PARTY OF ONE
Caught the Blast
Eric Fifteen is probably a perfectly sweet guy in real life. On Caught the Blast, though, Party of One's songsmith, guitarist, and frontperson drags us through the darkest, dirtiest corners of contemporary civilization's atrocity exhibition with Shakespearean sweep and a glee so unabashed it makes the Marquis de Sade seem like the Marquess of Queensbury. Fifteen's talent for assuming repulsive personae livens up the party considerably; he spends nearly as much time being various pricks as he does kicking at others. When, in the folky "Belgrade Sends Its Regards," the singer dons a Serbian bully boy's jackboots just long enough to yelp a few lines on the order of, "Sun turns red/Watch your back/And count your dead/You won't last through tomorrow afternoon/We'll cleanse you in the end," you don't doubt him for a minute. His refusal to wax sanctimonious or get flinchy in even the ugliest situations is part of why Fifteen's party runs so well, but whether he's playing one of BushCo's imperial storm troopers, as he does in "Baghdad Boogie," or the psychopathic freelance toxic avenger of "Synagogue Chamber Waltz," it's his sense of humor that ultimately drives the message home. Plus, just to make his situation that much more twisted, this playground pariah wraps his demented reveries around jittery pop tunes with fi so low you might think the album was recorded in a giant coffee can. It's just another of his tricks, though. Listen closer, and what you'll hear are elegant constructs informed by everything from Can and Neu to Leonard Cohen and Sonic Youth. ROD SMITH
Party of One play Graceland at 8 p.m. Wed., Aug. 6, with the Tyde and Touchdown. $7.
(Disturbing Tha Peace/Capitol)
Like many of you, I suspect, I am a sucker for pop's enduring habit of hyperpronunciation of common words. Which might explain my fascination with Nelly. Admirable grammatical choices aside, Nelly went and pronounced "here" like the rest of us mortals. (It could have been worsehe could have been Fabolous, who taught an entire planet to misspell his name.) But herrre comes fellow St. Lou native Chingy to the rescue, with truly the blingest name ever, evoking slot machines, cash registers, and jingling babies. By now surely everyone knows "Right Thurr," rrradio rrrap of the highest order with what might be the most elongated "r" sound in pop history. It's little more than an obsessively repeated catchphrase ("I love the way you [insert ribaldry] right thurrrrr") and the bubbly bubblin' through it. Dead stupid, but undeniable stupidity, up therrre with Luniz's "I Got Five on It" and Tha Alkaholiks and ODB's "Hip-Hop Drunkies." Of course, Jackpot, like most pop-hop albums, is massively uneven, especially at $19.99 or whatever these things retail for these days. I'd advise you to just buy the single if they still made them, which of course no one cares to. So instead you'll just point your browser to your P2P service of choice and download it. Dear major labels: If you are going to snatch up artists with extremely catchy singles and let them release mediocre, overpriced albums, please allow us to purchase said extremely catchy singles. It will make you even richer. P.S. U rrr all stupid. JESS HARVELL
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS
It's difficult to see Super Furry Animals as offspring of AM's Nixon-years golden age rather than its siblings. 2001's avocado-hued masterwork, Rings Around the World, spun like Pink Floyd without all that bitter defeatism or ELO with a Philly soul gleam, but it felt like the band's "where next?" point. When you sum up every strength of five years' worth of albums in the span of an hour, there's nowhere to go but . . . somewhere else. Like West. Phantom Power, the newest SFA release, adds another arc to the band's unbroken circle of canny retro-hijacking: Gruff Rhys' endless-summer whir of a voice gets the opportunity to head a few steps closer to California. The route there takes them through Yo La Tengo's Hoboken as they watch "the ashes fly from New York City/past the grimy clouds above New Jersey" ("Liberty Belle"), with a short yet fruitful detour through Southern boogie-rock ("Golden Retriever"). But the real destination's the Pacific highway: "The Piccolo Snare" is a slow build that mutates from serviceable Quicksilver Messenger-isms to Santanic mescaline funk, while "Sex, War and Robots" and "Hello Sunshine" shimmer with a Laurel Canyon steel guitar engagement. But for all the album's Cali sound, the lyrics think globally"Bleed Forever" details the effects of post-Chernobyl fallout blanketing North Wales, and "Valet Parking" posits itself as a trans-Europe road-trip anthem for the disaffected and wary. Nothing stays in place in this album: Everything moves, everyone travels, and there isto paraphrase another California pop institutionnothing static at all. NATE PATRIN