CD Reviews


Between Here and Gone


If you buy Mary Chapin Carpenter's new Between Here and Gone (Columbia) from certain major national chains, you'll get a free DVD or bonus CD, but it should really come with a fifth of whiskey. This record is somber. Unwrapping it for that first listen is like visiting a fun old college buddy to find that he only wants to talk about his new sprinkler system or, in this case, his intended place and purpose on Earth. If Carpenter's rowdier early-'90s songs "I Feel Lucky" (from 1992's Come On, Come On) and "Shut Up and Kiss Me" (from 1994's Stones in the Road) were remade for Gone, they'd be more aptly titled "I Feel Pensive" and "Please Be Quiet and Listen to Me . . . Thank You." Good thing Gone contains such fine songs. Given the introspective quality of her last release, 2001's Time*Sex*Love*, the direction of her new material isn't all that surprising: For almost a decade, Carpenter has been settling back into her folk roots and away from a Nashville/country radio scene that she's never much cared for anyway. Gone isn't dark, just contemplative, and Carpenter remains one of the few folk songstresses who can indulge in punkishly romantic songs about hitting the road in the proverbial truck ("Luna's Gone," "Between Here and Gone," "The Shelter of Storms") and sound not corny but somehow wise. KATIE MILLBAUER

Mary Chapin Carpenter plays Pier 62/63 at 7 p.m. Tues., June 22. $35.


Who Still Kill Sound?


Over the past few months, there's been something of a revival of mid-'90s jungle/drum and bass—unsurprising enough, given nostalgia's decade-driven cycles, and welcome, since jungle produced some of the most exciting music ever made. But leave it to San Diego prankster Kid606, whose Violent Turd label issued SoundMurderer's jungle-redux Wired for Sound mix CD last year, to resurrect the breakbeat-hardcore that directly preceded jungle on his new disc. Its title, Who Still Kill Sound?, is a sequel to Kill Sound Before Sound Kill You, the album 606 issued on Ipecac last November, but where the earlier disc played around with old rave motifs before abandoning them halfway through, the new disc dives into them headfirst and stays there: chipmunk-diva exhortations (Kanye West fans should note that a bunch of pasty-faced English kids on lots of drugs made an industry out of speeding up old R&B records a full decade ago), dancehall-ragga shouts, synths blipping out bass lines and buzzing out midrange riffs, and a euphoria on the brink of collapse, both in the physical-body and subcultural-breakdown senses. Except the giddiness isn't ecstasy-fueled the-future-is-now so much as coked-up nostalgia, which gives the music a brittleness that undercuts its juiciness some. That's partly because 606 layers laptop-generated white noise—thin, curling, hovering—over or beneath nearly everything, and partly because he's still a smartass: See "Pregnant Cheerleader Theme Song" ("I'm on it, I'm hot/I'm everything you're not/I'm pretty, I'm cool/I dominate the school"), not to mention titles like "Slammin' Ragga Bootleg Track" and "All I Wanted for Christmas Was My Braces Off." And since a lot of breakbeat hardcore's appeal was in its absurdity, 606's retrofit becomes both the source and what he's made of it. MICHAELANGELO MATOS


The Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post Disco Crash


Better known as former WFMU DJ Donna Summer (no, not that one), Jason Forrest makes what he calls "cock-rock disco," an apt label that threatens to make my job superfluous. Of those two descriptive tags, "disco" could be the more misleading, which is odd for an electronic music record that, at times, draws on elements of Philly Soul and Moroder-esque futurism. But this is clearly head music, a post-mash-up, maximalist IDM album that embraces classic rock, breakcore, gabba, and metal and administers wedgies to the kind of process-based sounds that Mille Plateaux's self- explanatory Clicks + Cuts compilations turned into cultural capital. Like the microhouse-leaning graduates of the C + C music factory, Forrest's version of IDM eschews chin stroking and embraces playful immediacy, here drawing a frenetic, zigzag line between the pleasure-zone-hitting impulses of rock and dance. From placing disco on the chopping block (à la New Jersey collage-house pioneer Todd Edwards) to punctuating his thrashing beats with samples from Styx or CCR, it's apparent that Forrest has a lot of cards up his sleeve, and he's not interested in keeping any of them close to his vest for very long. A free-form radio vet, Forrest runs the risk of using too many ingredients in his pan-musical stew. But even as he liberally samples '70s FM rock staples, the record never feels cheap. At its best—"INKhUK" is DJ /rupture sweeping the disco floor; "10 Amazing Years" is Daft Punk covering the Who were it possible for their stiff robot arms to make windmill motions—it's as ferocious and voracious as arena-rock itself. SCOTT PLAGENHOEF


Flesh of My Skin, Blood of My Blood

(Basic Replay, Germany)

The most enigmatic of the dubmaster fraternity is the late Keith Hudson, who died in 1984 at age 38. A contemporary of Bob Marley, Hudson took the road much less traveled. He dabbled in dentistry. Unappreciated in Kingston, he immigrated to New York. As Marley became an international hero, Hudson was best known as the man who gave DJ/toasters U-Roy, Big Youth, and Dennis Alcapone their first break, before losing them to other, more prominent producers. "How can I tell you about my time in the West Indies?" he sings on "Testing My Faith." "Why can't I be just like any other man?" But by 1974, he had found a sound that still troubles, seduces, and conquers. His albums, released largely in tiny quantities in myriad formats, have long been the holy grail for dub fans, and finally, through Berlin techno-heads Basic Channel's reggae reissue label, his masterpiece Flesh of My Skin has been released on CD. Hudson couldn't sing, had a well-documented corny side (that's right—emo dub), and was fiercely defensive of his vision. In other words, he would have been right at home in indie rock or undie hip-hop. At his best, he paints in Meters-style minimalist chiaroscuro, making even King Tubby's and Lee "Scratch" Perry's dub mixes sound as dense as Emerson, Lake & Palmer. From the incantatory nyabinghi drums of "Hunting" to the deeply felt cover of "I Shall Be Released," Flesh of My Skin is dub at its most humane, desperately reaching through groove and sound for a personal connection. JEFF CHANG


Still Writing in My Diary: 2nd Entry


2001 was an odd year for Timbaland. He achieved what was probably his commercial, aesthetic, and critical apex with Aaliyah's self-titled album and Missy Elliott's Miss E . . . So Addictive. But with Aaliyah's tragic death and Missy on the magazine covers, his future as a self-minting Svengali seemed in doubt. And what had he dredged up down South in the interim? Bubba Sparxxx, a fat white guy, and Petey Pablo, who sounded like Redd Foxx with a possum down his throat. Pablo's underrated but uneven first album, Diary of a Sinner: 1st Entry, went the way of most of Tim's non– Aaliyah/Missy projects (i.e., the used bin). So Tim is given short shrift on the follow-up, Still Writing in My Diary (woof), with Petey using the trade-in money for a collection of current rap signifiers: some crunk here, a chip of Kanye West retro-gold there, Mannie Fresh still barely hanging on to the side, and—what do you know?—a few Pablo even produced himself. Petey does sounds damn good riding crunk's hollow claps and fathomless bass, bellowing and growling, more Clarence "Frogman" Henry than Lil Jon. Tracks like "Freek-a-Leek" and "U Don't Want That" are reminiscent of nothing so much as the halcyon days when 2 Live Crew's DJ Mr. Mixx would scratch in Blowfly and Redd Foxx samples over Miami Bass's boom-scapes. But as if to defend himself up front from accusations of falling off, Timbaland turns in the album's two best tracks, "Get on Dis Motorcycle" and "Break Me Off." Still uneven, Still Writing should see Petey out of the valley of the one-hit-wonder just fine, but if you really want to hear him shine, seek out "The Gun Line," featuring Bubba Sparxxx, a quietly released 2003 single that ranks among the best things Petey, Bubba, or Timbaland has ever done. JESS HARVELL


The Book of Knots


Surely the nautical-rock concept album of the year, The Book of Knots is ex–Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone, with the aid of ex–Skeleton Key member Matthias Bossi, ex-Swan Norman Westberg, current Mekon Jon Langford, and a slew of other like-minded musical family members. It's even better than Langford's other nautical-rock concept album, 1996's Pussy, King of the Pirates, the Mekons' collaboration with punk-lit diva Kathy Acker (not to mention Mike Watt's Contemplating the Engine Room, from 1997). Whereas the songs on Pussy were broken up by Acker's spoken-word recitations, The Book of Knots is a seamless ride through a perfect Swans-derived squall: early-'80s-derived sturm and drang, with the occasional no-wave guitar solo and/or feedback that sounds like a seagull fight in a Dumpster behind a clam shack. Underwater strings, pipe organ, shortwave radio transmissions, and banjos add a swirling, seasick undercurrent to the satisfying thwack of drums, bass, and guitar. For a pickup band, the voices heard from complement each other nicely: Langford's drunken sailor, Bossi's expansive (and pretty!) wailing, and Carla Kihlstedt's unhinged widows all walk through the song "Tugboat"; and the bass-heavy Cro-Magnon crunch of "Crumble" and "Boston to Bombay" are even better. Rockers who attempt sea chanteys usually make them sound like Weill-esque elegies to heroin, but the best songs here are as big and bottomless as the deep blue, with just enough added saltwater taffy sweetness to pull you into their wake. SCOTT SEWARD

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