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  Listen Up! 6/25/03 Listen Up!

Wednesday, June 25

Tom Waits, “Swordfishtrombones,” Island Records. It doesn’t feel like I’ve lived with this record for twenty years, but there’s the copyright date on the back of the CD. I remember the shock of hearing it the first time, of discovering all this weirdness, all those voices from one man, all that twisted Kurt Weill-inspired cabaret influence, all those world weary lyrics. Eventually, of course, I realized more importantly than any of these things was Waits’ unabashed romanticism, vying with his cynicism for top place and winning most of the time. Yeah, “16 Shells From a 30.6” is pure aggression, and a blast at that, but “Shore Leave,” “In the Neighborhood,” “Underground”; these songs are pure beauty. Waits would actually surpass this record in quality with his next release, “Rain Dogs,” but he would never stray very far from its template again.

Cheap Trick, “Special One, “Big3 Records. I was loving this record until the volume got turned down to enable my fellow employees to talk to each other. What do they think this is, a workplace or something? Anyway, the boys still have what it takes to rock’n’roll. Simple songs, big hooks, powerful grooves, and just enough weirdness to make it Cheap Trick.

Various Artists, “Mark Lamarr Presents . . . Duke Reid the Trojan: Nuclear Weapon: Rare and Previously Unissued Early 60’s Ska,” Trojan Records. I wrote about this a couple weeks ago. It’s even better the second time you hear it, unmitigated good-time party music, dance with your baby until you’re ready to do the deed stuff. Most of these cuts are extremely rare, all of them sound incredible. After years of enduring poorly remastered ska, it’s great to hear this music with the vibrant, clear sound of this album.

Metallica, “St. Anger,” Elektra Records. This ain’t your big brother’s Metallica, or your headbanging son’s, for that matter. It’s a new punkish Metallica, one informed by the whiplash frenzy of “Kill ‘Em All” and the earliest records, with maybe a hint of the pop savoir faire of the last few records. That is to say, if you’ve been listening all along, you’ll recognize the band you’ve watched go through changes; if you haven’t, you’ll probably just raise your fist in the air and enjoy the rock. I know I’ve read stuff about the lyrics being all 12-steppy, but who cares what he’s singing? James Hetfield is snarling righteously enough for me, and the band is pummeling my ears beautifully.

--Steve Pick

For more columns by Steve Pick click here



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