Various Artists: The Neptunes Present . . . Clones, Playing Enemy: Ephemera, and More

VARIOUS ARTISTS

The Neptunes Present . . . Clones

(Star Trak)

In these times of perpetual downsizing, here's a thought to warm the cockles of both Henry Ford and Marley Marl: The Neptunes plan to release six singles from their new "professional mixtape" The Neptunes Present . . . Clones. That's two-fifths of the album, which says more about their market domination than anything else. Perhaps grindin' against the inevitable backlash (possibly in the form of the dolled up, neoclassicist boom-bap of up-and-coming hip-hop auteurs Kanye West and Just Blaze), the cheekily titled Clones rolls out another season of 'Tunes tunes with faintly chilling ease. Now that the band's Rolodex includes everyone from Perry Farrell to Beenie Man to Britney Spears, the 10 or so guest stars on Clones (not counting their own test-tube babies like Kelis and Clipse) probably need the Neptunes far more than vice versa. So nth verse, same as the first: beats like giant-sized alphabet blocks, one-finger keyboard melodies, garish synth colors, and immediately legible quotations from the history of mass media. And, of course, Pharrell Williams' chicken arms and falsetto and studied ridiculousness in every third video on MTV's current playlist. (Chad Hugo is apparently too busy actually making the music.) "Frontin'," the current single, is certainly the first emo record with a Jay-Z verse, and it feels like a photocopy of 2001's "Run to the Sun"still wetly entertaining, if verging on the blandness that invariably sets in when concept turns to shtick. You never got the feeling Prince would double over with the giggles when he put his tongue up your ass. JESS HARVELL

N.E.R.D. (aka the Neptunes) and Kelis play the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour at White River Amphitheater, 40601 Auburn Enumclaw Road, Auburn, 206-628-0888, at 4 p.m. Sun., Aug. 17, with O.A.R., the Roots, Talib Kweli, and more. $10-$17.50 adv.

PLAYING ENEMY

Ephemera

(Escape Artist)

The black, bloody midnights of Black Flag and G.G. Allin have passed. If you pay to see a punk/metal/hardcore show tonight, chances are no musician will spit on you, behead you with their guitar, or rub their genitals on your face. In fact, any discomfort one may incur at an aggressive rock show is probably least likely to come from the band. That said, Playing Enemy bassist Shane Mehling gives me pause. He kinda, um, froths onstage, and you can't really trust a rocker who doesn't occasionally stop to wipe down the waterfall. Mehling unloads his ugly, detuned, car-bomb bass lines with the unhinged, oh-shit-what's-he-gonna-do-next contortions of a 28 Days Later pseudo-zombie, which accounts for much of the local trio's live appeal. What about on wax? Since Botch's still- heartbreaking split last June, S-Town's been wondering aloud who's going to bring the introspective, profound, yet tough as Hemingway's balls hardcore/math-rock noise. No Cinderella's gonna slink into those slippers, but a studious listen to the Enemy's somehow epic three-song EP Ephemera should catapult them right up there with Himsa and Harkonen as Seattle's most worthy surrogates. "Must Bring Own Weapon" is a mechanical animal of lurching metallic implosions in which frontman-guitarist Demian Johnston coldly instructs a lust toy to "Wipe yourself off/Your mom is home." The Enemy tackle Pink Floyd, too, covering "You've Got to Be Crazy" with the same swaggering reinvention that Cave In took to Zep's "Dazed and Confused." Wipe off? I'm leaving it on, baby. ANDREW BONAZELLI

Playing Enemy play Graceland at 8 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 14, with Scissorfight and Oldman Gloom. $7.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Freaky Friday: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

(Hollywood Records)

The cover tells the whole story. Avril clone: "Mom, you don't understand! I need to express myself by buying a studded belt at Hot Topic, fronting a pop-punk band, and marginalizing riot grrrl aesthetics!" Jamie Lee Curtis: "I was smoking hot in True Lies, and now I look like Janet Reno strung out on heroin. I'm going to oppress your individuality!" God: "These two will only learn to appreciate one another if I temporarily transplant their hardened souls into each other's bodies. Hilarity will ensue, Savage 'n' Reinhold style. Yeah, let's hit that shit." The music that accompanies this story consists of Avril clones probably not playing guitar on slick, heavily palm-muted guitar-pop originals, Avril clones probably not playing guitar on unlistenable '80s covers, pop-punk has-beens playing guitar on unlistenable '80s covers, and Andrew W.K., who will obviously lend his music to any commercial property short of NAMBLA Tunes: Touching Feels Good. American Hi-Fi change the "one, two, fuck you" in "The Art of Losing" to "one, two, one, two" because they're punk as, um, one, two. Warped Tour refugees Bowling for Soup and Simple Plan respectively reinterpret Britney's "Baby One More Time" and the Turtles' "Happy Together" with such uproarious spirit that I haven't eclipsed the 10-second mark on either without vomiting on myself. The attack of the Avril clones is led by Christina Vidal, Lillix, Halo Friendlies, Ashlee Simpson, and Lindsay Lohan, who laughs a little too creepily before asserting, "You're ityou're the ultimate you." Deep? Debatable. Freaky? Freak, yeah! ANDREW BONAZELLI

ROBERT RANDOLPH AND THE FAMILY BAND

Unclassified

(Warner Bros.)

Stories like these don't often end well. Boy grows up surrounded by tragedy and danger, boy finds salvation through music, boy goes on to delight crowds and win fans until . . . boy becomes a rock star and runs into a heap of trouble. As often as buses and booze have cruelly intervened with past rock phenoms, devout pedal-steel burner Robert Randolph should be an exception. First gaining notice on the self-titled 2001 album of Allman-Brothers-go-gospel supergroup the Word, Randolph's liquid lightning leads had people throwing around comparisons to Hendrix and Claptonstrong words for a 24-year-old who until then had never performed outside of New Jersey's House of God Church. But beyond the hype, Randolph remains a musical force of nature. His major-label debut is still a gospel record, which means the lyrics sometimes veer dangerously close to DC Talk territory on ballads like "Smile." But even hardened agnostics find it difficult to resist Randolph's supercharged pedal steel and funk-fattened stomp. On "Good Times (3 Stroke)," Randolph's instrument smokes and stutters around a groove in ways that a Stratocaster never dreamed. And though humility is often encouraged among men of faith, the "Voodoo Chile" nod at the close of "Nobody" offers a hint that Randolph's heard some of this guitar hero talk surrounding him, and he's ready for the title. But for the love of God, keep him out of helicopters. CHRIS BARTON

Robert Randolph and the Family Band play the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour at White River Amphitheater, 40601 Auburn Enumclaw Road, Auburn, 206-628-0888, at 4 p.m. Sun., Aug. 17, with N.E.R.D. and Kelis, O.A.R., the Roots, Talib Kweli, and more. $10-$17.50 adv.

JESSY MOSS

Street Knuckles

(DreamWorks)

If the young London-based rapper/producer Mike Skinner, known on record as the Streets, was a working-class English response to the young Detroit-based rapper/producer Marshall Mathers, known on record as Eminem, you might consider the young Australian-bred rapper/singer Jessy Moss, known on record as Jessy Moss, the sexy female answer to Skinner. On Street Knuckles, her feisty DreamWorks debut, Moss turns the sort of quotidian struggles and small-scale triumphs that filter Skinner's songs and Mathers' older ones into agreeably rough-hewn hip-pop that makes lots of room for woozy guitar licks and sweetly sung choruses. Like Skinner, Moss is at her most imaginative when she's tackling aggressively banal subjects. In "Landbitch" she describes how she'll exact her revenge on a deadbeat landlord: "And about my security deposit," she raps in a just-folks Australian accent over Dr. Dre-gone-anemic programming and U.K. garage pizzicato strings, "If I don't see it quick/Then you're gonna see about two G's worth of damage to your shit." Luckily, when her lyrics occasionally dip into hip-hop boilerplate"I tell you to take it like a man, but you a bitch," she boasts unconvincingly in "The Baddest"the nuanced production (mostly by alt-rock veteran Butch Vig) rescues Moss's music from tedium: The slinky "Build You Up" makes a strong case for re-evaluating Everlast's musty blues/rap hybrid, and "Telling You Now" zaps the boom from Boomkat's candied trip-hop, leaving only fluttering string instruments and Moss's throaty singing. MIKAEL WOOD

Jessy Moss plays the second stage of the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour at White River Amphitheater, 40601 Auburn Enumclaw Road, Auburn, 206-628-0888, at 4 p.m. Sun., Aug. 17, with Slightly Stoopid, High Speed Scene, Spymob, and more. $10-$17.50 adv.

SUSHIROBO

The Light-Fingered Feeling of Sushirobo

(Pattern 25)

Sushirobo are probably best known outside of city limits for scoring a few cuts on MTV's The Real World, and, man, are they psyched about it; the liner notes on sophomore LP The Light- Fingered Feeling of Sushirobo (Pattern 25) reserve a nice little ass smooch for Bunim/Murray Productions. Inside city limits, they're probably best known for . . . scoring a few cuts on The Real World. No matter. If the quartet continues the climb from obscure urban curiosity to national name, it'll be the rarest of phenomena; what Seattle band has infiltrated U.S. air in the last 10 years without at least one juiced-up, monster power chord? Sushirobo couldn't care less; their aesthetic hails from the impressionistic asteroid belt of Wire and Devo. They drown even the most familiar pop progressions in sleepy, exaggerated, phased-out effects. Hell, in "Shiva the Destroyer," vocalist Arthur Robbers warns right away that "your power chords" are "powerless to protect you." Fine and good. Bassist Clay Martin is not only responsible for anchoring the head trips, but propelling them; he's the only player that operates under pop auspices. Robbers and co-guitarist Dave Einmo weave through jammy digressions, caressing each other with washes of reverb while drummer Barry Shaw tries to rein it all in. Even when Shaw pushes the tempo ("Talk Show"), the band's gravity pull thwarts the jet thrust. Sushirobo's platter is really not unlike the Dismemberment Plan's quirky, vaguely romantic puzzle boxes. The only question is, are you gonna open them . . . or Puck? ANDREW BONAZELLI Sushirobo play Old Firehouse, 16510 N.E. 79th St., Redmond, 425-556-2370, at 7 p.m. Fri., Aug. 15, with the Loveless and Goodnight Trail, Cobra High, and Bird Shaped Holes in the Sky. $7.

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