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April 05

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After the outsider success of Beck's previous works (most notably Odelay and 1993's slacker anthem "Loser"), the press build-up to Guero (that's Spanish for "white boy", if you didn't know) has sounded more like the second coming than an album release.

Maxim's critic liked it so much he made their review page sticky. The truth: This is a pretty good Beck album, as Beck albums go. It's fun and poppy, with tracks like “Girl,” a twisted and tightened up Beach Boys-type sound, and Beck's downplayed but underrated singing is as strong as ever. There are echoes of Mutation's rural feel, and plenty of progressive rock and rhyme to tease the ear.

That being said, at the ancient rocker age of 35, Beck has nudged his range a little...but just a little. Too many of the songs here seem rethreaded, and tend to be so laid back that they‚re on the verge of falling over backward and snoring. And what's with the Casio-drumbeat sound everywhere? Musical kitsch can only go so far...

All in all, like Beck's vacant stare and sleepyhead hair, Guero is a little odd and yet still entertaining...for a while, at least. — Brandon Whitehead (posted 4/22/05)

Sinai Beach
ImmersedVictory Records

While the whinny-boy world of emo continues the spread (or "ooze"), the sub-genre of emo/hardcore has spawned what must truly be one of the strangest fusions of all musical history: Christian emo/hardcore.

While bands like Sinai Beach hide behind metal-gear outfits and "deep" expressions (either that or they're slightly constipate-d...), it doesn't take long to find a few hints: song titles like "To The Church", lots of lyrics with the word heaven in them, thanking Jesus in the liner notes (do you ever wonder if Jesus gets a little tired of getting credit for everything?

Musician: "Thanks Jesus for your inspiration!" (Jesus: "Let me guess: you're gonna play that emo crap...") While nobody's saying that the people who believe that the giant invisible old man with magical powers who lives in the sky and wants money all the time are tryin' a little back door entry into mainstream a la Intelligent Design, if the shoe fits...

As far as the actual music, this is competently produced crap. Mike Dunlap on drums knows his rolls pretty well, and Logan Lambert has a decent crunch to his sound, and CJ Alderson's voice...well, it works for emo well enough. Since Immersed is their first album, some of the repetitive nature here can be excused, and with enough work and time, this beach might be worth visiting. — but check the water first. — Brandon Whitehead (posted 4/15/05)

Andy Masters
A Tribute to Joe Pass440 Productions

Please, someone, get Andy Masters some players and a long-term gig, like now.

Cutting a CD like A Tribute to Joe Pass — where Masters only plays the guitar for 15 cuts — might happen because a jazz musician can’t get enough work in KC to make a living. Yeah right, and such speculation is a good opportunity to lay a bitch down about the dismal jazz scene for most players in KC. But it’s no comment on Masters’ playing; the guy is quality, through and through.

But the limitations of only playing a guitar shows. Some tunes seemed rushed as Masters shifts to strum to be his own rhythm section. And some songs aren’t all that recognizable.

But others are good. With Stanley Turntine’s “Sugar,” Ellington’s “A Train” and Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” Masters overcomes the limitations. The jazz standard “Take Five” is particularly good.

But, as I say, Masters is so good he shouldn’t be so lonely.— Bruce Rodgers (posted 4/15/05)

Queens of the Stone Age
Lullabies to ParalyzeInterscope Records

After the unexpected mega-success of QOTSA’s 2002 release Songs for the Deaf (which caused one of the largest cases of “I can’t get this damn song out of my head” — it’s with their bass-bouncy single “No One Knows”), the pressure was on for more. Given the fact that bad-boy lead vocalist Josh Homme had to do it alone (bass player & N.A. poster child Nick Oliveri was booted out after his antics got to be a bit much for Homme, and if Josh Homme is saying you’ve had too much you-know-what, you’ve had way too much you-know-what, man), expectations were mostly held in check.

The first track on Lullabies to Paralyze, the simple and melodic “This Lullaby” seems a strange choice for an essentially hard-core band, until you realize this isn’t a hard-core album at all, then, you can stop talking to yourself and start listening to what is a very strange, well-produced and over-all satisfying recording.

Homme’s crunchy guitar is as strong as ever and, somehow, perfectly matched with his eerie falsetto vocals. New bass player Troy Van Leeuwen and drummer Joey Castillo (Danzig) back him up with perfection. A word to the wise: Fans expecting more of the same stuff from 2002 will be disappointed. In interviews, Homme sometimes sounds like he’s channeling the wisdom of Keanu Reeves after his seventh bong hit. “You have to be careful about how you are with music, because it will take itself away from you if you’re not careful.” (Whoa, heavy, dude.)
The result is truly a strange and off-kilter sound that stumbles about like some kind of drunken play performed in the dark; and if you don’t mind stumbling around a bit yourself, this crazy dance can be a lot of sheer, weird fun. There’s a lot to listen to here, such as “You’ve Got A Killer Scene There, Man,” which in itself is killer, and “Broken Box,” which ain’t broken at all.

Who knew lullabies could be so much fun? — Brandon Whitehead (posted 4/8/05)

50 Cent
The MassacreInterscope Records

With plenty of backing from Dr. Dre and that Slim Shady guy, all 50 Cent really needs to make The Massacre a massive monetary success is to follow the gansta-rap rules of their own holy trinity: Shootin', smackin' Hoes and thanking Jesus. And boy, does this two-bit do just that.

While most Rap is based in rhyme and thick, layered base-line rhythms, Corporative Gansta-rap relies far more on the image of the player than what they can play: a prime example here is that once you take away the guns, tattoos and hoes, you're left with ol' 50 himself, who, well...cannot sing.

But who cares? The liner notes here are like filled with twenty-odd pages chock full of photos alternating between Fiddy' shooting at...various things, shovin' money at some of what must truly be the skankiest lookin' hoes ever, and praying. Add the extra press concerning some shots fired between Mr. Cent and his good friend The Game outside G-Unit Studios, and the only thing that could make this album sell faster would be for 50 to bust a cap in the pope's ass.

At a whopping 22 tracks and a barrage of guest vocalists (who, wisely picked, can actually rap well) and the aptly brilliant producer's production quality, there should be tons to talk about here...until you really listen to 50's lyrics, who should never stand to close to either Dre or Eminem when they cut loose.

When the press release raves about how clever rhyming "gone" with "thong", or "ironic" with "erotic" (which, by the way, DOESN"T EVEN RHYME!) is, well...Hey, look at all the cool pictures! — Brandon Whitehead (posted 4/1/05)

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