DORKWEED

Fluxivity Test Project

(Shaky Records)

Idiosyncratic guitar pop doesn't always suck.

I'm gonna look past the probability that the band's moniker is either a

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CD Reviews

DORKWEED

Fluxivity Test Project

(Shaky Records)

Idiosyncratic guitar pop doesn't always suck.

I'm gonna look past the probability that the band's moniker is either a pot reference or a more palatable version of "dickweed." These prolific Seattleites (five releases in the last five years) dunk power pop in the backwater and wring out some awfully adventurous—if occasionally irritating—sludge rock. Dorkweed has that rare preternatural gift of knowing when repetition outlasts its welcome. Consider "Beaver State": the palm-muted single chord approach initially plays like little more than a passable Pixies homage. Just as the verse gets trying, vocalist Brent "Weed" Amacher unleashes his slimiest Ric Ocasek sneer, gleefully overdoing the title's intrinsic innuendo. The high camp coup de gr⣥: a cheerleader squad joins Amacher in chanting, "We got spirit; yes we do! We got spirit; how about you?" Such bravado blossoms frequently on Fluxivity's hyperactive first half. Robo-samples and helium-enriched synth loops do won-ders for the familiar, crunchy bar chord stylings of "Burn, Baby, Burn" and "Oklahoma." Sadly, the diverse methodology yields inconsistencies; on gentle breathers like "Monster Truck," Amacher's plainspoken quirkiness ("I wanna drive a monster truck/You can drive one too") sounds flat-out patronizing. Dorkweed will supposedly release a DVD of short films to coincide with Fluxivity's audio. The Flaming Lips ain't exactly quaking in their boots, but that creative mettle should be a harbinger of goodthings. ANDREW BONAZELLI

Dorkweed play Sit & Spin at 9 p.m. Sat., Aug. 17. $6.

?UESTLOVE

Babies Makin' Babies

(BBE/Urban Theory)

From Ayers to Withers: Roots leader assembles "love" comp.

The record label—uniformly excellent English house BBE—bills this compilation of smooth '70s soul as custom designed for "love devotees" (a demographic that must include all but the most devoted of player haters), but its real audience is music fans who consider the Roots' organic, touchy-feely approach to hip-hop an antidote to the disappointingly automatic and increasingly nihilistic rap SoundScan tells us is the voice of a generation. Roots drummer/ de facto frontman Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson has done plenty to turn that tide—even working on Nikka Costa's album in an attempt to legitimize her aggressively funkless hippie-soul schtick— and the relaxed lineup of rare-groove nuggets he's assembled here would serve any aspiring "urban music" practitioner well: Smokey Robinson determinedly working up a "Quiet Storm," Bill Withers going bossa nova on "Can We Pretend," soul-jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers slinking through "She's Gotta Find a Lover." There's none of the envelope-pushing Thompson brings to the Roots or his jam-favored Philadelphia Experiment (whose new remix LP is a study in stretched-taut instrumental soul), but Babies Makin' Babies is probably the most pleasurable rejoinder to the rule of Ja Rule this side of a Cannibal Ox record. Fans of love might dig it, too. MIKAEL WOOD

?uestlove plays I-Spy at 10 p.m. Fri., Aug. 16. $12 adv.

BETH ORTON

Daybreaker

(Astralwerks)

Melancholy mistress of strum 'n' bass rides the American express.

Brit Beth Orton has always had an American jones; it shows in the sun-dusted, Route 66-style cover photos of her three full-length releases and the quintessentially Western titles of her first two, Trailer Park and Central Reservation. The less geographically specific Daybreaker may sound like a departure, but it's not; more a natural continuation of the beats she hinted at on Trailer Park and blended into her essentially organic sound—folk, jazz, roots— with such critical success on Reservation. Orton's work has always been a little too understated to be a complete knockout on the first listen, and this one's no exception—thus it's guaranteed future success in the aural-wallpaper world of dinner parties, cozy cafes, upscale retail, and hair salons—though, like always, her sandpaper-and-honey vocals make it unmistakably hers. A few other notable (and very American) voices make their appearance alongside requisite U.K. collaborators the Chemical Brothers and Ben Watt of Everything but the Girl: Emmylou Harris comes in for "God House," harmonizing on the mournful couplet "He's my man, and I've been doin' him wrong/Now I'm prayin' for the strength not to carry on"; and Ryan Adams joins on the Gold- like "Concrete Sky." Aside from the spacey drum 'n' bass title track, the rest is standard-issue Orton: gentle, contemplative folktronica. Like a cluster of starflowers on the side of the highway, Daybreaker's pleasures are small and simple, but no less sweet because of it. LEAH GREENBLATT

 
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