CD Reviews

RANCID, Rancid (Hellcat/Epitaph) Up until the late 1980s, there was a strictly enforced rule that at least 90 percent of any rock band's tunes had to address one of two universal topics: 1) sex; and 2) playin' in a rock 'n' roll band. With the rise of punk rock, people could suddenly write songs about anything they wanted, and Rancid take full advantage on their latest album. (It's simply titled Rancid, just like their 1993 debut). There are songs about the genocide in Rwanda, Civil War abolitionist John Brown, the 1950s quiz show scandal, and even Don Giovanni (yes, the main character of the Mozart opera). With 22 tracks to choose from, there's still room for classic punk rants like the antitelevision "Antennas" ("Let California fall into the fucking ocean") and "Corruption," with its mesmerizing chant of "No God, No choice." And, subject matter aside, damn near every song is good and most are plenty quick to boot. The fellas have left behind the Op Ivy ska and the blues influences, with the result being a solid punk record.—James Bush

SENOR COCONUT Y SU CONJUNTO, El Baile Aleman (Del Haze/Emperor Norton) Se�Coconut's El Baile Aleman (German dance) is where the panglobalist musical direction of the past half-decade crosses the border between multiculturalism at work and absurd juxtaposition run amok. Dig this premise: Uwe Schmidt is a former Frankfurt resident, highly explorative electronic musician (as Atom Heart), and the proprietor of the Rather Interesting record label, who a few years ago got bored with life in the Euro electronica subculture and moved to Chile for inspiration. Seemingly it came like a flood, because with his second record as Se�Coconut, Schmidt has blended his Germanic past with his Latin present like no one could've imagined, recording an album of Kraftwerk covers reborn as cha-cha-chas, meringues, and cumbias, with two synths made to sound like a small combo of brass, percussion, and xylophones. It truly is enough to make your head spin in a million directions, as minimalist melodies are transformed into full-bodied arrangements clearly cognizant of Latin America's rich dance music tradition, via tools of the very minimalism they're subverting. Got that? Step beyond the almost unbearable kitsch factor, and what seems most striking is how melodically digestible Kraftwerk's music is even in the most foreign context, whether it's "Tour De France" being carried on bursting, pulsating saxophones or the marimbas adding a lounge sway to "Showroom Dummies." So does the twisted side of high concept qualify as genius? Can local cultures survive such mad invasions of their legacies? And should questions of theory affect a listener's enjoyment of something so wrong it's right? Discuss. . . .—Peter Orlov

STARLIGHT MINTS, the dream that stuff was made of (SeeThru Broadcasting) A starlight mint is one of those red and white, pinwheel-patterned peppermint candies that everyone eats but no one really likes. Starlight Mints are a band from Norman, Oklahoma, who you've probably never heard of, but you'll most likely love. The stuff that funneled out of the Mints' dreams is not only as bizarre and beautiful as you'd expect from a band that hails from the Flaming Lips' stomping grounds, it's also as original, whimsical, and surreal as your favorite memories of drug-induced hallucinations (provided you've got some). From the rocking madman's concerto of an opener, "Submarine #3," all the way to the wacked whopper of a finale, "Pulling Out My Hair," the album pours on the psychedelic pop. Undoubtedly, this fun and fanciful band will get compared to the clique of Brian Wilson-worshipping Elephant 6-ers. And while the songs on this debut employ twinkling keyboards, blasting trumpets, and Sgt. Pepper-like pomp and circumstance, instead of drilling three-part harmonies into every song, the band adds layers of grinding guitars and contrasting back-up vocals, the best of which sound like Calvin Johnson with a bad hangover. Perhaps most emblematic of the Mints' sound is the charging "Sugar Blaster." Sugar, it has. Blasting, it does. The song, and the album as well, assaults you with Southern rock and then applies a sweet, harmonious dressing to your wounds. And you've never been happier to receive a bandage.—Laura Learmonth

DATACH'I, We Are Always Well Thank You (Caipirinha) Suitable for frenzied dancing and recreational listening, Datach'i's combination of electronic and conventional instruments will satisfy experienced ears and intrigue new listeners of electronic music. The tracks are built from schizophrenic drums, hypnotic keyboards, quirky samples, and a range of echoing tones all molded into asymmetrical rhythms ranging from low-impact to pulse-pounding. "Free in a Box" combines calculated beats and cymbal-like crashes, then dissolves into a ghostlike whir that swirls back and forth between channels before fading off into a fuzzy busy signal. "Merrily We Roll Along" is like a futuristic nursery rhyme, with Datach'i showcasing simple and delicate keyboard melodies that add a recognizable layer to the intentionally puzzling digital fracas. The electronic maestro continues to playfully juxtapose disparate musical forms on "Welcome 2 the Jackalope," which begins with a comical series of beeps reminiscent of early Coleco video games but then escalates into a series of swirling, complex sounds more akin to a PlayStation soundtrack. Sometimes the staccato banging and revving can be reminiscent of the aural haze that accompanies an ear infection. Not the kind that has you clawing at your skull, but one that arouses your curiosity and has you stretching your jaw and swallowing in a quest to provoke a new crackling or popping from your middle ear. Fortunately, We Are Always Well Thank You doesn't require antibiotics.—Jeff Malamy

 
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