Pop: ...and the other album releases

Click to follow
NEW RADICALS

Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too (MCA)

AMERICAN GREGG Alexander, who effectively is the New Radicals, talks a good fight, at least. That's him on the hit "You Get What You Give", dissing his fellow Americans: "...Dust Brothers, Beck, Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson/You're all fakes, run to your mansions/Come around, we'll kick your ass in." And that's him on "Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too", taking up arms against a sea of hypocrisy, from Christian spite to banks, politics, and rock music itself: "Rock'n'Roll! Some truth? Alas! Careerist cowards sucking ass", which sounds great until you see Gregg's floppy sun-hat and scooter on the sleeve - so retro-retro - and his music, which sounds like World Party circa "Ship Of Fools". Nothing new or radical about him, then. And despite the bumptious attitude, tracks like "Someday We'll Know" show him just as prey to maundering self-pity as the next chump. But, as he says on the title-track, "So cynical, so hip, so full of shit, they told us to shut the fuck up and write another hit". Sometimes, cynicism is its own reward.

COREY HARRIS

Greens From The Garden (Alligator)

NEW ORLEANS-based anthropology graduate turned dreadlocked bluesman Corey Harris is one of the young, black neo-country-blues stylists currently attempting to wrest the form back from the straitjacketing notions of technical dexterity imposed upon it by a generation of white guitar-heroes. The emphasis on greens (mustard, turnip and collard) in his work represents his ancestral connection with the land, as revealed here in the spoken interludes between songs, which find him discussing food with his family. There's a strong N'Awlins flavour on Greens From The Garden, with the city's unique rhumba-rock rhythms underlying songs like "Eh La Bas" and "Wild West", the latter a patois denunciation of the Babylonian materialism of the USA: "First like sell we for sugar, then rum," he declaims sadly, "now him push cocaine." It's this willingness to use an old form to address contemporary issues which brings a freshness to Harris' songs, while the piercing growl of his vocals appropriately brings to mind the Howlin' Wolf, another blues moderniser from an earlier era.

ZITA SWOON

I Paint Pictures On A Wedding Dress (Warner Music Benelux)

FORMERLY KNOWN as Moondog Jr, Zita Swoon are a Belgian quintet based around the songs of Stef Kamil Carlens, once of fellow low-country rockers dEUS. But where his former outfit seem to be edging ever closer to prog- rock on their latest album, Zita Swoon cleave closer to the rootsy ecleticism of Beck on the intriguing I Paint Pictures On A Wedding Dress. Utilising a palette which adds glockenspiel, off-key piano, clarinet, horn samples and Bjorn Eriksson's resophonic guitar to the usual line-up, Carlens's songs are semi-surreal exercises in emotional excavation, never afraid to veer off at lyrical tangents, though always staying within the unusual boundaries suggested by titles like "About The Successful Emotional Recovery Of A Gal Named Maria", "50 Years In Dope Jittery" and (my favourite) "My Bond With You And Your Planet: Disco!". Benelux boy Carlens takes more poetic chances with a foreign language than most English bands; the result is an album which gains, rather than diminishes, in mystery the more one hears it.

STEVE REICH

Reich: Remixed (Nonesuch)

REMIXES ARE at best an afterthought, and precious little thought of any kind appears to have gone into these 10 knob-jobs by the likes of Mantronik, Coldcut and Howie B. The failure, I think, derives from a confusion about the notion of repetition: there's a world of difference between the meticulously played repetition of Reich's minimalist pieces and the lazy tedium of machine-based repetition that comprises most dance music. It's all about tension and relaxation of time, rather than simple accumulation of bars and beats, and it seems extraordinary that anyone should think they could "improve" on Reich's music by the addition of a superfluous hi-hat track or electric piano part, or by feeding his flute, violin and marimba parts through sundry filters and delays, as on most of these tracks. The situation is most glaringly exposed on Ken Ishii's remix of "Come Out": merely by using state-of-the-art instant machine-music technology, Ishii has managed to completely erase the shock of hearing what the composer produced in 1966 through laborious tape-manipulation. That's progress?

Comments