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  Listen Up! 9/6/02 Listen Up!

Friday, Sept. 6

Wilco, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” demos. No, you can’t buy it, but this stuff does float around, and somebody loaned me a copy. I think the actual album as released is a hodge-podge of a few strong songs, and a lot of silliness. Listening to the demos, I now know there were a few better songs, and a few weak songs that could have been done better. I’m not sure why the album changed from what was on the demos. There are some songs – “Heavy Metal Drummer” especially – that were improved later on, but so many of the old versions – “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” – achieve grandeur via deconstruction. The reason? Those songs are not melodically interesting, so they needed the craziest backgrounds. For some reason, the backgrounds were toned down by the time of release. The band was changing all through the process of recording, and I guess they just couldn’t ever decide when enough was enough.

Silverchair, “Diorama,” Atlantic Records. Forget about the Pearl Jam clones these guys were seven years ago when they were something like 14 years old. Their cloning days are gone, though they’ve been listening to some Beach Boys, some Beatles, some Left Banke, some Radiohead, and yeah, they still like the grunge a little bit. I’m not sure about the songwriting chops after only one listen, but the ambition and emotional content is definitely right on. A lot of people are rushing to declare this a work of genius; I think it’s the beginning of a bright future.

Nadine, new album not released yet. Meet the old album, released before. Well, that’s not fair; this one has more rhythmic oomph. Not different rhythms, mind you, but more stolidly whomped rhythms. There’s that same whiny melody in every song, and the usual couple of cuts that stand out from the pack (though none as mind-boggling as “Angela” was last time around). These guys are probably best heard in very small doses of just a couple songs each, but this one is more interesting than they’ve been before.

Mr. Lif, “I phantom,” Definitive Jux. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was recorded in 1991, and left sitting on the shelf when Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” changed everything for rap in 1992. (Or was that 1992 and 1993?) At any rate, this is really solid middle-school hip-hop (as opposed to old school or new school, know what I’m sayin’?) The beats swing hard, with lots of scratching and sampled drop-ins. The raps flow hard and fast. This could be the secret to underground hip-hop’s success. Remember that the best hip-hop is among the most fun hip-hop.

--Steve Pick



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