DEAD LOW TIDE
Dead Low Tide
Between the Murder City Devils' spectacular Halloween 2001 mass suicide at the Showbox and the resurrection of half of the sextet as Dead Low Tide for a Monday lounge show at Graceland in March 2002, it's not inaccurate to suggest there was an orangutans-in-heat level of anticipation for some new shit. The Tide sure as hell didn't (sorry, can't resist) ebb, metaling up the Devils' drunken, hellacious swagger into precise, compact thunderbolts . . . then promptly breaking up before any substantial word of mouth could ensue. So we're left with this 10-track document of an MCD spin-offreined in by Enemymine bassist Mike Kunkathat could have dominated a scene still desperately in need of no-nonsense hard-rock heroism. While the Devils looked and played like the brawling, skull-and-switchblade imagery of their sleeves, Dead Low Tide were a refined, muscular, just-left-of-hardcore model of faceless rock efficiency. Spencer Moody's familiar pirate bark is a surprisingly good fit for the Tide's decelerated, crisp pillars of distortion. His rants about lust and thievery in "Ill Eagle" astutely complement Nate Manny's cleaving riffs. The stark piano intro to "Lazer Lazer Lazer Love" is quickly suppressed by Manny and Kunka's pitch-black, airtight interplay. Moody and drummer Coady Wills comfortably assume their Devils personae, propelling their aggressive personalities above the mix, while Kunka and Manny admirably adjust the release valves on "Don't Mind If I Do" and "Purple, Crimson & Lavender." If you like your rock proficiently lethal rather than brutal and sloppy, Dead Low Tide not only trumps the average Devils platter; it's one of the year's very best. ANDREW BONAZELLI
Here's to hip-hop's tiresome "bling vs. undie" dichotomy dying a quick death by flying guillotineespecially in an age where Jay-Z spits verses on remixes of Talib Kweli's self-uplift anthem "Get By" and Monsta Island Czars hyperaccelerate the '93 Wu style for the raw-minded braniac hustler, making the concept of a divide seem exaggerated in the first place. "There's no balance in rap, you either a nerd or a thug," claims Akrobatik on the title track to his debut, Balance. "You either got too many big words or bust too many slugs." (Where exactly this leaves Missy, OutKast, Cannibal Ox, Jean Grae, GZA, or Eminem, I have no idea.) Ak seems to be trying to stake his claim in a nebulous retro-conscious niche of Native Tongue-lashing, with buoyant jazz-fusion breaks ratcheted up to club-friendly levels to keep the bootycentric lyric-ignorers happy. And true to the album's overarching yin-yang, his nimble, sharp-flowing rhymes are strewn over a pretty wide terrain. He waxes pacifist on the post-Afrocentric disillusionment of "Remind My Soul" and the beatdown-aversion lesson of "Cooler Heads," only to bring out the grievous bodily harm metaphors in the battle rhyme stomping of "Bone Crusher" and "Wreck Dem" (the latter featuring a sick guest verse by fellow Boston-area dreadlock Mr. Lif). There's an underlying irony to this record: Without an outlandish flow or a slickly constructed persona, Ak's everything-for-everyone approach, while easy to relate to, is a little difficult to get excited about. While Akrobatik isn't a backpacker or a heat packer, it's still unclear at this stage what he actually ismaybe a fulcrum. NATE PATRIN
Party Monster: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Dance music is malleable, oh yes it is. New tracks are often old songs sent through recent technology (hello, low-pass filter), while club classics are endlessly remixed to fit changing dance-floor tastes. But it's also time-bound; few subsets of pop music grow as pass頡s quickly to their core fans. So you might expect the soundtrack to a movie about club life to be extra careful about what kind of music it usesespecially if the movie is about a very particular era. Party Monster, the forthcoming film starring Macaulay Culkin as New York party promoter and murderer Michael Alig, is a case in point. Considering its time frame, the soundtrack should be a no-brainer: a parade of classic cuts culled from the early to mid-'90s playlists of the clubs where Alig worked, heavy on New York artists (Frankie Bones, Moby, Lenny Dee), early drum and bass, and acid techno. So, um, why does the actual Party Monster disc contain almost nothing but recently minted neo-electro that didn't gain prominence in New York clubs until long after Alig was put in jail, sprinkled with the '80s electro that predated the scene the movie depicts? Sure, tracks like Miss Kittin & the Hacker's "Frank Sinatra" and Vitalic's "Le Rock 01" capture clubland's sleazy glamour, but they seem totally incongruous even without the visuals: the sound of moviemakers attempting to keep up with a sound that's already begun to fade (in New York, at least; Seattle is a different story). Just what the world neededyet another disposable electroclash compilation disguised as yet another crappy soundtrack. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
Young Roscoe Philaphornia
As a Philly MC not as clever as Beanie Sigel, tragicomic as Freeway, or versatile as Eve, Roscoe smartly cashed in his dubious gangsta cred as Kurupt's baby brother. East Coast lyrical mastery over bouncy G-Funk has always been a delicious equation (think "Big Poppa"), but Roscoe is the sort of sleepy MC destined to make half-decent albums for rap writers to be bored about. If you don't follow artistic intent or "quality" standards, there's a certain joy in the tiny cozy details of generic hip-hop castoffs. "Get Ready" succeeds in minutiae: Audio 2 verse starters, Mr. Kane slyly doing the chorus thing"Hospitable, Rosc-izzo, my flizzo not spittable, my dizzo not gettable, everything digital, un-eff-witable." "5 Seconds" is one of the most arrestingly immovable songs of the year, lyrically farthest from the West Coast with its precocious in-jokes and rap-skills pride, even repping B.I.G. on the chorus. It fits oddly perfectly on the thoroughly West Coast beat, chunks of buoyant glee, and mid-'90s Dr. Dre atmosphere. None of this clumsy shambling production ever matches the sweeping disco majesty of Kurupt's "Ride Wit Us" (though the Roscoe-guesting Kurupt joint "I Call Shots" is remade as an unlisted bonus track), but it modestly peaks with the lurching slink of the DJ Quik-produced "Get Flipped" and the pearly "Smooth Sailin'," a delicate adult funk jam with politely soaring Earth Wind & Fire chorus. A very mediocre "good" record, but a very good "mediocre" record. ETHAN PADGETT
YEAH YEAH YEAHS
(Dress Up/Polydor, U.K.)
It'd be easy to appoint Gwen Stefaniall pinball tilt eyes, put-on pout, and "naive" smolderas rock and roll's Betty Boop. But lest we forget, Betty Boop was sort of a hard-ass, a street brat gone glamour girlmaybe a little sexually demented, but always in control. Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O exemplifies that dizzying package. Vamping to the sometimes-dazzling stress fractures of guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase, she's coaxed her trio into rapidly evolving from N.Y.C. buzz counterfeiters to real-thing iconic sensation. Following two inconsistent EPs, their first proper full-length, Fever to Tell (Interscope), gyrated and clanged with remarkable versatility, considering the band's self-imposed minimalist guitar-and-drums dynamic. Despite mirroring the roundly reviled Machine EP, this just-released import single for "Pin" will probably remain enough of an obscurity to keep the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' rep intact. Aside from a needless, roof-raising, drum loop-propelled remix of formerly haunting Fever opener "Rich," the single features an amusingly incoherent take on the Liars' "Mr. You're On Fire Mr." (dear God, we've already reached the depths of Brooklyn flavor-of-the-week long-distance dedications). Karen's coo-coo-coo is muddied and buried beneath Zimmer's delightfully hideous farting Casio. This is exactly the sort of grimy, glam-free, straight-from-the-bedroom tangent that gets folks all huffy about the Yeah Cubeds. At least everyone should appreciate the disturbing CD-ROM video for "Pin," in which a stop-motion Karen is pricked like a human pincushion, only to end up spooning a beetle. Betty goes bestial? No no no! A. B.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs play Stadium Exhibition Center with the White Stripes at 7 p.m. Tues., Sept. 16. $29.50.
D-D-Don't Don't Stop the Beat
All great parties exhaust themselves eventually; that's how you know they're great parties. But tell that to Junior Senior, the Danish dance-rock duo whose first album offers more thrills per minute than any other released this year (until the new Basement Jaxx drops in late October, anyway). Or maybe you shouldn't tell themit might break the spell, and ruin the fun. Every song crams in as many boisterous hooks as they can manage, but the details matter as much as the big picture: the tight little falsetto oooh that Junior brings the choruses back with in "Rhythm Bandits"; the washed-out scrim that covers the hazy "Boy Meets Girl" (the record-production equivalent of sepia-tone film); the modest crowd noise that opens the first track, "Go Junior, Go Senior," serving as a tongue-in-cheek announcement that, yep, this is a party record. You know, just in case titles like "Move Your Feet," "Shake Your Coconuts," "Shake Me Baby," and "Dynamite" or the relentless guitar hooks and lyrics encouraging you to eat their chips and comparing themselves to party-time Robin Hoods hadn't already clued you in. Junior, who's heterosexual, and Senior, who isn't, are also supremely horny. In "Chicks and Dicks," they advertise their wares over a military-rock beat, surf guitar, and juiced-up honky-tonk harmonicaSenior: "Boy-b-boy-boys, I'm handsome and tall"; Junior: "Girl-g-girl-girls I'm nasty and small"before taunting each other: "Hey, gay, get out of my way/Hey, straight, you're always too late." When the least party-starting thing here is the "Mony Mony" steal (meaning they directly quote it, undisguised as something else), you know you're dealing with professionals. M.M.