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  Listen Up! 6/25/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, June 25

A*Teens, “Pop ‘Til You Drop!,” Stockholm Records. I loved Abba, and these guys are no Abba. But they are young, I think they’re Swedish, they’re beautiful enough to have their own WB drama series, and they make breezy contemporary teen-pop that incorporates at least a stab at originality. I really dug “Floorfiller,” the opening cut, but the rest of the record gets too treacly even for me, which is pretty damn sucrose-filled. I like the lite beats and the cute arrangements; it’s the tunes that stick too closely to clichés for my blood. There’s a version of “School’s Out,” with a guest-appearance by none other than Alice Cooper, that I can’t decide if it’s a brilliant deconstruction or the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. They really don’t sound very concerned that school is actually out; today’s bored youth, I guess, can’t even work up angst about such a traditional subject.

Streetwize, “Smooth Urban Jazz,” Shanachie Records. If you’re the type person who likes to hear saxophones with that horrible squealy tone made famous by David Sanborn’s worst records of the 70s, but have been waiting to hear it applied to modern r’n’b cuts like “Shake It Fast” by Mystikal, or “Brown Sugar” by D’Angelo, this record will be a godsend. For the rest of us, who may appreciate the original versions of these songs but otherwise don’t like any single thing about this record, it’s time for the extended dance remix of John Cage’s “4:57.”

Radney Foster, “Are You Ready For the Big Show?,” Dualtone Music Group. Foster bounces back and forth between genuinely exhilarating power pop and dynamic drown-in-your tears country music balladry. This live album is a damn good example of his prowess in the latter category. It sounded a heck of a lot better to me in the car a few months back the last time I played it, but there’s no denying the twang of these guitars, the passion of his singing, and the classicism of his melodies. This is better than 95% of the alt-country stuff out there.

--Steve Pick



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