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  Listen Up! 5/29/02 Listen Up!

Wednesday, May 29

Oakenfold, “Bunkka,” Maverick Records. Well, the guy does make muzak that sounds good. Nothing particularly interesting ever happens, but it always sounds good. Rich, deep focused bass and drum sounds with delicious synthesizer gurgles, swooshes, bumps, and swirls all bounce around the head with reckless abandon. But, remember, nothing ever happens. Some of these songs have regular vocals that are emotionless but pretty, and are melodically obvious as can be. Others have vocal tracks of spoken words or samples. Nothing ever happens, and this ain’t no heaven. The best song, “Starry-Eyed Surprise” is kinda cool, a bouncy little cut with samples that sound like they’re taken from “Everybody’s Talkin’,” and a catchy vocal from somebody named Shifty Shellshock. Also, Ice Cube sounds pretty good in this different, more expansive environment.

Grant Green, “First Session,” Blue Note Records. This stuff is so smooth, so alive, so swingin’, so gentle and invigorating. Green was just about the most perfect jazz guitarist ever, and his stuff stands up 42 years after it was recorded. Working with the likes of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, Sonny Clark, Butch Warren, and Bily Higgins, Green soars through seven cuts of jazz bliss.

XTC, “Coat of Many Cupboards Sampler,” Caroline Records. Coming soon, yet another box set of XTC stuff, some live, lots of demos, outtakes, home recordings, rehearsal extracts, and stuff like that. This sampler shows that, like everything else that’s surfaced from the olden days of this amazing band, they could do very little wrong in their prime. The same songs I’ve loved to death for 20 years sound just as powerful slower, faster, more trebly, wilder, more sedate, with odd-ball counterpoints, in fact any old way they chose to play them.

Guided By Voices, “Universal Truths and Cycles,” Matador Records. What’s that term Scariano likes to use for bands that get lots of praise without ever doing anything to deserve it? “The Big Lie.” That’s it. Well, he normally loves these guys (though he’s not too high on this album), but I’ve never understood it. They’ve done less than half a dozen out of 200 or so songs that you can remember ten minutes after they’re over. They rock out engagingly, I guess, but not memorably. And, it’s not like the musicianship is anything better than average.

--Steve Pick



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