Tha Blue Carpet Treatment
Tha Doggfather does much more than just show up on his eighth solo outing, though the same can't be said for Pharrell and R. Kelly, who once again lather the tracks with squishy R&B. On "Vato," a refreshing and rather startling chunk of low-rider G-funk, Snoop's nasal whine recaptures that ominous vibe that originally hooked listeners (especially when he threatens to go into his trunk). Indeed, Snoop carries the lyrical weight to prove that he's serious, reminding listeners of the days before indifference and celebrity complacency did him in. And raise your hand if you thought the hip-hop salute "Imagine" could not only help squash the long-standing beef between Snoop and his old pal Dre, but also inspire the duo to spit some of the most moving rhymes of their careers. Well, it doesn't, but Tha Blue Carpet Treatment almost makes up for it. DAN LEROY
. . . And you will know us by the Trail of Dead
What's a band to do after releasing an album that, while creatively expanding upon a sound, is both a critical and commercial failure? Give up? Or perhaps revisit the proverbial drawing board? Austin's Trail of Dead seem to have taken the latter approach on their comparatively stripped-down new release, So Divided. But with a semierect middle finger in the air, the band has also chosen to not entirely abandon its expansive vision of grandeur. Beginning with typical epic posturing, "Intro: A Song of Fire and Wine" kicks the record off with several minutes of chatter and applause under a slow guitar dirge. Then comes a humbler approach. As "Stand in Silence" begins, a newfound pop-guitar sensibility drives the melody, as Conrad Keely offers some navel-gazing insight: "I had a band, had a song/I had a vision, where's my vision gone?" This is not to say that the album is a mea culpa for musical transgressions past, or that the group has sacrificed its dynamic songwriting for timidity. But there is a slight revamping, from the Beatles-style sing-along vocals of "Wasted State of Mind" to the bluesy Black Rebel Motorcycle Club feel of "Naked Sun." And apparently Guided by Voices' "Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory" wasn't lush enough, as the band reworks that track with a more intricate arrangement. So Divided has its moments, but its reined-in tone is overridden by a "stay the course" mentality, rendering this album something of a musical quagmire. JONAH FLICKER
. . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead play the Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, www.showboxonline.com. $20. All ages. 7 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 7.