Nina Gordon, Get Hustle, and more.

NINA GORDON, Tonight and the Rest of My Life (Warner Bros.) OK, let's get one thing straight: In my humble opinion, Veruca Salt's only hit—"Seether," which was penned by Ms. Gordon, former co-songwriter of the band—was at best a mediocre Breeders song. That said, it shouldn't surprise you to read that Gordon's first solo album is a true piece of crap. She jumped the Veruca Salt ship back in '98, supposedly because she was pissed at her co-songwriter Louise Post for dating her ex-boyfriend. Quitting your band because of that type of melodrama ought to provide excellent pop-rock fodder, but apparently not. Plagued by easy rhymes ("I can't come out and play/I'm in such a bad way/Oh, go away") and really weird metaphors ("Help me 'cause I'm falling out of grace/Hang my head and hide my face/Don't know what it is I just feel out of place/Like horses in the city"), the songs play like sappy poems set to the kind of textbook alterna-guitar riffs that they're teaching schoolkids to play over at that fancy new museum of ours. That's what you get for ditching your band and hiring session players. The final track sounds so much like a Debbie (excuse me—Deborah) Gibson comeback—the poor man's orchestra, the "I'm pretending to be straining" vocals—that my "Electric Youth" nightmares from 9th grade have started to once again infiltrate my sleep. Kinda makes you want to hear the new, Nina-less Veruca Salt album.—Laura Learmonth

HANSON, This Time Around (Uni/Island) "They've matured!" cries headline after headline, and it's impossible to disagree. Taylor's voice has roughened and deepened and his Adam's apple has become more prominent; Isaac's become a better guitarist; Zack is now a striking combination of a halfback in the making and Dennis the Menace. "They've matured musically, too!" cry the reviews, and again, it's tough to argue. From the bubblegum-with-bite of "If Only" to the weightier "You Never Know," This Time Around is determinedly more adult in feel—and that's "adult" as in "adult contemporary." This is hardly unexpected, especially if you listened to all of Middle of Nowhere; its ballads, blues-rock as opposed to actual blues, even its tirelessly transcendent radio hit all pointed to earnest young (very young) craftsmen with an eye on both platinum and longevity. But even if "MMMBop" still exposes most boy/girl-pop as a marketing scam (and I say that as someone who actually likes a handful of Backstreet Boys songs), the problem with the consistent This Time Around is that its maturity is far less memorable than its uneven predecessor's giddiness. There's nothing particularly wrong with this album, and Taylor is growing more soulful as he approaches 20. But there's nothing particularly right here, either; I doubt any of these songs will brighten up the radio. What can it mean to want to grow up to be Sheryl Crow, anyway?—Michaelangelo Matos

VARIOUS ARTISTS, Live at the Blue Room (Yanstar) Oh, to be artistically inclined and living in Chico, Calif. Oh, to run a theater/music venue for indie rockers in a town where the arts commission warns that the words "encourage," "support," and "promote" do not imply any financial commitment or obligation on the part of the city. Not a lot of options then, other than simply doing it yourself. For Live at the Blue Room, the DIY kids from Chico have assembled a bunch of bands that don't mind, and probably welcome, adding a tour date and taking a detour off Interstate 5. On this compilation, the Dismemberment Plan, Burning Airlines, Most Secret Method, and Braid haul most of the load. Richard Buckner's fabulously spooky voice appears, mirage-like, on one track. Meanwhile, Tsar, the Capitol City Dusters, and Ant Farm deliver some of the disc's strongest performances. But just because industrious musicians lend their efforts doesn't mean the comp's put together particularly well. The songs chug along, mile after mile, on musical terrain that needs a cautionary yellow light or maybe some shifting scenery. It can't avoid being by and for a group of friends. To some, this will be its greatest strength. Others will feel like they're out of the loop. Nevertheless, the words "encourage," "support," and "promote," in the hearts and minds of the right people, are their own justification—regardless of the city's (or anyone's) approval. Creativity wins. Pass the hummus.—Peter Buchberger

GET HUSTLE, Earth Odyssey (5 rue Christine) If free jazz pioneer Sun Ra decided to be the Svengali of a lounge pop band, Get Hustle would be the result. Veering from cha-cha lounge to the jazz-thrash of the 1980s New York downtown scene to a willowy space-rock languor, Get Hustle traverses considerable sonic terrain, all in under 30 minutes. The opening track, "Bloo Boo," begins with a frenetic slashing guitar, stops briefly, halts at a break that could have come from a 1970s fusion record, careens into some krautrock, and ends with muted flourish by guitarist David Scott Stone and vocalist Valentine. Most contemporary vocal jazz releases strive for a pristine studio sound, with the vocal out front and the band relegated to a reverb-soaked background. As on most classic jazz vocal records, Valentine sings with the band, her sultry voice well meshed with the guitar-piano-drums combo. This refreshing liveness is best heard on the album's lone cover, a moody rendition of Raymond Scott and Bernie Hanighen's "Mountain High, Valley Low." Also notable is "Tropic of Capricorn," which weds a demented jungle drum march with some mighty lonesome twang guitar. Eclectic records sound like either an incoherent hodgepodge or offer a glimpse of a nascent as-yet-unnamed style. I don't know what to call it, but Earth Odyssey took me on an off-kilter, pleasantly disorienting adventure.—Christopher DeLaurenti

 
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