autoamerican” didn’t make anybody rush out to buy it. The goofy wig Debbie Harry wore on the front cover helped to scare me off, too, as did the bad reviews. So, how is it? Not terrible, by any means. I suppose there were probably a whole lot better records in 1982 competing for attention, but in 2003, this is a pleasant trifle. The playing is great, and Harry’s voice may never have sounded fuller. The songs aren’t exactly memorable, which is probably why nobody gave it a good review when it came out. Blondie’s first four records are so good that the band is always held to a much higher standard than their talents may be able to achieve any more.

King Crimson, “The Power to Believe,” Sanctuary Records. A long time ago, I used to really want to hear a new King Crimson record. But the last twenty years or so have seen the band shrink into at least personal irrelevance to me. Oh, I can still be impressed by the Frippertronic guitar textures, those gloopy chords and intricate time changes that spell Crimson. But, once upon a time, King Crimson made art rock that a) rocked and b) had memorable passages that made you want to hear the record again. Nowadays, it’s just a brand name for revisiting the same old ideas without the hooks.

Various Artists, “A Blow to the State,” Coup D’etat Records. A sampler of underground hip-hop that sounds based more on old school electro beats than on anything modern. I’m enjoying this, but I haven’t been paying much attention to it. I don’t know, for example, if these songs really have anything to do with the politics suggested by the title. I do know the MC Paul Barman song on here, from his album “Paulelujah.” This guy is an extremely thoughtful and genuinely funny analyst of social and political attitudes. He also doesn’t sound old school or new school; he’s completely his own man.

--Steve Pick


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