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  Listen Up! 4/15/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Apr. 15

The Meat Purveyors, "All Relationships Are Doomed to Fail," Bloodshot Records. The Meat Purveyors walk a thin line between irony and sincerity, between making fun of music and achieving genuine emotional resonance. My favorite song here, first listen through, is a spirited country twangy bluegrassy rendition of Ratt's 80s hit, "Round and Round." Although the original, "Thinking About Drinking," comes close. Both cuts hit you over the head with cleverness, but it's kind of refreshing to hear music that even tries to be clever. Besides, Jo Walston has a clean, clear, straight-forward vocal approach that seems capable of making any kind of song believable. And, if there are no virtuosos on the instruments, these guys play with spirit all the time. I saw them live a few years back, and I still remember how uplifting their performance was.

Prince Buster, "FABulous Greatest Hits," Sequel Records. I played this a couple weeks ago, and wanted to hear it again. Infectious rhythms, but you know that ska sound. It's Buster's vocals that set him apart from legions of other ska hitmakers of the 60s. He can't sing nearly as well as many of his contemporaries, but he's brassy as hell, and gets by on sheer panache. You just believe him, no matter what he's singing or speaking. I don't think I' ve ever heard another song quite like "Big Five," with lyrics such as "Today I smoke an ounce of weed, tonight I'm gonna plant a seed in a woman alright."

The Misfits, "The Misfits box set," Caroline Records. Despite selling hundreds and hundreds of Misfits CDs in my career in record retail, I've never really heard their "classic" stuff before today. They sound like a decent, average punk rock band of the late 70s, with maybe a Jim Morrison/Doors fixation applied to the usual rifferama. The drums come close to 70s new wave, which is interesting, but not all that close, since the songs are played so fast. Clearly, the band's success rested on their ability to find a market niche by going over the top with the horror movie stuff. Because, if they hadn't had the hair and the outfits and the album covers, I bet we'd never have heard of them.

Ohio Players, "Honey," Mercury Records. Ballads that drip with honey vocals and punchy horns, and dance cuts that pound the funk as hard as anybody did back in the day. This is a classic, featuring the hit "Love Rollercoaster," one of the greatest records ever made.

Black Sabbath, "We Sold Our Soul For Rock'n'Roll," Warner Bros. Records. I' ve been around a long time, ya know? I've seen Black Sabbath go from being that dumb-ass example of the worst rock music had to offer to the beloved icons they are today. There have been moments when I've actually enjoyed some of their records, though that's always been kind of in the way I used to enjoy "Melrose Place" on TV. No, scratch that - the ironic appreciation is there, sure, but "Melrose Place" had a sex appeal to it that I've never gotten from Ozzy and the boys. And, besides, I used to religiously watch "Melrose Place" every week. Nope, maybe this is more like the way I enjoy a good hot dog bun. It's something that gives me pleasure without inducing any emotional attachment to it at all. Anyway, this record is something of an early greatest hits, I believe, and it rocks in that dumb ol' Sabbath way, with sludge riffs and Ozzy's bellowing croon, and the least interesting rhythms in pop history.

The Flatlanders, "Now Again," New West Records. The most eagerly anticipated record in the alt-country, singer-songwriters, AAA, and who knows what other camps, this thing lives up to expectations. Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, and all the lesser known original members of the Flatlanders get together for their first recording together in better than 30 years. They don't hold back great material for use in their solo albums, either. There are songs here that could easily become classics after a few listens. First time through, I'm enamored of Hancock's "Julia, and the three-way co-written "Yesterday Was Judgement Day." One of the coolest things this time around is the use of vocal harmonies and counterpoint, something I don' t remember being this prominent on the first Flatlanders record. I'm thinking this has a pretty good chance of being right up there with the best albums to come out this year.

Superchunk, "Here's To Shutting Up," Merge Records. I swear they sound like Kirsty MacColl, but with less inventive melodies. Not that these tunes are poor, they're just not up to the level of what they sound like. Still, nice, pleasant, disposable pop, with lots of swirling guitars and pedal steel, and the like.

--Steve Pick
   

 

 

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