VARIOUS ARTISTS

Kill Bill Vol. 1: Original Soundtrack

(A Band Apart/Maverick/WMG Soundtracks)

Some film critics saw Kill Bill Vol. 1 as a self- indulgent exercise

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CD Reviews

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Kill Bill Vol. 1: Original Soundtrack

(A Band Apart/Maverick/WMG Soundtracks)

Some film critics saw Kill Bill Vol. 1 as a self- indulgent exercise in genre-film rehash. But Quentin Tarantino's ode to Nixon-age action cinema's first forays outside white-boy America glides like a martial arts version of the Avalanches' Since I Left You, and the soundtrack is just as exhaustive a collage of its muses. Everything from dramatic chase-scene funk (Isaac Hayes' "Run Faye Run") to the suspense-thriller stabs of '60s psychological horror (Bernard Herrmann's "Twisted Nerve") to the lonely Morricone-isms of spaghetti Westerns (Luis Bacalov's "The Grand Duel") is thrown in to satisfyingly cohesive effect. Toyomasu Hotei's "Battle Without Honor or Humanity," originally featured in Junji Sakamoto's 2000 film Shin Jingi Naki Tatakai and appropriated as the music for the Kill Bill trailers, answers the disturbing musical question, "What if Ronnie James Dio wrote a blaxploitation instrumental and it ruled?" But this wouldn't be a Tarantino soundtrack if pop didn't pervade. Charlie Feathers' Memphis stomper "That Certain Female" and the Cramped "Woo Hoo" from the all-female Japanese rock band the 5.6.7.8.'s prove that rockabilly is a universal language, while Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" echoes with more tragic beauty than you'd expect from either Nancy or the song's composer, Sonny Bono. Collectors' note: Start raiding the $2 12-inch bin at your local used LP store now, since Tarantino's inclusion of Santa Esmeralda's Euro-Latin version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is set to make semiforgotten disco singles as retro-fetish fashionable as rare funk 45s used to beand if not disco, then maybe Zamfir LPs. NATE PATRIN

NAPPY ROOTS

Wooden Leather

(Arista)

"Artistic maturity" is an important peculiarity for new artists to learn how to fake, and on their 2002 debut, Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, a rare introductory album that was thoughtful lyrically and reassuringly well- defined sonically, Kentucky's Nappy Roots were already shockingly good at it. Instant lyrical erudition makes sophomore ante-upping tricky business, though, and aside from a few overt political touches (and prerequisite second album complaints of newfound fame), Wooden Leather mostly covers the same "mature" topics as before. Innovation, then, is reserved for the production, abandoning the folky consistency of their first record for a scattershot blast of faux bhangra, margariney nu-soul, galloping crunk anthems, one-man genre Kayne West (showing surprising range on "These Walls"), and reprehensibly wack (and mercifully brief) heavy metal. Sometimes Wooden Leather begins to feel like a jumpy compilation of the sextet's always unique verses stuck on other producers' songs, but when the hit-and-miss approach hits, it hits hard. The awesome tweaked sonics of hillbilly-android sex jam "Twang" rides on one of the year's most gripping beats, and the flawless "Nappy Roots Day" has a hooky melancholy perfect for their pop-fame philosophizing. Unfortunately, this forced eclecticism also brings well-intentioned missteps like the typically huge Lil' Jon track "Whatcha Gonna Do," where these earthy MCs just seem uncomfortable. But the group still sounds best when returning toand considerably improving uponthe style of its first LP. On "Roun' the Globe" and the beautifully weary "Sick & Tired," and with the glorious return of singer Anthony Hamilton (of "Po' Folks" chorus fame) for "Push On," they earn their comfortable maturity. ETHAN PADGETT

BUBBA SPARXXX

Deliverance

(Beat Club/Interscope)

Is Bubba Sparxxx the most humble MC in hip-hop history? It's tempting to write this development off as shtick. But on Deliverance, Sparxxx ditches the low-rent playa raps of his 2001 debut, Dark Days, Bright Nights, for aw-shucks country-bumpkin charm and homespun wisdom, like A Hip-Hop Prairie Home Companion. Keenly aware of his own flaws, Bubba never uses them to set up a dis or boast. Maybe the perils of one-hit wonderdom (Dark Days' "Ugly" seemed like a blip) snapped him back to reality. Or maybe he's just growing up. Unlike Eminem, that doesn't mean producing his own songs; this is good, because it means no "Sing for the Moment." This is bad, because it means that Bubba is often upstaged by producer and paterfamilias Timbaland. Except that's good for us, because at least a third of this record is the most astounding hip-hop you'll hear this year that will still play for the Source crowd. Timbaland's beats whittle a kind of vaudeville bounce, halfway between the Apollo and the Grand Ole Opry. "Jimmy Mathis" rolls out Daft Punk harmonica over trash-can beats; "Comin' Round" sounds like an Alan Lomax field recording spruced up with sibilant synth brass. It all comes together on the title track: processed guitar strum like Shek'spere Briggs with dirt under his nails, skyscraping strings, door-knocker beat, and little peals of electric blues guitar that rise up just as the song is fading out. It's one of the best singles of the year, a better comeback song than Bubba had any right to expect, and if he disappears now, then no one's learned nothin' nohow. JESS HARVELL

THE STROKES

Room on Fire

(RCA)

The boys got their album titles backward. The first time around, the Strokes sure as shit set the Room on Fire; the silver-spoonin' N.Y.C. "art" "punk" quintet put their collective Parliament out on America's nipple, drafting agreeable Velvet Underground/Wire facsimiles for an audience in dire need of rock heroes who didn't count Faith No More as a primary influence. Today, we're trumpeting the Strokes' sophomore effort as among the year's most anticipated and important albums, knowing full well they won't resurface as aliens (Radiohead), smash out of their strictly delineated box before we lock the lid (Eminem), or advance their art by retreating to the barest essentials (White Stripes). Is This It is right. Nikolai Fraiture's bass is still an irregular pitter-pat pushing Nick Valensi's and Albert Hammond Jr.'s dueling-blade guitar figures into fine, live-wire pop ("Reptilia," "Automatic Stop") that's unremarkable mainly because the formula is so familiar via It's "The Modern Age" and "Someday." The band excels at devising the most basic, repetitive, lockstep riffs for Julian Casablancas to prettily bray over, but aside from the crafty solos that dominate "You Talk Way Too Much" and "The End Has No End," Room generally doesn't, well, rock. Occasionally they'll surprise with a deft waltz like "Under Control," and despite the derision about their posturing and upbringings Buddyhead.com had the best: "four-car garage band"the Strokes are in no danger of devolving from "group" to "lifestyle." Yet, little of this is of any magnitude. Faith No More, ironically, said it best: "What is it? It's it." ANDREW BONAZELLI

The Strokes play the Stadium Exhibition Center with Kings of Leon and Regina Spektor at 8 p.m. Sat., Oct. 25. $29.50.

JEAN GRAE

The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP

(Babygrande)

Hip-hop doesn't deserve Jean Grae. Had the South Africa-born, New York-raised daughter of pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and vocalist Samantha Bea Benjamin chosen to deploy her camera eye and narrative muscle in some other theater of operationswriting novels, maybe, or filmmakingshe'd probably be up to her coccyx in laudatory reviews and grant money by now. Instead, she's spent a good chunk of the past decade pounding in vain on label doors so closed they might as well have been walls. The freeze-out wasn't all that puzzling, even in light of Grae's manifest skills. She made her name in the game swinging hard at biz mendacity back in the mid-'90s as half of Natural Resource. Plus she has a predilection for dressing from the chin down. Then there's the fact that label types tend to be scared shitless of anyone who's smarter than they are. Grae's new Bootleg of the Bootleg EP finds the self-described "marketing nightmare" still kicking against the label pricks every bit as vigorously as she did on last year's excellent Attack of the Attacking Things. While nothing on the EP quite measures up to the once- in-a-lifetime poignancy of Attack's "Love Song," the disc's 45-minute "bonus track" megamix presents her at her most well-rounded, alternating laid-back freestyle musings with battle-hard salvos, all delivered with the bighearted panache that'll almost surely be her ticket out of the underground. Does Grae want out? Well, she tackles three Jay-Z tracks, and wrestles "Excuse Me, Miss" to the ground and pins iteven to the point of declaring herself a "smart girl who still get high and analyze Jay-Z." If the Hova would return the favor and ask Grae aboard for a real guest spot, it'd do 'em both a world of good. ROD SMITH

PEACHES

Fatherfucker

(Kitty-Yo/XL)

Credit where credit's due: "Fuck the Pain Away," the semihit from Peaches' 2000 debut, The Teaches of Peaches, remains a cathartic slice of punk-house, nearly as good as anything by method-acting Chicago house god Green Velvet. (Velvet might well be the male Peaches; the fact that he doesn't need to make sex the focal point of his freaky-deakyness is open to your interpretations re. female artists and the raw deal offered them by pop culture.) "Pain"'s snare rushes are scything enough to make the moment where Peaches starts slamming her crotch into the stage almost seem like proper release rather than studious pose. But on Fatherfucker, she's neither clinically robotic nor messily organic enough. There's something a bit soul deadening about watching Peaches shake her moneymaker. Fatherfucker comes off as a gray mush of misused signifiers and empty posturing, pop-star stripper chic transposed to the underground, the kind of apolitical "feminism" made way too easy in our New XXXtreme Culture. She plunders old-school rock-chick chic (sampling Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" on "I Don't Give a . . . "), gives Junior Senior a bad name with the joyless, potty-mouthed "Shake Yer Dix," eats herself alive ("Rock N' Roll" is "Rock Show" from the debut, only slightly more geriatric), and helps Iggy Pop make his mortgage payment. When Tatu do gender-fuckery ("I U She") and the Donnas do reversal of male desire ("Boys, Back It Up") better than youand get it on MTV why bother? J.H.

Peaches play the Showbox with Electrocute and Kisskisskiss at 8 p.m. Wed., Oct. 22. $15 adv./$18. All ages.

PREFUSE 73

One Word Extinguisher and Extinguished

(Warp)

Live instrumental electronic music makes or breaks itself on pacing. With no vocals to grab onto and only a DJ or laptop manipulator to look at, extended pieces don't always connect as strongly as when you're listening at home. I can glaze up at the projected fractal light show only for so long before I start to get the itch to click a fast-forward button. Cut-crazy Atlantan Scott Herrenthe single permanent member of Prefuse 73can relate: His skills are sharp but his attention span is short. Part old-school analog hip-hop, part glitched-up brain-bashers, part next-wave instro-electronica, Prefuse 73 nails a cheeky balance of recklessness and daring with Herren's one- and two-minute songs. He rides a beat hard until it smokes and squeals, then jumps off and grabs hold of anotherthe way your officemate burns through stolen cars when he plays Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on his PC at work. One Word Extinguisher and Extinguished are companion pieces crammed with a staggering amount of stylistic detail. One Word's title cut's compressed, metallic bounce rubs two rhythms against each other and sounds like a demonically possessed Commodore 64. "90% of My Mind Is With You" giggles with a loose French beat and ghostly vocals and ends with a radio dial's worth of tiny song snippets. The Boards of Canada-styled soother "Storm Returns" is one of the few songs that settles into a prolonged groovebut even then, Herren can't keep his hands off his power supply. He snips away at the beat little by little until the song has almost nothing left to stand on. Just when you think the meter's got to snap under the pressure, the next downbeat falls back in place as the original loop starts up again. Prefuse 73 doesn't just twist the beat. Like Kevin Shields did in a rock context with My Bloody Valentine's experiments in vocals as texture, Herren scissors the supremacy of the vocals, which are stuttered, clipped, or buried in the mix. Guest vocalist

Jenny Vasquez's contributions to "Why I Love You" are shaved beyond comprehension: split-second bits of breath and vowels that succeed both as graceful melodic elements and smart-guy commentary on the inarticulateness that love can inspire. Herren's attention span might be short, but when he plugs in his laptop at Chop Suey, he'll have all of yours to make up for it. CHRIS LORRAINE

Prefuse 73 plays Chop Suey with Four Tet and Beans at 9 p.m. Sat., Oct. 25. $12 adv.

FOUR TET

Rounds

(Domino)

The enduring image of Kieran Hebden comes from an early interview in The Wire in which the sole member of Four Tet was surrounded by his records: Sticky's two-step garage, bouzouki, Jay-Z, free jazz, Fairport Convention. Willful eclecticism in IDM is nothing new, and neither is Hebden's assertion that "when I'm in the country I want to be hearing electronic music." Ever since Boards of Canada, IDM has had an almost infantile fascination with the pastoral. But since the dissolution of his first band, British post-rockers Fridge, Hebden's Four Tet has grown into a kind of fidgety, not-yet-legal teenage-hood. He's got a decidedly rhythmic approach to fusing live textures with sampled electronics, from early singles like "Glasshead," which fit blaxploitation soundtracks into starched Krautrock jackets, to the astral jazz of the new Rounds. The album opens with "Hands," an ocean of arhythmic drum rolls and glitches that sounds like Fennesz remixing drummer Sunny Murray. Nothing else here quite equals "Hands," but Rounds covers more ground than any other IDM record this year: moonwalking breaks; mournful piano; bouncing-ball percussion; and forests of shimmering, humid, Alice Coltrane-style strings, chimes, cymbals, and rattles. This is something Four Tet does particularly well, bringing the cloudbursts of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's "little instruments" into the supposedly dry and arid world of the sequencer and sampler. A whole album of tracks like this, and he could have the whole piece of my fragile heart I'm still willing to give to IDM in 2003. J.H.

Four Tet plays Chop Suey with Beans and Prefuse 73 at 9 p.m. Sat., Oct. 25. $12 adv.

ENTRANCE

Honey Moan

(Tiger Style)

Bitten by last year's "Devandra Banhart Is the New Syd Barrett" bug? Listen up: Entrance, the name Guy Blakeslee assumes when purveying his bluesy progressive folk, is easily as captivating, oddly immediate, and wonderfully alien as Banhartwhat's more, the two are friends. And while I believe it approaches blasphemy to make too close a correlation between either man and dear old Syd, I might be willing to accept that both are receiving transmissions from Barrett from some great beyondthough in Entrance's case, there may be other voices, too. On this four-tracked EP (a follow-up to his debut, The Kingdom of Heaven Must Be Taken by Storm, released a mere nine months ago), Entrance covers a Robert Johnson tune ("Come On in My Kitchen") and credits country-blues pioneer Blind Lemon Jefferson for the inspiration of another. A left-handed songwriter who relies almost solely on his regular right-handed guitar for accompaniment, Entrance plays upside downin a number of ways. In addition to the aforementioned literal one, his words convey a sense of overturned emotionsugly underbellies held up to office-cubicle fluorescents and then dissected with Southern-drawled shuffles, Barrett-like wavering, and hissing hums. The very mood of this stuff is upended; the blues have always sought to comfort, but only insofar as bare honesty and confrontation can communicate that comfort, and Entrance's reverence for those ideals is stated plainly and nicely nuanced. Though he's already played some pretty big rooms with notables like Will Oldham and Cat Power, a small stage should suit Entrance's weird intimacy and Blakeslee's nimble guitar fiddling just fine. LAURA CASSIDY

Entrance plays the Green Room at 9 p.m. Sun., Oct. 26. $6.

GRATKOWSKI/BRYERTON/SMITH

The Voice Imitator

(Balance Point Acoustics)

I am no expert on the European avant-garde, and I have a difficult time making it through the Outside Jazz show on KBCS. So I don't knowmaybe Frank Gratkowski's not doing anything so new or original. But it sure sounds good to me. His trio trades in the most fearless form of free jazz, building musical shapes out of utterly nothingabjuring not just melody, chords, and rhythm but all conventional ways of eliciting sound from this most conventional of jazz formats (sax, drums, bass). On woodwinds, Gratkowski is as likely to blow shifting gales of toneless wind through the bell of his horn as flutter, yelp, pip, or drone. The range of "effects" created on unadulterated instruments over the course of this 72-minute live disc by his accompanists, Bay Area bassist Damon Smith and Chicago drummer Jerome Bryerton, is equally amazingand yet the last thing they sound like is "effects." Instead, these six "instant compositions" show the trio emerging as a beautiful, willful, freakish noise organism. The easy out in free jazz is always to come on with an sq-wall of sound, but Gratkowski, Bryerton, and Smith are far bolder in their use of silence and spacenot a pretentious, listener-mocking silence, but a kind that's charged with openness and risk. It's as far "outside" as jazz gets, but anyone into sound for sound's sake will find it compelling. I sure couldn't turn it off. MARK D. FEFER

Gratkowski/Smith/Bryerton Trio play Polestar at 8 p.m. Sat., Oct. 25. $12. Part of Earshot Jazz Festival.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Wig in a BoxSongs From and Inspired by Hedwig and the Angry Inch

(Off)

Tribute albums are a risky affair. Compile one without care and you get something emotionally scarring, like 1995's Tapestry salute that let Celine Dion loose on classic Carole King. This new set, which high-fives the tunes for John Cameron Mitchell's transgendered cult hit, knows its territory, though, and is filled with voices that successfully work their way into the crevices of the glittering landscape. Cyndi Lauper goes positively ape-shit on the anthemic "Midnight Radio," clinging magnificently to the "e" in "me" like her career depended on it, and that kind of personal desperation is just right for the proceedingscomposer Stephen Trask's gems are crafted with such universal longing that they're easily removed from their gender-bending setting. Even cuts not too dissimilar from the originalslike the Breeders' hushed, tender take on "Wicked Little Town"seem to find something private to say. The choicest bits are downright inspired: Frank Black gambols headlong through "Sugar Daddy" as though it were the most deliciously dirty thing he'd ever heard ("You buy me that dress/I'll be more woman than a man like you can stand"); Sleater-Kinney, with an assist from a typically perverse Fred Schneider, bite down hard on "Angry Inch"; and the Polyphonic Spree envision "Wig in a Box" as the "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah" David Bowie never recorded, complete with brass, theremin, and blissful la-la-las. There's even a new tune ("Milford Lake") composed and performed by Trask and Cameron Mitchell. It's all proof that Trask's rock musical score is among the best rock and perhaps the most enduring musical material created in the last few years. STEVE WIECKING

Sunset Tavern hosts the Hedwig and the Angry Inch Tribute Night, featuring Nick Garrison, Erin Jorgenson, and others at 9 p.m. Thurs., Oct. 23. $5.

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