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  Listen Up! 7/30/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, July 30

Music From the Original Broadway Production, “Top Dog/Underdog,” MCA Records. They don’t do this kind of thing very often any more, but it’s cool. This is one of those attempts to fit all the parts of the black music tapestry together, with an emphasis on proving hip hop can hang with blues, soul, and jazz. In this little universe, it certainly can, with a very intriguing cut from Mos Def leading into a gorgeous old Wayne Shorter song which burst open into “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” by James Brown before that gives way to a stylish Jay Z cut which leads to a dark and ancient Son House song, etc., etc. The songs all feed off each other nicely, making for a fine listening experience even without having seen the play.

Darius Rucker, “Back to Then,” Hidden Beach Recordings. Oh, this is wretched. The singer from Hootie is busting an r’n’b move, but nobody pointed out to him that it’s important to hire really good producers to come up with grooves that anybody wants to hear. It’s every bit as bland to r’n’b as Hootie’s stuff is to rock.

Bright Eyes, “Lifted or TheStory is in the soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground,” some indie label. You will never believe how horrendously awful this record is. Have you ever heard Jandek? Jandek sounds like Andres Segovia next to this crap. Because this stuff has pretensions to profundity, when it fails on every level – musicianship is at best competent, and frequently atrocious, the vocals are painfully meandering from the correct notes, the song structures are at best pre-fabricated and often simply non-existent, and the lyrics are among the stupidest I’ve ever heard. Debbie Sue says it sounds like Jonathan Richman without any sense of humor, but I think she needs to add that it sounds like this guy tried to go to graduate school in philosophy but failed the pre-requisites.

--Steve Pick



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