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Aug. '04

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Scissor Sisters
Scissor Sisters Universal

The Hives

Lonely? The Scissor Sisters are just the right friends for that unfashionable night alone. Bad skin? If you’re a winner, then you’ll need the Scissor Sisters to brighten your complexion.

Sassy electroclash sensations, the Scissor Sisters cut their teeth in New York City but achieved major success across the Atlantic with their gloriously gay cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” a number one single on the UK charts. While it’s too soon to tell if they’ll make like a Fischerspooner and disappear with all the other over hyped NME darlings; they’re too busy living out the party that is their self-titled debut to care.

Named for a rather adventurous lesbian sex act, the Scissor Sisters seem to frolic in a fatalistic fantasy of sex, drugs and more sex. Boisterously randy, lead singer Jake Shears makes no apologies for reveling in the dizzying debauchery of New York club life, a scene that survived under the conservative wing of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and thrived under the turbulent, post-9/11 shrillness of terror warnings and boot-slappin’ Texas-size homophobia. But a fabulous gay wedding isn’t quite what Shears has in mind.

Whether introducing his mama to cheap spirits and sleazy mates or tripping on a hit of acid while escaping his last trick, this guy doesn’t deliver lines — he flaunts them. Reminding his sugar daddy that, “Ain’t no sum bitch gonna treat me like a ho/I’m a classy honey kissy huggy lovey dovey ghetto princess” on “Filthy/Gorgeous,” Shears romanticizes absurdity and celebrates diversity.

Backed by a drop-kick gutter funk that swings from disco trash to Bowie-esque polish on such standout tracks as “Laura” and “Take Your Mama,” Scissor Sisters is the one of the most unrestrained and rambunctious party CDs of the year. So let the Scissor Sisters take you out of the closet and on to the dance floor, and remind you of what it’s like to have a little fun. —Gillian Titus (Posted 8/31/04)


Beastie Boys
To the 5 BoroughsCapital

A recent review of the Beastie Boys’ To the 5 Boroughs whined that it didn’t sound enough like their masterpiece, 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, which is as annoying and futile as bitching that the Beatles didn’t do another Revolver or Radiohead hasn’t done another Bends.

Why try to repeat history? While the Beasties aren’t interested in repeating the past, they also haven’t forgotten where they came from, New York City, which looms as large as the Twin Towers that are stoically resurrected on the CD’s cover.

After a six-year recording hibernation, the Beasties come out swinging, sampling some of the Big Apple’s finest hip-hop maestros — Run-DMC, the Sugarhill Gang — while “Turntable Extraordinaire” MixMasterMike tweaks and scratches each specimen into a fully evolved hit.

“Triple Trouble” takes the overly sampled “Rapper’s Delight,” and bounces it into a merengue-laced mixture that almost dances out of the speakers. “An Open Letter To NYC” contains a chilly sample from Cleveland-born, New York-based punks the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer,” giving the song an aggressive edge that punctuates the ferocity of it’s lyrics: “Since 9/11 we’re still livin’ and lovin’ life we’ve been given/Ain’t nothing gonna take that away from us/We’re lookin’ pretty and gritty ’cause in the city we trust.”

This is the most political work the Beasties have done, focusing on the altruistic themes of peace and acceptance towards all races, creeds, colors and lifestyles that they’ve previously addressed on 1994’s Ill Communication and 1998’s Hello Nasty. While they still wax on about the egregious excesses of materialism and greed throughout Boroughs, they go one step further and repeatedly castigate President George W. “Tex” Bush’s administration’s alleged embodiment of them.

But Public Enemy they’re not nor do they try to be, because for every line about “Columbine bowling, childhood stolen/We need a bit more gun controlling,” they’re never far from dropping in a “I’d like a lettuce, tomato and muenster on rye/All this cheese is gonna make me cry” to balance it out.

As someone recently noted, the Beasties once fought for the right to party, but now they’re partying for the right to fight. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait six years for another party. —Gillian Titus (Posted 8/20/04)

The Hives
Tyrannosaurus Hives Interscope

The Hives

The Hives have taken a cue from the other “The” bands of the moment (see Whites Stripes, Strokes, etc.) and stuck to the formula they executed on 2000’s Veni Vidi Vicious and 1997’s Barely Legal.

As decisive as a chainsaw, Tyrannosaurus Hives will rip between your ears for the next 30:03, but just a little louder. Brevity begets repeated listening, as each song bounces off the next, leaving you wanting more. The Hives don’t just play, they will the listener into submission with a left-right combo of hammering percussion of military-like precision and scratching guitar solos that will make your neck twitch on such standout tracks like “Abra Cadaver” and “No Pun Intended.”

Living up to the idea that rock-and-roll is more attitude than substance, lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist takes a cue from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins on “Diabolic Scheme,” while strutting and spitting his way through “Walk Idiot Walk.” In rock-n-roll, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and the Hives owe a debt to the greats that preceded them — namely the Ramones and just about any artist featured on the Nuggets boxed set. But the Hives are not about breaking new ground; they’re about burying you in it. —Gillian Titus (Posted 8/5/04)


Speck of Dust Sparkling Beatnik Records

It’s impossible to just be a fan of BCR. Using such a label almost seems to deride the group’s talent and creativity. The attraction is beyond fan-man-ship. With that Sun Ra “cosmo-love principle” thing, so preached by the Rev. Dwight Frizzell, experiencing BCR is akin to a religious conversion, an intellectual/spiritual/sensory happening like practicing Kama Sutra positions with Madame Blavatsky.

Speck of Dust continues the practice. Listening to it is so enjoyable that my only downer is realizing how little I know in terms of what it takes to create such great music. Forget the dead KC jazz guys. BCR is so imaginative and disciplined that what is heard on Speck of Dust transforms in the listener’s mind as free form and spontaneous without the labor of knowing.

The refrain, “If you wake up now, it won’t be too soon,” sung by the fabulous Monique Danielle on “Walkin’ on the Moon,” recorded live at the Grand Emporium, isn’t a plea to “get it” with BCR, but an invitation. Danielle’s voice vibrates the bones like a deep-tissue massage done with velvet gloves.

Other superlative local musicians sit in. Bill Dye strokes his lap steel guitar on “Love in Outer Space,” along with Paula Van Regenmorter on flute. Gerald Trimble’s viola helps set the “monster” mood on “Blue Mono,” a tune by Frizzell that reminds us “We’re all evil smelling beast-eez.” The song fades to otherworldly slurps, grunts and strains accented by Trimble’s viola and Randy Weinstein’s chromatic harmonica. Rocker Joey Skidmore joins Danielle on “Space Junk,” leaving his guitar-whipped voice behind and comes out better for the collaboration.

Speck of Dust is BCR’s first major release in a decade. But where this wondrous group travels, time is not relative. —Bruce Rodgers (Posted 8/5/04)

Loretta Lynn
Van Lear RoseInterscope

Loretta Lynn

If it’s true that all great works of art are derived from pain, then Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn deserves a standing ovation for the agony he caused his wife. Loretta Lynn’s hard-drinking, womanizing husband, now deceased, casts a long shadow over the absolutely terrific Van Lear Rose, no doubt inspiring songs such as “Family Tree,” “Miss Being Mrs.” and “This Old House.”

Written with her trademark feminist swagger, Lynn puts it all on the line and leaves nothing to the imagination. Whether telling her man that she’s tired of sitting at home, bouncing babies on her knee or washing her hands of the trashy company he keeps, Lynn speaks her mind. When she slyly mutters about being “almost drunk from the drinks/That I’ve turned down,” it evokes an intoxication with listeners remembering all the put-downs they wished they would have said.

Produced by the White Stripes’ Jack White, who famously dedicated White Blood Cells to Lynn, the album is low on production and high on musicianship. Recorded with a ragtag group of musicians called the Do Whaters, the album feels as if it were produced from jam sessions that evolved into songs, the highlight of which is “Portland Oregon,” a sweaty romp that features both Lynn and White on vocals.

Lynn told Rolling Stone that for a song to be any good it must tell a story and have an unforgettable title. With thirteen glorious tracks made up of as much misery as mirth, Van Lear Rose could be called a great American songbook in and of itself. —Gillian Titus (Posted 8/5/04)

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