RUN-DMC, Crown Royal (Arista) Remember when the film Judgment Night came out in 1993? The story about four suburban white guys (including Emilio Estevez) inadvertently

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CD Reviews

RUN-DMC, Crown Royal (Arista) Remember when the film Judgment Night came out in 1993? The story about four suburban white guys (including Emilio Estevez) inadvertently crossing the wrong brothas in inner-city Chicago may not have stuck with you, but the soundtrack should have. Consisting entirely of then-progressive cross-pollinations between rap and rock artists, it gave the world some pretty funky odd couples. Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill? Why not? Helmet and House of Pain? Sure! Aside from the transcendent "Fallin,'" the standout contribution from Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul, the disc was actually more novelty than lasting artistic statement, but it planted a seed. Actually, not so much a seed as the first full grown off-shoot; long before Judgment, before even Sir Mix-A-Lot and those Presidents of the United States of America guys found each other, there was the ultimate, the ultra, the rap-rock granddaddy of them all: Aerosmith and Run-DMC's genre-busting, chart-smashing "Walk This Way." Obviously, Run-DMC are not ones to mess with a successful formula, and they've chosen to travel the same familiar, if updated, path for their long awaited return to the music marketplace. Crown Royal's list of guest collaborators reads like a Family Values Tour roster crossed with a BET happy hour: Fred Durst, Kid Rock, and Everlast meet Fat Joe, Method Man, and Nas for a sample- and covers-heavy VIP party. As calculated as it may sound, the results are surprisingly supple. Run-DMC may not quite be "Once the kings, always the kings," as their cover blurb insists, but they still know how to collect the talent and how to do something with it once they get it in the studio. Booty-basic old skool beats back up everything from a riff of Steve Miller's "Take the Money and Run" to a reprise of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" and turn it into Jeep-jumpin' thumpers. Far short of a masterpiece, Crown Royal is still a pretty good

ride.—Leah Greenblatt

UNWOUND, Leaves Turn Inside You (Kill Rock Stars) In an interview posted on the Kill Rock Stars site, Unwound drummer Sara Lund says she's pretty certain that she and the other two members of her Olympia band have never been under the same musical influence at the same time. It explains a lot about the three years it took to record this double-CD, their seventh long-player in a decade-old career. It also explains the pure patchwork of "Summer Love," a nine-minute-plus song that first rattles, then charges like a battalion of bloodthirsty recruits, then unfurls like a spool of yarn that's been tossed out a sixth-floor window. The song could easily be broken up into three parts by peeling away the layers, isolating the players, or intersecting the nonlinear progression at any number of points. Attaching musical and cultural touchstones to its pieces, you could say the angular bass lines and mumbled lyrics of the first set of sounds is pure Fall-ridden punk collage; the center could have easily gleaned its intrigue and paranoia from the score to the film Pi; while the slow letting-go of the last few minutes seems derived from a set of problems found in an obscure math-rock textbook. "Summer Love" isn't an anomaly and it isn't a rule. Other tracks on the record can be pulled apart in a similar manner, while songs like "Scarlette," complex and dissection-worthy as they may be, just want to be turned up and enjoyed.— Laura Learmonth

THE VOLEBEATS, Mosquito Spiral (Third Gear) While it's certainly not misleading to describe them as such, the Volebeats shouldn't be reduced to mere country 'n' Midwestern honky-tonkers in the twangin' tradition of Uncle Tupelo. On Mosquito Spiral, the band's fifth long-player since their 1989 debut, Detroit's dirty-country crooners recall the Beach Boys and Roy Orbison just as often as they rev their Motown-tuned engines in alt-whatever territory. The result is a 12-track triumph that's their most consistent and upbeat release yet, as well as their best. "I Just Want Someone to Love" and the longtime live staple "Voles in NYC" are pure summer-pop perfection— windows down, radio up—while "Bus Stop" and "I Tried to Tell You" prove the band haven't totally left behind the tear-streaked cheeks so common in the open-wounded world of C&W. Although (as most of their contemporaries inevitably do) the band occasionally settle for whiskey-drenched clich鳠like "You're just another memory leaving me behind," most of the time they manage to keep the achy breaky heartheavin' fresh and fun. Which, for a band so often lumped in with the whole No-Depression-insurgent-Americana-blah-blah-blah genre, is more than enough to distinguish the Volebeats from many of their peers.—Jimmy Draper

PORNOSONIC, Cream Streets: Music From the Original, Unreleased Motion Picture (J-Bird) Any fan of '70s porn knows that sublimely cheesy, funk-a-tronic background music can be as guilty a pleasure as the main event. In an inspired bit of postmodern invention, Pornosonic have created a very real soundtrack to a very (thank God) fictional pimp-and-ho caper, the tastefully titled Cream Streets. And damned if all parties involved don't mean "tasteful" in its most literal sense. The 10 (!) musicians collaborating on this surefire Grammy winner are so focused in their wanky arrangement that it's impossible to mistake their work for anything other than smut. You can't dance to it, you can't drink to it, so there's only one thing left. Every time I sit down with this album, my mind runs amok with images of stout, hairy, mustachioed mullet-boys laying waste to streetwalkers with bad perms and bee-stung lips. Pornosonic do the world a favor by liberating the talk box from Richie Sambora's evil grasp to give "In the Way of Dick," "Dreaming of Dick" (detect a pattern here?), and "Dick Saves Peach" an authentic coat of American sleaze. The hilarious final track, "Cream Streets Trailer," is indeed what it purports to be, not to mention a flawlessly executed pearl of a money shot.— Andrew Bonazelli

 
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