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  Listen Up! 8/20/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Aug. 20

Will Rigby, “Paradoxaholic,” Diesel Only Records. Will Rigby, once the drummer for the dB’s, currently toiling in Steve Earle’s band (among other paying gigs), writes the kind of songs that should be gathered under a title like “Paradoxaholic.” Clever, smart-assed, funny lyrics get wedded to catchy, spritely little tunes. His stuff sounds like it could be sold to NRBQ or the Morells, and that’s a compliment in my book. Rigby can’t sing, though, which is the only negative I’ve got on this record. He sounds a little like the guys in They Might Be Giants if they’d been raised in North Carolina instead of New Jersey. Oh, well, don’t worry too much about it, because songs like “Leanin’ On Bob,” in which Rigby assumes the persona of a life-long Dylan fanatic, or “The Jerks at Work,” in which he becomes the most beleaguered co-worker ever, deserve a wide hearing.

Sixteen Horsepower, “Folklore,” Jetset Records. Lord almighty, these kids who think the reason we should care about traditional American folk songs because they were so gloomy! Land sakes o’goshen, what is the matter with them? Yes, some, maybe even many, of these old songs detail the struggles of living in poverty, with horrendous death rates of children, and women dying in childbirth, and marriages that couldn’t be ended no matter how bad they were, etc., etc. But, the key to understanding them is to avoid wallowing in the misery, and to catch hold of the hope and determination that fuel resistance to despair. Sixteen Horsepower have some interesting ideas for arrangements in these songs, but their attitude is entirely too facile and one-dimensional to make me care.

Buc Fifty, “Badman,” Battle Axe Records. There’s no rational reason for this album to contain 17 cuts, but none of them suck, and some of them are really damn good. I was shocked to look on the cover and see a whole rash of producers credited here, because the beats and samples are generally exquisite. It actually sounds like the raps were composed to fit the beats, rather than the other way around. Buc Fifty has a nice, mellifluous flow when he raps, with lots of intricate rhythmic playing around. This could be the most entertaining indie rap record I’ve ever heard.

--Steve Pick



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