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June 05

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Black Eyed Peas
Monkey BusinessA & M Records

After the hyper-mega-uber success of Elephunk, the quartet the Black Eyed Peas could pretty much blow off their follow-up album and still rake it in if they wanted...and confirm that they were just the next flava of the hip hop month to many.

Monkey Business is a sample-heavy album (like Elephunk), with guest shots from a who's who of music, (like Elephunk) including Justin Timberlake, James Brown and, for some reason, Sting, and (like Elephunk) it's pretty damn hot an' tasty stuff.

With all the slick production and heavy engineering present here, you would think this soul food treat would grow stale, or simple fade away when their fans got to the bottom of the bowl. But the fact is, the simple infectious groves laid down here show what the essence of hip-hop was (once upon a time) meant to be: fun. Sure there's plenty of verbal posin' and bizarre dance moves mixed up with crazy outfits, but the peas make it about the fan, not themselves.

The arrangements mix up ballad style guitars, orchestral back-ups and, most importantly, highly approachable and down to earth songs that could make the biggest sourpuss in the world tap his feet. Smartly, they’ve also posed themselves over the pathetic infighting of most rap and hip hop "artists" that often draws more attention in the press than the actual music.

While the second track "Don't Phunk with my Heart" has already hit the charts hard, and the Peas recently have played everywhere but the moon, it's really tracks like "Pump It,” which make the album worth buyin'. Because it samples so heavily from the famous surf rock song "Misirlou" (by Dick Dale and his Deltones, last seen on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack), it's unlikely to get radio play, even though it's better than "Don't Phunk...”

Without a doubt it's the lovely Fergie that has the Diva's voice drivin' most of these songs, but it mixes well enough with will i am (hey, that's how he spells it) and the others enough that you don't mind when she's relegated to back-up melody.

There are more than a few hip-hop people out there that should listen and see how it's supposed to be done. Besides, who don’t like monkeys? —Brandon Whitehead (posted 6/24/05)

Darkest Hour
Undoing RuinVictory Records

Perhaps Victory Record’s bulldog mascot is meant to be an "underdog".

Darkest Hour's Undoing Ruin is not your older brother's metal. To be frank it's hard to recognize how it is related to the glory daze of Motorhead and Iron Maiden, save the calculated microsecond drumbeats married to unceasingly chunky, distorted guitar riffs. Oh well, time marches ever onward on ever-younger feet.

This “Uber-metal” is absent of your typical dragon-slaying, enemy-conquering subject matter. Instead, the mighty foes here are the standard teenage terrors of apathy, dishonesty and heartbreak. This, perhaps, is the gruff voice of that very misunderstood teen male dragon. He feels attacked on all sides for being just who he is, tattoos and lip piercing aside.

Through the voice of young front man John Henry, the dragon lashes outward at a world that has told him there's no room for him. Rejecting this notion, the dragon called Darkest Hour has his coming out party - throat a' blazin! He begs in the song “Low,” "disillusion me again." But you can tell he doesn't mean it.

For those who feel like misunderstood monsters, this is an album to celebrate.—Matt Erickson(posted 6/24/05)

Nine Mile Burn
Nine Mile BurnBerry Music

Traditional Celtic music has always had something of a love/hate relationship with the average musical citizen. The simple ditties and traditional songs (often with names like "The Blarney Pilgrim’s Drunken Jig") can either make that foot tap...or make both feet quickly want to jig their way out of there.

KC's own local Celt trio Nine Mile Burn's first self-titled album generally runs the middle of that gamut — twelve tracks that sometimes seem flat and repetitive, and others that seem so inspiring they make you want to paint your face blue, grab a claymore and look for some English to chase off your land.

The first three or four tracks are somewhat unsurprising, and rather atonal, something that is more the result of the recording process than the musicians playing ability.

However, like many good bands, Bill Banks, Rebecca Pringle and Denise Reid pull it together by the end, particularly on the last track, "Miss Casey/Child of my Heart", which evokes the spirit and landscape of the rolling Irish countryside so perfectly that you might find a wee mist from the 'mores swirlin' round your feet... . —Brandon Whitehead(posted 6/10/05)

Nine Inch Nails
With TeethInterscope

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails may have sought to sharpen his edge with two volunteer stints in rehab in the late nineties, but perhaps he has burned bridges to his inner wounded man.

With Teeth is the bold title of the 2005 offering from rock's reclusive Reznor and, unfortunately, most of the songs feature only TR. Only Alan Moulder shares liner credits with the star (even though Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters handles most of the drum work)

With this latest, (the first in seven years), Reznor seems to have gotten in touch with his inner child, and she is a gothed-out Jan Brady. On the opening cut of Teeth she begs Marsha to explain " ...Why do you get all the love in the world?" Reznor, dutifully updating the middle child from TV's biggest happy family, rails against the undeservedly loved Marsha's of the world.

If he could've avoided borrowing so heavily from all his former works, this album may've been his greatest triumph of finger pointing. Having heard all that before these teeth don't leave a mark. —Matt Erickson(posted 6/03/05)

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