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CD Reviews: The Constantines, Sheryl Crow, Flaw and many more
Tuesday April 16, 2002 @ 04:00 PM
By: ChartAttack.com Staff

Baldwin Bros.

THE BALDWIN BROTHERS Cooking With Lasers (TVT/Universal)

The Baldwin Brothers are thankfully not another outfit of film stars slumming it on the rock scene. That said, the turntables-and-samplers jam band doesn't really overwhelm with their multi-genre mash-ups. The band are seemingly stuck in the '70s, alluding to TV staples like Sanford And Son ("Funky Junkyard") and the Six Million Dollar Man ("The Bionic Jam"). The funky breakbeats, jazzy Fender Rhodes, trippy Moogs and kitschy song titles like "Viva Kneivel" and "Are You There Margaret, It's Me God" all reinforce the me-decade theme. Problem is, The Baldwin Brothers play and compose with the plastic conviction of an episode of That '70s Show. Endlessly looped aural snippets from the technicolour dustbin of recent history don't make for an enticing listening experience. Guest vocalists Angie Hart (Frenté), Geri Soriano-Lightwood (Supreme Beings Of Leisure), Miho Hatori (Cibo Matto) and hip-hop MC Barron Ricks merely blend their voices into the beat-laden aural wallpaper. Eyelids are getting heavy... must change CD... Darrin Keene


Brick Layer Cake

BRICK LAYER CAKE Whatchamacallit (Touch And Go)

To say that Todd Trainer is talented is obvious. Once simply just a drummer, Trainer has applied his musical prowess to guitars, vocals and other noises to become one-third and three-thirds of Brick Layer Cake (get it? He’s the only guy). Nearly eight years after the latest release from Trainer et al, Whatchamacallit showcases Trainer’s dark, gruff and almost haunting voice alongside deep textured instrumentals. The problem is that three songs into the eight track album you’ll grow tired of the near monotony of things and get back to thinking about how if you had almost eight years to put out an album, it wouldn’t sound much like this one. Steve Servos


Burn

BURN Last Great Sea (Revelation)

Ten years ago when these three Burn songs were penned they would’ve been something fresh and exciting to the hardcore scene of which this New York-based quartet is a part of. However, with all the changes and progress that the HC community has made in a decade, the three songs feel a little tired and old. While the songs are tight, with a classic NYHC feel to them, they don’t show off anything that should lead to an EP being released of such dated material. The nostalgic factor is working in Burn’s favour, but it’s not enough to save them from irrelevance. Steve Servos


Dan Castellaneta

DAN CASTELLANETA I Am Not Homer (Oglio)

Despite rumours, comic Dan Castellaneta is actually human and not just the persona of Homer Simpson. In his first sketch comedy release, Castellaneta teams up with his wife Deb Lacusta and delivers various disputes between debatable baseball commentators, a married couple and a music journalist interviewing a dullard rock star. Despite some funny moments on the disc, such as the rock star making bird noises when asked what he would put on his tombstone, the sketches barely match annoying bickering one could listen to on an episode All In The Family. However cliché it is, Castellaneta finishes the disc with a track called, "So Dumb," which is a treat. The bit involves Castellaneta’s Simpsons characters, Homer Simpson, Krusty, Grampa, Barney and Groundskeeper Willie singing a song together. (Think, "We’re sending our love down the well"-style.) The voices are so flawless, you’d imagine a parade of comedians pulling it off, but instead it’s left to one man. Jenny Yuen


Constantines

THE CONSTANTINES The Modern Sinner Nervous Man (Suicide Squeeze/Outside)

This three-song EP, released on U.S. label Suicide Squeeze, marks The Constantine’s formal introduction to the American market. Toronto’s grand saviors of post-punk rock are probably saving their true gems for the follow-up to their mind-blowing self-titled debut, but while these songs aren’t the best that the Cons have laid down, they’re still pretty damn incredible. "Dirty Business" is particularly signature Constantines — muscular, vein-popping rock, characterized by intense vocals, cryptic lyrics and a powerful sense of urgency. Coming in at about 11 minutes, this disc is little more than a glorified single — while it wouldn’t make a good introduction to the world of The Constantines, it will be a necessity for established fans and completists. Elizabeth Chorney-Booth


Sheryl Crow

SHERYL CROW C’mon, C’mon (A&M/Universal)

Always one to cull the most passionate and surprisingly widely successful singles from her personal experiences, Sheryl Crow is a musician caught between two worlds — one of earthy and rootsy singer-songwriter, the other of a mainstream rock bimbo. It’s tough being Sheryl Crow and it’s shown through her music. But C’mon, C’mon is fortunately more of an uplifting affair, veering away from her usual near-nervous breakdown tone of past albums. The unfortunate thing though, is that her sunnyness soaks through so much on tracks like "Diamond Road" and "Hole In My Pocket" that you get an irritating case of sunstroke. Still, on songs like "Safe And Sound" and "Over You" there’s the typical Crow-esque lamenting, but it’s, well, softer and deeper. And why is it that Don Henley always sounds so much better when he duets with someone else? "It’s So Easy" could’ve easily been placed on Henley’s solo The End Of The Innocence. Crow dips down a bit too much though, when she tries her hardest at creating the perfect AM radio rock song like on "Wasted." "You’re An Original" (featuring Lenny Kravitz) has a bit of a catchy chorus, but loses momentum after the first bridge. She just plain ol’ runs out of speed. It must be tough being Sheryl Crow in this business. She’s still straddling those two worlds and it’s so damn hard to just pick one. Debbie Bento


Denali

DENALI S/T (Jade Tree)

Unlike most of their Jade Tree label-mates, Denali tends to forgo the thrash and ear-splitting vocals in favour of a more atmospheric, glacial sound that’s both soothing and creepy all at once. Credit this to vocalist Maura Davis, whose voice is a beguiling combination of Nina Persson’s sultry, demure playfulness and Beth Gibbons’ sorrow-filled gloom. Davis’ Denali mates back her with eerie, tension-filled, guitar-driven indie rock that brings together the best parts of Mogwai, Gibbons’ Portishead and Rainer Maria. "Rapture" sounds like it could’ve made the cut on Persson’s A Camp solo project from last year, showing off Davis’ tortured wailing in front of a dark, Rhodes-propelled dirge of a pop song. And check out the hypnotic "Indian Summer," that traces sounds all the way back to the early days of shoe-gazing, wrapping Davis’ vocals up in a wall of guitars and crashing cymbals. Denali might sound out of place with the rest of the Jade Tree roster, but fans of the label can take a break from the punk and simmer with this enthralling, narcotic surprise. Brian Pascual


Flaw

FLAW Through The Eyes (Universal)

Just what we needed — Another completely un-original metal band. Flaw stagger and fall with 13 tracks of sludgy slop that you just know will rear its half-assed head at Ozzfest this year. Songs like "Amendment" and "Whole" make for a wretched brew mixed from one part melody, one part grunt and fart vocals and 98 parts D-tuned guitar. This style has gotten so old that Flaw may be striking as the last ember of grunt metal flashes out, leaving nothing but ash. There’s not much on Through The Eyes that hasn’t been done before and it shows in the band’s songwriting that they’ve got the formula for this type of metal down. Unfortunately though, it seems a path that the grooves are worn so deep in that Flaw will definitely fall through. Tim Melton


MMM

MEDESKI, MARTIN & WOOD Uninvisible (Blue Note/EMI)

Over the past five years, the trio of John Medeski, Billy Martin and Chris Wood have been making inroads with the rock critic crowd, moving from the dissonance of free jazz and outer-limits be-bop sounds of their earlier works on the defunct label Gramavision. Since moving to the prestigious Blue Note Records, the trio has been developing a more groove-driven sound that mirrors the burgeoning acid-jazz/hip-hop scene. Uninvisible continues where their Blue Note debut, Combustication, left off, fusing the jazzy soul of smooth hip-hop singers with a funkier ‘70s sound. The album’s title track echoes the smooth sexy sounds of many of the soft-porn and blaxploitation soundtracks of the early ‘70s. Soon the album moves into some mighty fine scratchin’ territory a la Kid Koala before expanding the palette of the three core members into some of the finest drum ‘n’ bass grooves by two of the best drummers and bassists in the biz. Wood’s bass lines are clean and juicy through the album, especially on "Take Me Nowhere." Later on, the album explores dub-tinged beats on songs like "First Time Long Time." Overall, Uninvisible is a fine exploration of the convergence of soul, jazz and Latin/Caribbean sounds. Chris Burland


Portable

PORTABLE Only If You Look Up (TVT/Universal)

Hot Damn! If Portable’s "Better Get The Daisies Out" doesn’t make you want to jump up and down naked on a trampoline in the summertime nothing will. The band step up to the plate and crack out 12 numbers that are awash in guitar noise and fall somewhere between Radiohead, Bush, OLP and almost anything else your so-called local alt.station is playing these days. Luckily, Portable’s material is less predictable than most and songs like "Come In From The Cold" and "Left" let loose a bit of switch-blade dynamic changes to keep it interesting. It’s warped, heavy pop that has its little toe in early ‘80s new wave. Other than "Better Get The Daisies Out," Only If You Look Up is a dark affair, but still, you won’t need a crying towel to get through it. Tim Melton


Amos

VARIOUS ARTISTS The Amos House Collection Volume II (Wishing Tree)

So you say you need some indie rock credibility? Maybe you’re just feverish with anticipation for the next Bright Eyes album. Either way, you’ll want to check out the second installment of the Amos House Collection. No, not Tori. The Amos House is a charity organisation in Rhode Island that helps the less fortunate. And for the cause, Wishing Tree Records has rallied together familiar artists such as Wheat, Spoon, Ida and Elliott Smith, as well as up-and-coming acts like Skating Club, Emily Sparks and jrcorduroy. It’s 19 tracks of new or unreleased material from some of indie rock’s brightest stars — and tasty cuts at that. Plus, all of the profits go entirely to Amos House, which will result in a warm fuzzy feeling that just might counteract the shoegazing the music induces. Kate Guay


CTI

VARIOUS ARTISTS CTI The Master Collection (Legacy/Sony)

When long-time producer Creed Taylor started up his own jazz label, CTI, in the ‘70s, the plan was to allow established jazz artists an outlet in which they could, according to this CD's liner notes, "broaden their audience and cut albums in a creative all-star environment." Well, broaden their audience they did as artists such as Johnny Hammond, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine and Hank Crawford all released successful records. However, at the same time, a lot of this music became severely watered down in order to reach the greater masses. This is definately the type of jazz that simply becomes background noise as none of it ever jumps out at you, except for Esther Phillips’ "Home Is Where The Hatred Is" and Deodato's version of Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (a.k.a. the theme from the film 2001 or wrestler Ric Flair's entrance music — take your pick). They’re all talented performers, but the package is too slick for its own good. If you really want to hear the various CTI artists at their peak, you should check out a compilation that came out in 1997 entitled The Birth Of The Groove, in which many of the same artists on The Master Collection expanded off into a more exciting almagamation of funk and jazz. Now that stuff gets you moving. The Mouth


Pledge

VARIOUS ARTISTS The Pledge Of Allegiance Tour (Sony)

Y’know, with all of the griping about slipping album sales, ya gotta wonder how people can justify bullshit like this. No, this isn’t a slag at the type of music on the album; it’s a direct blast at the sub-par product quality. Amassing live tracks from System Of A Down, Slipknot, Mudvayne, American Head Charge and No One, this album could be a nu metaller’s delight if it weren’t for the whole thing sounding like it was recorded in a fucking tin can. Bootleggers would wince at this platter of shit and it’s amazing the bands let it get released, ‘cause the studio versions are way better and it only feeds detractors’ arguments that they can’t really play anyway. Keith Carman


Scorpion King

VARIOUS ARTISTS The Scorpion King OST (Universal)

Each genre of music has its definitive soundtrack to sum up the sound and feeling of the day and this soundtrack is a nu metal’s wet dream. Discophiles shook their bell-bottoms and platform shoes to Saturday Night Fever, grunge bandwagoneers crowd-surfed to Singles and the Christian rockers were sworn to eternal damnation unless they referred to Jesus Christ Superstar. Well, this soundtrack slays all of the above and then some due to its sheer, razor-like volume and sludgy low-end. The inclusion of Creed is a little sketchy since their grunge-ified sound would’ve fit better on Singles and the Nickelback track surprisingly works since they play standard rock ‘n’ roll instead of that muddy metal. The ever-present Ozzman drops in with fellow creep Rob Zombie to up the dark quotient. Hopefully, the film matches the caliber of the soundtrack. Paul Gangadeen


Michelle Williams

MICHELLE WILLIAMS Heart To Yours (Columbia/Sony)

I don’t really know how to say this in a nice way since I might be struck down by the mighty sword of G to the O the D, but there’s gospel music with way more depth than this. It’s honorable to sing loud and proud about what you believe in, especially when it comes to your faith. It’s even gutsy for Michelle Williams to release the first solo record from the Destiny’s Child camp, especially one that veers into a completely different genre. But there are gospel singers out there, like Mary Mary, who add a little hand clapping and hip swinging to their hallelujahs. Williams relies on "woo woos" and a shuffling beat that drags the typical "I love my heavenly father, he heals me, he loves me" lyrics to such a dull level. You see, I stopped going to church a long time ago for many reasons. One of which was that the Catholic mass was so routine and boring that all my drive and interest left, which is really sad when you think about it. Williams is just beating that memory down in my head again. Debbie Bento


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