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  Listen Up! 11/25/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Nov. 25

Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and East West,” Elektra Records. They packaged the first two Butterfield albums together last year, but I’m just playing the first one right now. The second one gets a lot wilder and more psychedelic, but I’m really happy digging the hard blues cuts of the first one. Butterfield and Bloomfield were the greatest team of fields ever. Butterfield’s harp playing snarls, while Bloomfield’s guitar playing crackles. And Sam Lay! Jeez. What a drummer. He had such a light touch, and yet always driving, driving, driving. If you’ve never heard this stuff, you have no idea how good blues/rock could get.

Swollen Members, “Balance,” Battleaxe Records. It’s been playing for at least a half an hour, and I barely notice its presence. Yeah, the beats will get you nodding, but you’ve got to want to nod. Imagine hip hop elevator music, comfort food for the streets.

The Vines, “Outtathaway,” Heavenly Recording import CD-5. The key here is the trippy cover of Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson,” which ain’t no improvement on the perfection of the original, but is kinda charming as a total rethink of a great song.

Superdrag, “Last Call For Vitriol,” Arena Rock Recording Company. Superdrag plow onward in that power pop style that is so easily simulated, so difficult to master. These guys have the ringing, slashing guitar chords, the driving rhythms, the major key melodies ingrained in their heads. What they too rarely achieve, however, is the slight twist on the formula that makes the music special. They prove they can do it, as “Baby Goes to 11” makes me actually yearn to sing along with it. Not necessarily anything that will someday appear on a Power Pop Classics Vol. 1 compilation, it could work its way into the box set.

Audioslave, “Audioslave,” Epic Records. It must have seemed like a good idea when these guys got together to huff some boo and form a band. But, really, Rage Against the Machine were good because the singer imitated Chuck D without sounding like Chuck D, and the band rocked like the Bomb Squad if they had thought to learn rock instruments. And Chris Cornell had his moments because his band naturally knew how to rock in tandem with his explosive voice, and knew how to meld with his melodic ideas. There is no synergy going on here; it sounds like they only bothered to record the damn thing at all because they announced the union before they heard what it would sound like. Painful bad stuff.

--Steve Pick



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