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November 05

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Keyshia Cole
The Way It Is
A&M Records

Love sucks. That’s the underlying message of Keyshia Cole’s debut album The Way It Is. The lyrics, although a bit simplistic, offer the perfect mix of anger and sorrow to soothe the recently dumped. (They should also appeal to narcissists: Cole annoyingly calls out her own name in at least three songs.)

In fact, many of the songs were inspired by Cole’s break-up with her boyfriend after she caught him cheating. Tracks like “Love, I Thought You Had My Back” and “Should Have Cheated” not so subtly hint at their ugly parting. It’s an unfortunate story, but Cole managed to manipulate it into some pretty decent music

Her soulful, icy clear voice saves the album from its looming simplicity. She heftily belts out the sassier songs and softens to a melodic sound in the ballad “Love.” Unique music, especially interesting baselines complete with well-timed clapping — hey, it works — keeps listeners hooked. String instruments give “Superstar” the feel of lounge music with serious attitude.

Hip-hop artist Kayne West lent a hand in producing the album, and the star-studded list of guest vocalists includes Eve and Jadakiss. With variety like this, even those not among the recently single will find something to groove to — especially if an engaged girl like me did. —Kerry Hillard (posted 11/11/05)

A Perfect Murder
Strength Through Vengeance
Victory Records

Since the future of heavy metal has lately been some kind of mutant amalgamation of scremo and 80’s glam rock that, at best, deserves a quick one in the back of the head, it’s nice to see (or rather hear) that there is at least one band who still understands how to push the pouty spandex boys off the damn stage and get down to some serious head damage (the fun kind!).

Indeed, the five-piece group called A Perfect Murder starts off with some unfortunately scremo-ish vocals from Kevin Randel, but by the third track he manages to channel a little more Sabbath and a little less Helmet with reasonable success.

While the lyrics vary in quality (thankfully they’re printed out in the liner notes for those of the audience who cannot understand what sometimes sounds like an elephant gargling underwater), the real power here is right where metal’s heart has always beat: drums and guitars, guitar and drums.

Carl Bouchard (Lead) and Yan Chausse (percussion) put on a virtuoso clinic that could shame Metallica when it comes to working the strings and thumping the skins, and makin’ some grateful ears bleed just like the old days. www.victoryrecords.comBrandon Whitehead (posted 11/11/05)

Catch A Perfect Murder with All That Remains and Mnemic Mon., Nov. 21, 7 p.m., at the Bottleneck (737 New Hampshire) in Lawrence, KS.

The Vacation
Band from World War Zero

Despite the name, The Vacation has been far from lazy. Having already been on stage with Green Day and the White Stripes, this rock quartet, fronted by Ben Tegel, already had a good buzz goin’ — even before the release of their debut album Band from World War Zero.

Originally from St. Louis, the group moved to good ol’ Hollywood to gain some underground fame in their beer-spewing antics and bizarre stage shows (including Tegel writhing shirtless on glass shards from a smashed vodka bottle, a la’ Iggy Pop…) at the infamous Kibbitz Room in 2003. Former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones featured them on his Indie 103 show “Jonsey’s Jukebox,” and the group quickly put out their EP They Were The Sons in the U.K. off the indie label Fierce Panda.

With their first full-length album Band From World War Zero, these boys have only gotten louder and better. Flipping between straight rock tracks like “White Noise,” the mixed up punk “Destitute Prostitutes” and bizarre fusions for “Spiders” that sound like David Bowie and Joey Ramone had some kind of mutant musical baby, The Vacation should satisfy even the most finicky of rock fans with their hard and fast smorgasbord of slick guitar (by bro Steve Tegel) and some of the clearest and cleanest drum work to be heard (courtesy Eric “Dutch” Suoninen).

At just eleven tracks, hopefully these guys will stay off the beach and in the studio, and produce a couple more world wars… www.echo.co.uk. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 10/28/05)

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