MONSTER MAGNET, God Says No (A&M) Success hasn't gone to Dave Wyndorf's head—megalomania has been his subject for years. Even before his band Monster Magnet

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CD Reviews

MONSTER MAGNET, God Says No (A&M) Success hasn't gone to Dave Wyndorf's head—megalomania has been his subject for years. Even before his band Monster Magnet broke out of cult status with 1998's heavy-rock juggernaut, Powertrip, the Red Bank, N.J., native was writing about the sort of lording-it-over-the-minions fantasies you might expect from someone fueled by psychedelics and back issues of Thor. Nevertheless, the new God Says No does have the kind of sound that the ear associates with money: The sludge is both thicker and clearer than ever, the tempos are a bit slower, and Wyndorf's singing feels more lived-in, though fans will be happy to note that it's still as hyped-up as ever. It's sneakier than Powertrip, less relentlessly in-your-face. Although there's nothing here as surefire as that album's "Space Lord" or "See You in Hell," new songs like "Heads Explode," about what sober guys do for kicks, and "Melt," with its 10-second pause midway through, rocket out of the speakers with the kind of grace that earns the term "relaxed authority." And the lyrics? "It's time to suck the cock of the fire god," Wyndorf yowls on "Kiss of the Scorpion." They're as preoccupied with power and sex and their crossing paths as ever.—Michaelangelo Matos

HOPEWELL, The Curved Glass (Priapus) What's almost as good as a new Mercury Rev album? The answer, Grasshopper, is the new album by a couple of guys from Mercury Rev's touring band. Clearly, one cannot traverse the globe with those sonically majestic purveyors of space rock without bringing a bunch of that supercharged electricity back home. The Curved Glass, Hopewell's second full-length, starts off with the chattering, fuzzed-out, Flaming Lips-like bloodletting of "The Angel Is My Watermark." Tracks three and four argue, "There Is Something" and then "There Is Nothing." The dispute is settled six songs later when the final assaulting notes of "The Fish" fade out and you're left with a minute or so of disconcerting white noise. The sharp angle of Hopewell's warped glass is made obvious: Step to one side and your reflection appears severely contorted, stand in dead center and your form is sharp, take a step backwards and it appears you were never there at all. The lyrical ambiguity of Justin and Jason Russo sharpens with droning guitars, mellotrons, and haunted, broken spaces. The brothers sing like disenfranchised seraphim, chosen ones who lost their faith, dropped rank, and returned to earth to sing the praises of chaos. And while some space-rockers fall prey to lazy shoegazing, these upstate New Yorkers keep things moving. The confusion creeps ever forward; ideas build wildly and then crash quietly. We were never meant to understand. —Laura Learmonth

JIM WHITE, No Such Place (Luaka Bop) Jim White's 1997 debut Wrong-Eyed Jesus was a refreshing chunk of neither-fish-nor-fowl, off-kilter country music, featuring White's gripping rural Goth rambles framed against a wicked cabaret of clattering instruments. The design seemed to be to set up the young singer (real name Mike Pratt) as alt-country's answer to Tom Waits; the results were promising but mixed. Four years later, White has returned with some new friends (Morcheeba, Andrew Hale, and Sohichiro Suzuki), and his sound has acquired some technical polish. No Such Place does a better job than its predecessor at streamlining everything, giving White plenty of room to move. "Corvair" is so desolate you can practically feel the kudzu growing on the abandoned heap that sits mournfully in the yard. "The Wound That Never Heals" or "10 Miles to Go on a 9-Mile Walk" could potentially find a home in the hearts of those quasiliterate modern music fans who've finally come to the conclusion that troubadour twits like Shawn Mullins are just so much shuck and jive. Above all, White can slice and dice words and feelings like an Iron Chef ("Seldom a door/seldom a key/seldom a lock/like the love between you and me," he sings on "Christmas Day"), and his latest set of deft ruminations on loss, being lost, and why God isn't all he's cracked up to be should move his sorry ass up a couple of rungs.—John Chandler

TAKAKO MINEKAWA, Maxi On EP (Emperor Norton) Both fans and detractors of much of the Japanese pop music that makes it to our shores cite its high kitsch quotient. Takako Minekawa certainly does nothing to detract from this preconception. Though not as aggressively pre- pubescent sounding as former bandmate and peer Kahimi Karie, Takako's wispy vocal style does lend an air of irrepressible cuteness to the proceedings. Any suggestion that she lacks substance, however, is unfair. Takako and her impressive list of past collaborators—including Cornelius and DJ Me/DJ You—have delivered a wondrous array of arrangements that would make any high-tech popster jealous. This range of talent is evident on Maxi On's title track, which gracefully splices mid-'60s-style guitar and organ with modern electronic beats. It makes for a superb single, but the EP as a whole seeks to explore the sadder side of Takako. On "Lullaby of Gray" she laments, "The skies are gray/My tights are gray too." Awww. The somber lyrical tone is reinforced on most of the tracks by understated instrumentation. The intention is the spare, dreamy atmosphere achieved best on "Brioche" and "Sleeping Bag"; on other tracks, though, the effect is more a warm blanket of tedium. Maxi On makes you want to give Takako a great big hug, followed by a gentle reminder that she needn't be so serious to be taken seriously. —Paul Fontana

 
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