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  Listen Up! 5/10/02 Listen Up!

Friday, May 10

Joi, "Star Kitty's Revenge," Universal Records. There are some great grooves on this record, sparse, clipped funk, with lots of wide open spaces between the bass notes, lots of subtle pulsations and vocal permutations. Joi herself is a limited vocalist, but as such, she resists the urge to go insane like a lot of r'n'b divas. The album seems to be a sex fantasy in equal parts devoted to women's pleasure and men's expectations. Joi does like to cut expectations now and again, though. It's not exactly feminist theory here, you understand, but it might make an interesting subject for a term paper. And, hey, you can dance while you write it.

Dead Boys, "Young Loud and Snotty," Sire Records. Ya know, they don't hold up well. Once upon a time, I dug the heck out of these guys, back in my punk rock crazed youth. "Sonic Reducer" is still a masterpiece, all sharp, piercing guitar riffs and screaming mania, punk at its wildest inventive beginnings. Of course, it turns out this was a song from Cheetah Crome's days in the proto-Pere Ubu band Rocket From the Tombs, and they probably did it even better. The other songs, actual Dead Boys material, just lay flat on the disc, sounding much more like punk by the numbers than a band that was there at the beginning should sound. Part of this is the fault of the imitations that came along to sincerely flatter them in the intervening years. But, part of this is the fault of the lack of imagination these guys had. In many ways, the Dead Boys were the first band to come along and decide that punk rock had to be a certain sound, a certain style; they copped it from Johnny Thunders and Richard Hell but they didn't have the former's heart or the latter's head.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, "Going to a Go-Go/Away We A Go-Go," Motown Records. Motown is really doing up their catalogue right these days. This time we have two classic Smokey albums thrown into one package, with bonus tracks, yet. I say two classic albums, but what we really have is one stone classic, and one merely good follow-up. "Going to a Go-Go" has nothing but brilliance, the very essence of Robinson's mid-sixties professional craftsmanship. Songs of heart-break, songs of true love, songs of looking for a good time. You never get the sense that Smokey actually sat down to express an emotion; instead you get the sense that he looked for the best emotions that would fit his fertile musical ideas. These songs are so well constructed you couldn't tear them apart with the biggest wrecking ball of a demolition company. Now, "Away We A Go-Go" ain't half bad, but there aren't any hits (as opposed to the three that open the other record), and there are some covers that don't quite improve on the originals. Smokey was never an interpretive singer. He could put us in his world perfectly, but trying to sing like Dusty Springfield or Dionne Warwick wasn't his forte, despite the similarity in tonal ranges. Still, with 27 songs, and nearly a dozen and a half as good as anything pop music has ever heard, you can't find many better bargains in any store.

Rolling Stones, "Emotional Rescue," Rolling Stones Records. By 1980 or so, everybody had pretty much decided the Stones were too old to matter anymore. Then came "She's So Cold," one of my all-time favorite cuts by this band that will never stop playing until the last man dies. Beyond that, "Emotional Rescue" has some balls-out rockers, and lots of other rhythmic variety. The songs aren't always the most memorable, but this is a rhythm section album, one on which Keith and Ron and Bill and Charlie shine, while Mick at least sounds like he cares. What's not to like about that?

--Steve Pick



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