FREEWAY

Philadelphia Freeway

(Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam)

Shout, shout, let it all out: Right now, the whole Dirty South seems to be nothing but gangs of fat

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Freeway, Broker/Dealer, and More

FREEWAY

Philadelphia Freeway

(Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam)

Shout, shout, let it all out: Right now, the whole Dirty South seems to be nothing but gangs of fat guys in Caddies with 22-inch rims bellowing over really tinny snare hits. Freeway shouts, toothe market demands itbut, being from the East, he avoids the Oi!-alongs in favor of a post-Ghostface Killah emo rasp. Philadelphia Freeway, his debut, is a rather unassuming record, but it may just be the year's best hip-hop full-length. (Caveat: Like nearly every hip-hop album since 2Pac's 1996 monsterpiece All Eyez on Me, Philadelphia Freeway is at least four tracks too long.) Freeway's secret weapons are the same ones Jay-Z introduced on 2001's The Blueprint: Producers Kanye West, Bink!, and Just Blaze, along with newcomers Black Key and Ruggedness. Like tarted-up backpacker beats desperate for the cover of The Source, the production is all dusty old soul samples, Op-Art stabs, the kind of "live" drums that are invariably tighter than any live band could ever be, and Freeway's sensitive-thug sermonizing (that is, when he's not "Snatchin' the dishes out your kitchen"). The most startling track, "Life," is probably also the one you'll be itching to skip most: Straight up, baleful black rock, built on an Eddie Money (!) sample. The resta mix of straight-ahead bangers and sweet, R&B-inflected bounceis just plain nourishing: hip-hop soul food, the best rapprochement of over- and underground in a long time. Plus: The only good Snoop guest spot of the decade. JESS HARVELL

BROKER/DEALER

Initial Public Offering

(Asphodel)

Despite its titular shout-out to the boom days of the dot-com era, Initial Public Offering, San Francisco techno duo Broker/ Dealer's full-length debut, is very much a document of the current bust. What's this mean? Extra value! Folks are a lot less willing to shell out $15 just to hear somebody tweak a hi-hat these days than they were five or six years ago, no matter how brilliant the tweakification. And while they build their musical edifice on the foundation laid by the minimalist masters on the Kompakt and Chain Reaction labels, Ryan Bishop and Ryan Fitzgerald definitely tend to float toward the richer end of the electron pool, where all the color is. Album opener "Take Your Time," for example, begins with short, muffled chords and a rudimentary synth figure that billows into a near-arpeggio as the skeletal 4/4 beat-and-dub-wise bass-line combo glides in underneath like a moving sidewalk. One by one, a veritable school of synths appears, some peeking shyly from behind the mix's curtain, others darting around in the middle foreground; the boldest snap front and center to take their turns on melody lane. Initial Public Offering most resembles Detroit Techno in the vein of MK and early Carl Craig, not to mention Selected Ambient Works 85-92-era Aphex Twin. In other words, the strongest music of the last Great Recessionand some of the main reasons a lot of early adapters embraced techno in the first place. ROD SMITH

ARRINGTON DE DIONYSO AND THE OLD TIME RELIJUN

Varieties of Religious Experience

(K)

You almost have to be a fan for this one. Twenty-one tracks of detuned, sax-screeching, garbage-can- clanking free-jazz-meets-free-punk probably make this collection a bad idea for both the faint of heart and the uninitiated. Arrington de Dionyso and his Old Time Relijun are a fairly unheard-of three piece to begin with, so releasing a collection of rarities almost seems like a joke, but you know how those Olympia bands can be. Although most of the lo-fi scuzz songs on Varieties clock in around two-and-half minutes, every second consists of a flattened note, a faltering growl, or a fractured thump. What's more, on songs like "Telephone Call," the loosely configured story behind the song is as difficult as the aural abstraction of it. As Microphones/Mount Eerie auteur Phil Elvrum mans the drums, de Dionyso condemns an ex with a pained horse's bray, declaring, "You just pick my heart with your poisoned-tip arrow." Moments later, he's practically barking, while the sourest of guitar notes are plucked like rubber bands. And that's the long versionhalfway through the short version, de Dionyso is essentially sobbing. Even when the band goes pop, as on the Mountain Goats-esque "Black Cat," Varieties isn't necessarily easy to listen to. But sometimes rhythmic, conceptual junk is just what you're hungry for. If you can take the raunchiest Captain Beefheart, the kookiest Yoko Ono, and the Third Reich of the Residents, you canand probably shouldat least try to stomach this. LAURA CASSIDY

ANDREW W.K.

The Wolf

(Island/Def Jam)

The third song on this brand-new, epic, smashing, operatic opus of kicking fun, having names, and taking ass by Andrew Wilkes-Krier is called "Tear It Up," and it's totally the most Thor's-hammer-cracking-your-skull-in-half-and-planting-flowers-inside awesome of the bunch, not just because we learn all about Andrew's radical high-school days ("I met a lot of friends who were cool/But a lot of them were jerks"), but because like almost every cut on the awesomely titled The Wolf, the song title equals the chorus equals what the song's about, which is to say "Tear It Up" is about tearing it up all night, "Long Live the Party" is about the party living long, "Make Sex" is about making sex, and as Andrew himself says on his absolutely gnarly official site, new single "Never Let Down" is about "not letting yourself down and not letting down the things that you have chosen to doand it's also about whatever you want it to be," which is, like, whoa, and all that embracing the party and living hard stuff is fantastic, but the one thing that's not quite as awesome about The Wolf is that, compared to last year's I Get Wet, there's a ton more piano and midtempo glam licks and a ton less tornado-alert shredding, so tearing it up all night isn't quite as easy and, as a matter of fact, this album almost sounds like the soundtrack to the '84 L.A. Summer Olympics, but I guess Andrew's already talked about the need to party hard and now he's just celebrating the apex of the hard party from his throne, which is completely outstanding!!!!!!!!! ANDREW BONAZELLI

Andrew W.K. plays Graceland with High on Fire and Vaux at 7 p.m. Wed., Aug. 27. $15 adv.

THE DANDY WARHOLS

Welcome to the Monkey House

(Capitol)

Don't hate the Dandy Warhols because they're . . . wait a minute, what exactly are they again? Pretentious wanna-be pop stars? Retro-glam, faux-Brit, art-school poseurs? Minor ironists whose gift for hooks isn't quite pronounced enough to be major but who nevertheless slot their singles in your memory banks and keep them there? Ka-ching! They have plenty of inadvertent help, too. On Welcome to the Monkey House, as with the three albums that preceded it, lead singer/songwriter Courtney Taylor liberally cops as many classic-rock ideas as he can carry in both hands, from the swipe of T.Rex's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" that propels "Hit Rock Bottom" (which also throws in a reference to David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging" just in case you didn't think he was being reverential or referential enough) to the disc's opening lines: "Wire is coming back again/Elastica got sued by them/When Michael Jackson dies, we're covering 'Blackbird.'" (Jackson owns the Beatles' song publishing and is notoriously imperious about who does and does not cover them.) Getting Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes to produce the album is its own kind of reference, tooone that falls a little flat. What made the Warhols' 1997 Come Down one of the decade's best Britpop albums (the band's Portland hometown be damned) was that it pumped Taylor's preciousness up with a muscular sound, but on Monkey House, Rhodes' almost dinky electrofied production makes all but the most obvious hooks tend to disappear. Which probably means that they really are art-school poseurs. MICHAELANGELO MATOS

The Dandy Warhols play the What's Next Stage at Exhibition Hall during Bumbershoot at 8:45 p.m. Sat., Aug. 30. $15/$20 one-day pass, $28/$35 two-day pass, $48/$55 four-day pass.

LOW FLYING OWLS

Elixir Vitae

(Stinky Records)

Ladies and gentlemen, the Low Flying Owls are floating in space. If you're now humming the 1997 Spiritualized song I cribbed that sentence from, well, that makes two of us. If not, just skip ahead to track four of the Sacramento band's second release and waitit'll come to you. But beware: This is a game you'll play with yourself on each of Elixir Vitae's track. Low Flying Owls won't get too many points for originality, but they'll get quite a few for their lush, druggy pop songs so long as fans of the Jesus and Mary Chain and similarly minded space-rock outfits are giving them out. The opening track, "Glad to Be Alive," sounds like the Dandy Warhols ripping off the Stooges, the stomp of "What My Friends Say" comes courtesy of T.Rex, and several tracks heavily echo John Lennon's Imagine. But as blueprint-toting psychedelic garage-rock revival indie bands go (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Raveonettes, et al.), this one has its merits, among them production. Without going off half-cocked into a downer haze of atmospherics, Elixir Vitae contains many bright, half-frozen moments of clarity. When the horns come in on "Georgie Shot Johnnie," you don't roll your eyes at the pomposity, you just lower them silently in respect for the slow winder's fallen hero. Likewise, on songs like the instrumental "Babies Made," an obtuse chanteuse whispers quite beautifully in a broken foreign tongue while low lights cast a fuzzy glaze over rolling tumbleweed guitar notes. Different? Not really. Special? Quite. L.C.

Low Flying Owls play Sunset Tavern with Friends for Heroes and the Valley at 9 p.m. Sat., Aug. 30. $6.

MACY GRAY

The Trouble With Being Myself

(Epic)

Macy Gray is like the Al Gore of pop stars: specially skilled, seemingly courteous, well intentioned, highly connected, questionably attired, and brimming with good ideas. (It's rumored that Gray invented the compact disc and was there when Sean Combs came up with the remix.) Yet like Gore, Gray just can't make any of her considerable attributes work for her for longer than a few minutes at a time. The aptly titled The Trouble With Being Myself is full of delicious bursts of flavor: Opener "When I See You" is a dippy love-in of trebly guitar chatter, squelching keyboards, studio-full-of-friends backing vocals and Gray's controlled singing, which here resembles not a Muppet Baby but an actual woman who's very determined to "kiss you all over your face." It's a great single that demonstrates how keyed to great singles the funky brio of Gray's sad-clown R&B is; ditto "It Ain't the Money," a ludicrous Beck Hansen co-write with a Pharoahe Monch rap aimed at "Enron/WorldCom CEO assholes," and "She Ain't Right for You," a deadheaded reimagining of "I Try" that manages to sound a little like Pink Floyd. Problem is, those are tracks one through three, and thereafter, Trouble slips into an adult-contempo tedium Gray never really rupturestoo many slick session-guy licks, too much "I just want to love who I turn out to be," too little personality where we've been shown it exists. Macy: Don't be a bore in '04! MIKAEL WOOD

Macy Gray plays Comcast Mainstage in Memorial Stadium during Bumbershoot with Solomon Burke at 12:15 p.m. Sat., Aug. 30. $15/$20 one-day pass, $28/$35 two-day pass, $48/$55 four-day pass.

DE LA SOUL

Timeless: The Singles Collection

(Tommy Boy/Rhino)

Greatest-hits compilations make the most sense for performers with uneven catalogs, which is why the format was tailor-made for hip-hop. But with De La Soul, the genre's most consistent group, it seems a little redundant: As even a casual listen through their catalog attests, Posdnuos, Trugoy (later Dave), and Maseo make such excellent albums that you lose a little boiling them down to their highlights. Timeless is a farewell to Tommy Boy, who dropped them along with the rest of their rap roster after 2001's AOI: Bionix (De La are apparently working on a new album for their own label). It's also a surprise, because what you gain is the sense that these guys are weirder than even their albums convey. The odd humor and whimsical sound of early singles "Plug Tunin'" and "Potholes in My Lawn" fit right in among the odd angles (teeny skits, lotsa in-jokes) that stick out all over their 1989 debut, 3 Feet High and Rising, but on their own, they sound even more eccentric. Even when their humor turns sour later on, as on "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)," "Breakadawn," or "Stakes Is High," De La's sense of play remains intact, whether or not you get their oft-obscure wordplay. The De La album represented second most often after 3 Feet High is 1996's stark, monochromatic Stakes Is High, which seems oddsingles are about vibrancy, hooks, color. But here, the four Stakes songs sound as inevitable, as welcome, as the bouncy 12-inch remix of 3 Feet High's "Buddy," which lopes along free and easy on a hefty lift from Taana Gardner's club classic, "Heartbeat." If what makes De La Soul irresistible is the groove their albums carve out, what makes Timeless work, up to and including "Baby Phat" from 2001's AOI: Bionix, is how easily those grooves sit next to each other while remaining distinct. M.M.

De La Soul play the Comcast Mainstage in Memorial Stadium during Bumbershoot with Common and Black Eyed Peas at 1 p.m. Sun., Aug. 31. $15/$20 one-day pass, $28/$35 two-day pass, $48/$55 four-day pass.

MARSHALL CRENSHAW

What's in the Bag?

(Razor & Tie)

Why is "grown-up" in rock and roll too often spelled B-O-R-I-N-G? Don't blame Marshall Crenshaw. Despite carrying accoutrements of respectabilityplaying as much acoustic guitar as electric these days, hanging with revered radio DJ Vin Scelsathe former new wave hotshot continues to gracefully fuse his songwriterly ambitions with humor and roots so deep he doesn't have to brag about them. Like most of his post-major-label albums, What's in the Bag? trades the jangly momentum of Crenshaw's key works for a quieter, occasionally ethereal approach. He remains sui generis in an on-the-down-low manner that allows him to get away with observations like "And there she sat in her perfect hat/She had a way of dressin' up like that" and makes a bus ride with a girlfriend sound thrilling. From the match of melody with wistful ponderings ("The Spell Is Broken," "Where Home Used to Be") to informed, loving cover choices (Prince's "Take Me With U," Bootsy Collins' "I'd Rather Be With You") and a couple of the playful instrumentals he's recently specialized in, this is the same sweet guy who filled the grooves of Marshall Crenshaw and Field Day with a deeply profound love for life and music. Anyone who's ever cared about his winsome, touching artistic voice will dig this snapshot. RICKEY WRIGHT

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