The Meanest of Times (Born & Bred)
The only band ever to lose a lead singer to the Boston Fire Department has honored that working-class spirit as it expanded its Celt-punk lineup to seven and kept writing songs that not only describe cycles of struggle and escape in their white-ethnic Boston suburb of Quincy, but sound like them — the nearest America's ever gotten to its own oi band. Al Barr and Ken Casey compete shout for growl on blowouts like "Famous for Nothing," and "The State of Massachusetts" is as furious a tribute to single motherdom as any hip-hopper has ever spat.
Emerging from her SUV wreck of a life, "It's Britney, bitch" or her digital facsimile consorts with a smaller-than-usual cohort of producers on an album sure to be remembered as a monument of deranged techno-pop amorality. The heroes here are Timbaland-apprentice Danja (debut single "Gimme More"), Swedish popmeisters Bloodshy and Avant (prime cut "Piece of Me") and the phalanx of lyricists who provided the first "confessional" lyrics Justin's ex ever needed.