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  Listen Up! 4/9/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Apr. 9

Tom Verlaine, "The Miller's Tale," Virgin Records. I wrote about this once before, but that time I played the live disc. This time I went with the compilation of his greatest material, except that it leaves out lots of stuff equally good. Suffice it to say his liquid guitar tone is masterful, and his songs are oblique and brilliant. I know that doesn't suffice, really, but I've got a lot of work to do right now.

Mr. Len, "Pity the Fool," Matador Records. I guess Mr. Len is a dj who put together this compilation of underground hip-hop. While suffering the same lack of hooks that most underground hip-hop wears as a badge of honor, this stuff tends to be more interesting harmonically, with lots of odd-ball samples in the backgrounds, and intriguing sing-song ways of rapping without aping the nursery rhymes of the big boys and girls. Interesting stuff, though I expect I'll forget all about it by tomorrow.

George Harrison, "All Things Must Pass," Capitol Records. Oh, everybody already knows how good this is. Harrison wrote a shitload of great songs, and he and Phil Spector went crazy molding them all into tiny symponies of pop perfection. Me, I'll stack "What Is Life" against anything any of the Beatles did after the break-up, and I think it would do no worse than tie.

Rolling Stones, "Let It Bleed," Abkco Records. It's funny to think this record once sounded so absolutely, intensely, manically nasty. Now, it sounds sedate, pristine, controlled. Oh, the energy remains, and the quality is not lessened. It's just that the world has passed this record by, in one sense, and nastiness of a far more dangerous nature is far too easy to come by. What remains is craft, and the craft is irrefutable in these grooves, these licks, these rhythmic ticks and vocal spits. The meaning of these songs may be less aggressive than we once thought, and entirely, gloriously sensual.

Helmet, "Meantime," Interscope Records. All these years selling used CDs, seeing hundreds of copies of this album come through the store, both in and out, and I've never heard them before today. I always thought they were some artsy kind of band, maybe like an angular Blind Melon or something. Totally wrong. They were just a sludgy metal band, with the basic post-syncopated hard rock drum patterns of thousands of similar bands, and a vocalist who croons like Ozzy Osbourne and growls like, oh, those guys who growl. The guitar riffs are workmanlike, I guess, but not very interesting. I could bang my head to this if I felt desperate to bang my head, but I hear nothing that sets them apart from anybody else who ever did this sort of thing.

--Steve Pick



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