CD Reviews

GONZALES

Take Me to Broadway EP

(Kitty-Yo)

His beats go deep, but the boredom he goes deeper.

Pity the fools who consider adolescent, retrograde provocation an appropriate substitute for progressive art. Enter Berlin's booty-beat MC "Chilly" Gonzales, the Toronto-born schlock shocker who proudly boasts on his three-song Take Me to Broadway EP that he wants to "be loved and hated in equal amounts," spewing hokey-jokey, contrived rhymes about his extra testicle and hairy chest and titling his songs with such sweet intimacies as "Cum on You." Got an Eminem complex, Chilly Willy? To wit: "I might hate gays/I might beat women/ but I wouldn't put it out there/It's not entertaining," the self-described "entertainist" has said, dissing Slim Shady to one-up the controversial rapper. "These days, bad taste is so delectable!" he sings giddily on his EP's title track, echoing the anti-PC police's claims that artists shouldn't be afraid to produce art that's sexist, homophobic, etc., just because people might be offended. And while Gonzales takes pride in writing songs that don't stoop to such blatant gay baiting and women hating as the despicable Eminem, his lousy lounge rapping is still no more interesting than Marshall Mathers. Sure, defenders claim such provocation can be an art form in itself, but that doesn't necessarily make it good art, nor does it make it worth the time and energy necessary for love or hate. It just makes it boring. Jimmy Draper

JAMES WILLIAM HINDLE

James William Hindle

(Badman)

Englishman crosses the sea with the doleful and dejected.

These eloquent fishers of downtrodden men and women, who do they think they are with their bait of mournful pop songs? Painting their music with the darkest shade of regret and casting their nets out into the oceans of the disenfranchised, adding their aching cellos and strumming their acoustic strings like a good heartbreaking is something we've asked for. Take, for example, the net cast by James Hindle, a Yorkshire-born San Franciscan who owes a debt to Red House Painter Mark Kozelek. "Four weeks seem endless when you're stuck in the first one," sings Hindle on the opening track, his voice transcendently smooth and calm over spare guitar lines as he scoops up anyone with half a heart for remembering. Four stirring songs—and one Bee Gees cover—later, Hindle steps quietly into "Brooklyn," the album's crowning jewel. Built around the borders of a denatured love affair, "Brooklyn" crushes slowly and quietly, with pushed and pulled cello bows and lines like, "I see your face in the things we bought/and I miss you more than I ever thought." The album ends too soon with a Glen Campbell cover, "Less of Me." Like Kozelek, Hindle is adept at choosing the right song to rework and then reworking it resplendently. "Less of Me," with its subtle twang, would play as well next to a Gillian Welch gem as it would next to one of fellow Brit Billy Bragg's love songs or almost anything by Nick Drake. There isn't anything groundbreaking or brand new about this release. But then, when your foundations have already been broken, sometimes it's best to get swept away with what's familiar. Laura Learmonth

THE APES

The Fugue in the Fog

(Frenchkiss Records)

Les Savy Fav labelmates indulge in frenzied, low-end rawk.

Whilst sporting a name redolent of hedonistic '60s overindulgence, D.C.'s the Apes give us a hell of a record with The Fugue in the Fog. Sure, the songs aren't amazingly original, but the songs are not the story here: It's the sound. That chaotic interplay between distorted bass guitar and piercing Hammond-ish organ makes speaker cones happy. No guitars get in the way here, and that lets the low-end distortion shine. Those warm and visceral keyboards can cut right through. On The Fugue's weakest joints, there is a suggestion of Jon Spencer that doesn't sit right with the glorious cacophony of some of the other goodies they give, like "Land of Ruin." Also, I felt myself wishing for higher concentrations of the weirdness included as transitory segments between rock-outs, creepiness given only in sideways glances through cracked bedroom doors. Despite these peccadilloes, The Fugue progresses and catches a rolling groove that sustains a steady release of good rocking dosages, preferably consumed on 3-foot speakers cranked to 10 in a long room with wooden floors. Mark Driver

TORI AMOS

Strange Little Girls

(Atlantic)

Amos takes on the big boys with a new kind of girl group.

Even those who have a hard time swallowing Tori Amos' passion for myth, moon, and menstruation may well be intrigued at the concept behind her sixth album, Strange Little Girls, on which she interprets—from a specifically female vantage—songs by the Stranglers, Slayer, and Joe Jackson, as well as heavy hitters like John Lennon, Lou Reed, and Neil Young. But the heaviest hitter of all is Eminem, whose batterer's narrative "97 Bonnie and Clyde" is channeled through the voice of the song's dead wife. It's smart, scary, and hard to stomach in repeated listenings. Amos unearths fragility in the Velvet Underground's "New Age" and transforms "I'm Not in Love" into a rhythmic throw-down of sexual confidence. That's the good stuff. The Stoogey take on Young's "Heart of Gold" is a head scratcher, and Amos' version of "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" gets muddled in both the perspective of a call girl who supposedly spoke to Lennon's killer and Second Amendment commentary that misses entirely Lennon's satiric intent in the title refrain. Despite these miscalculations, the album hits its mark, reminding us that in every story told, there are always angles left unexplored. Chris Nelson

Tori Amos' Nov. 9 appearance at the Paramount Theater is sold out.

 
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