February '03

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Fearless Records

From the opening instants of the eerie, powerful opening track “Monolithic,” Brazil comes out rocking — in sweeping fashion — hoping to show the world there may be something cutting edge in Muncie, IL. The song, urgent and loud, happens upon interludes of sonic foreplay. The rest of this release taps several styles.

Some interesting piano/guitar interplay on “Erasure” takes Brazil beyond Ben Folds Five when it was in overdrive. And what seems to start off as a breezy morning drive through modern suburbia with “Saturn Parkway” turns into angry sharks lashing — literally and lyrically — before fading away in somnolent guitar-solo bliss. The band turns heavy on a dime, seeming both intent on the future but unsure of it, with a Voivod-like apprehension over technology, despite their reliance on modern, electronic instruments. As always, balanced by the piano.

This six-song EP shows Brazil long on chops and innovative transitions but short on harmonies. Rife with industrial noise and other strange electronic sounds, though, there’s enough to occupy the ear. —Lance Jungmeyer

Feast on Scraps

Alanis Morissette
Maverick Recording Co.

Feast on Scraps includes eight previously unreleased songs recorded for but scrapped from her last album, Under Rug Swept. The tracks give off a familiar feel to those of that CD — disturbed yet honest, longing yet independent.

With just the audio tracks, Feast on Scraps is well worth the price. However, Morissette goes even further by including a DVD that boldly makes a stand against other pseudo CD/DVD sets. It features more than two and a half hours of concert footage and commentary.

“Simple Together,” an aching ballad topped off with a string section, reaffirms Morissette’s deep-rooted angst so apparent in Jagged Little Pill. “If I had a dime for every hand thrown up in the air/My wealth would render this no less severe.”

The acoustic version of the single “Hands Clean” presents a much sweeter and restrained character than the original. It is as if the narrator has had more time to reflect and wants to be more honest with herself. —Jessica Chapman

Mayors of the Moon

Jon Langford & his Sadies
Bloodshot Records

An immediate anthem for detached country rockers everywhere, “Drugstore” opens Jon Langford’s latest experiment in musical chairs, for he sports a different backing band on nearly every recent release. The players on this effort should be familiar to many alt-country and punk aficionados. They’ve played in bands including the Waco Brothers, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, The Mekons and, of course, The Sadies.

On this, moods range far and wide — from ethereal 12-string on “Little Vampires” to raggedy, driving punk on “Up to my neck in this” to straight-ahead yet funky folk-rock on “What makes Johnny run?”

Langford’s Welsh voice rings out most sincerely in “Strange Birds.” He saves two of the best for last — the rollicking “Solitaire song” and “Are you an entertainer?” The latter runs on like a lazy drinking song, the kind good buddies sing when they’re goin’ nowhere too fast, but who always remember to, as the chorus goes, “get the money/don’t leave anything behind/just some pieces of your heart, fragments of your mind.” —Lance Jungmeyer

We’ll Dodge it On The Way Back

Sidecho Records

Despite a time in the music industry when pop-rock quartets seem to be multiplying faster than Tribbles, Orange County, CA’s own pop-rock quartet Fairview still manages to shoehorn in yet another collection of admittedly catchy bubble-gum tracks on their debut album We’ll Dodge It on The Way Back.

The CD itself seems short on the best stuff (only seven tracks, followed by “live acoustic” versions of the same exact songs — a bit pretentious for a first release...), but songs like “telegrams” and the somewhat infectious “i wrote you i would” echo enough in the ears to keep the fingers away from the eject button. —Brandon Whitehead

The September Sessions

Various Artists
The Moonshine Conspiracy Records

The September Sessions is the soundtrack from Jack Johnson’s 2000 surfing documentary of the same title. The album features a wide range of flavors, from the smooth instrumental pieces of Johnson and his September Sessions band to an unusual blend of ska and rap by Ozomatli.

There is no overlying element connecting the tracks. It seems as if Johnson simply used the soundtrack to help publicize his cronies’ previously released songs with his well-known name. The September Sessions followed Johnson’s platinum debut, Brushfire Fairytales.

Bombay The Hard Way’s “Ganges A Go-Go” feels like it would fit right in on an Old Navy commercial. Johnson even covers Jimmy Buffet’s “Pirate Looks at 40.” However, Johnson’s own “F-Stop Blues” proves that he has something to say and can say it well with his guitar. —Jessica Chapman

Manhungetunge/Chimurenga Rebel

Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited
ANOnym reCOrds

This two-disc follow-up to Mapfumo’s brilliant Dreams and Secrets is a joyous, tender and inspiring collection of songs and sounds. Mapfumo and his extraordinary company of musicians deliver hope to the disenfranchised of not only their brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe and Africa, but across the world. It is music most American artists are too lazy or too ignorant to create.

As if a plea for domestic radio play, the opening cut on Manhungetunge, “Big in America,” and sung in English, is a sort of love song to us, asking that we export to Africa — not SUVs and reality TV — but our ideal of justice to all. Featured is the shearing acid guitar work of Woody Aplanalp.

As Zimbabwe now descends in famine and terror, the second disc, Chimurenga Rebel, delivers to the bone a “scathing assault on the failures of world leaders” to build a better world. —Bruce Rodgers


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