July '03

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Year of the Spider
Geffen Records

Take some of the best hooks from metal, throw in some of the piercing and tattoos blasČ of grunge, mix with some alternative college-style social attitude and you get an idea of what the red-hot group Cold is all about.

Vocalist Scooter Ward has a voice and fashion sense not unlike an ‘80s Bono-type lead singer, (but manages to be a little less annoying). The 13 tracks of their newest album year of the spider are as far as you can get from the standard release of slapped together tracks destined for mega-corporate radio play, although “Stupid Girl” has already done well on the airways. The sound is well constructed and layered, creating a slick and hefty collection that’s ready to be slid into the CD player before you even leave the parking lot, no matter what temperature these guys might be. —Brandon Whitehead

Bob Walkenhorst

The Beginner
Bat Records

Back a few lifetimes ago, Bob Walkenhorst was the lead singer for alt-country rockers the Rainmakers, and his solo debut The Beginner carries on their fine musical tradition with gusto.

Far from any beginner himself, Walkenhorst shows that his song-writing ability is as strong as ever, particularly on tracks like “Jan Vermeer” and “Call a Wrecker.” KC’s own cloud-shaker has grown considerably in his affinity for citified-country melodies, and ballads like “Life Can Turn” and “Proof” are elegantly poignant and heartfelt.

Often found playing these days at Malloy’s Bar in Westport (call for times), the Mississippi River’s favorite son has once again brought some much-needed muddy waters from the bank for us all to share, so drink up — and leave your umbrellas at home. —Brandon Whitehead


Atlantic Records

Is this album really Jewel? From the synthesized keyboards in place of her acoustic guitar to the clapping track, 0304 at first listen plays like the mainstream pop of the radio today — even more so than This Way. It would be a great injustice to Jewel to even attempt to compare it with her previous acoustic-guitar driven style.

Tracks which stand out include the disturbing “Haunted,” in which the listener sees the stalking of a woman from a male perspective, and “Leave the Lights On,” whose chorus’ syncopated and funky rhythm sets itself apart miles away from other cuts. And while mixing in whistling, an accordion, trumpet, snare drum and chamberlain, it seems Jewel still has something up her sleeve to keep us guessing.

But Jewel is Jewel is a jewel. She has a rocking voice, whether singing the soulful ballad “Who Will Save Your Soul” from Pieces of You to the commercial America “Intuition” from 0304.
—Jessica Chapman


The $5 Likk
Phatadat Records

Local musicians often fail to get all the details ironed out for their first CDs, often resulting in poorly engineered tracks, bad vocals or flat tones. Vigalantee’s debut album The $5 Likk licks right through all that with skill and ease, resulting in a surprisingly wide-ranging selection of fast hard-thumpin’ rap, funky love ballads and soulful hip-hop that sounds far more like somebody’s third or forth album rather than their first.

The tracks are crisp, the vocals catchy and the beat is wonderfully simple, enhancing instead of overwhelming the slick melodies. Songs like “Lies” and “Permission” (hmm, guess what that one’s about…) sound like top-ten stuff and are worth a hell of a lot more than a five bucks.
—Brandon Whitehead


Maverick Records

As much as it might not be called for, a little slack must be given to the deftone’s self-titled debut album. It’s a little rough. The “sound” they go for seems to be an overwhelming disharmonic fury, intentionally meant to both attract and repel, sort of like watching drunk circus animals bang on instruments (an original, but risky style, to be sure).

Still, the all-so-important “in your face, who needs lessons?” attitude is abundant here, and the Marilyn Manson-on-acid energy should be appealing to those with stranger tastes. Also, thankfully the band didn’t plaster photos of themselves vogueing all over the album, so they got that going for them as well.
—Brandon Whitehead


My Private Nation

Columbia Records

The following of Train has steadily increased over the past five years, first from “Meet Virginia” off their self-titled debut and then Drops of Jupiter’s title track from their follow-up album. But Charlie Colin’s compelling vocals and adept guitar work sound just like these two tracks; it’s as if he and his buddies have mixed and matched rhythms, chord progressions and styles to form My Private Nation. How many different ways can one play A, D, and E chords?

“Get To Me” seems out of place in the band’s repertoire with a crooning sound that would fit nicely with the realms of the Backstreet Boys. “Get to me, I don’t care just get to me,” Colin moans repeatedly.

However, the track “Your Every Color” makes up for it with the warm and simple description of a woman and a solid musical foundation marked with a string arrangement. “You’re coffee brown and bubble gum pink/And oh I think the shade of you is on the brink/Of changing all the ways I see the world.
—Jessica Chapman

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