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  Listen Up! 11/19/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Nov. 19

Los Munequitos De Matanzas, “Congo Yambumba,” Qbadisc. I’m assuming this is Cuban roots music. Lots of percussion and call and response vocals, no other instruments. Rhythms crossing all over the place.

Slayer, “God Hates Us All,” American Recordings. I’ve always hated Slayer. Their rhythm section doesn’t propel or slam the beats properly. Their guitars chug without quite bludgeoning. Their vocals don’t have soul. It’s metal that can’t begin to get under my skin. This record is as bad as any.

Luna, “Close Cover Before Striking,” Jetset Records. You know what you’re getting with Luna. They figured out the sound they want a while back, and all they do is vary the directions the guitar filigrees wrap around each other. Sometimes they vary it into something quite luxurious and pretty, as on “Astronaut,” the first track here, or “Drunken Whistler,” the fourth. Sometimes they vary it into a laconic cover version of a Rolling Stones song, as on “Waiting on a Friend,” or a gentle lapping version of New Order’s “Neon Lights.” (Alright, they don’t do that all that often, but they are right here, track number two and seven, respectively). I always admire the rhythm section who have the patience to anchor these slow, repetitive songs, and somehow manage to sound like they’re pushing them into an overdrive that’s really all about the guitar effects pedals. To throw a curve, you also get “New Haven Comet,” in which the rhythm section steps outside the metronomic box and improvises like a jazz band.

Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture, “8 Mile,” Shady Records. Well, of course you know the single is great. I mean the single is GREAT!!!!! A masterpiece of mood, with a dark undertone in the music, and the roar of a suddenly uncaged tiger pouncing on every rhyme scheme his paws can reach. Eminem is going for his “A Star is Born” moment, but he’s not gonna water down his skills just to integrate into mainstream America. He already is mainstream America, the most popular performer in the country today, I’d bet. So, it’s funny that a record as vicious sounding as this one should probably be friendly enough to support such a move. The rest of the soundtrack? Pleasant, utterly disposable hip-hop beats, with some talented performers dropping in between some no names, and nothing living up to the magnificence of the reason you bought the thing in the first place.

George Harrison, “Brainwashed,” Capitol Records. The expectations just aren’t fair. When George was putting together the music on this disc, he was trying to stay alive, and probably realizing the odds weren’t that good that he would do it much longer. So, those of us who received enjoyment from George Harrison (which is probably every American and European over the age of 35, and a pretty significant percentage of those under that age, with a sprinkling of folks in other parts of the world) are looking for some sort of last will and testament, some music that sums up his life in ways that make it even more meaningful than it already was. George may have written songs that pretended like he was a deep thinker, but really, he was more of a beautiful sage than a profound one. Remember, his most popular song ever begins with the least concrete image in the history of love songs: “Something in the way she moves/Attracts me like no other.” So, we really shouldn’t be disappointed that he’s going on about being a Pisces fish with the water flowing in his soul. That probably was his way of coming to grips with eternal life or something. My disappointments are in the lack of melodic and rhythmic differentiation. This is Harrison coasting, which is to say adding one more pleasant little record to a long string of them. He had no incentive to produce the kind of masterpieces he made when he had to prove he had them in him. Instead, he just had to prove he could make the kind of music that made him glad enough to be alive, with a guitar in his hand and a song in his soulful heart.

--Steve Pick



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