CD Reviews

OBIE TRICE

Cheers

(Shady/Aftermath/Interscope)

"Got Some Teeth" is a misleading first single. It's all lighthearted club posturing, singsong spitting, Hanna-Barbera samples, giving the impression that Obie Trice, the latest Eminem protégé, is a student of the "Without Me" school of campy hip-hopminus the brilliant self- obsession of an Eminem releasewho's also had a few tutoring sessions in pimp bombast from labelmate 50 Cent. In reality, Trice is closer to a more accessible, less sociopathic version of Slim Shady. The rest of the album consists nearly entirely of dark, almost desperate tracks that smack of the determined, everyday bleakness of a regular guy just trying to get by, a theme he explicitly acknowledges with the opening track, "Average Guy." Full of the Shady-esque pathos of growing up hard, "Don't Come Down" is tempered with Trice's sense of responsibility for his own actions. "Look in My Eyes" focuses on the quintessential hip-hop theme of being real, but Trice's claim to realness is almost sad, given in the resigned voice of a man who's been through a lot of shit and still has to prove himself to a bunch of wanna-be thugs. There is some material on the album that isn't so self-disclosing, like the Timbaland-produced strut of "Bad Bitch" or blustering, ho-dissing "Lady" (with Eminem doing his best Jerry Lewis on the chorus"Hey, Lady!"). But the slightly swaggering average Joe is what suits Trice best. "I done did it all, so I clutch my balls/And notice they still here, so Obie is still here," he rhymes on the title cut. The "average guy" routine works because it's true. RACHEL DEVITT

THE FIERY FURNACES

Gallowsbird's Bark

(Rough Trade)

Goofball acid-cabaret doesn't rub up against psych-stomp punk-blues every day, and why should it? A few bars of all-strings-no-drums usually means dance floor death down at the rock and roll club; some genius once figured out that consistent beats and rock music go very well together, and today's nu-rockers, including Chicago's Fiery Furnaces, take that to heart. But the Furnaces go at it like outsiders, sly music students who'll slum with the two-chord vampers long enough to work the crowd and then stun them with prissy glam piano suites and jarring, organ-encrusted space freakouts. It's hard to tell what their lineage isthe Sgt. Pepper Beatles, maybe, or perhaps a nation of bored, creative bar mitzvah kids left alone with a tape recorder and a house full of presents. Gallowsbird's Bark is elastic enough that you sense a connectedness between several genres even when the band is only playing one. A simple acoustic blues gets some tightly wound funk from a cartoonish bouncing-ball bass line; a cheap drum machine gives a Thin Lizzy-ish head-shop boogie-rag a disco twist. This lends some low-key comic relief to Gallowsbird's Bark's grand ambition. There's clearly a Fiery Furnaces style (wordy, witty, rebelliously experimental), but the open-endedness of the sound compels the listener to wonder, given the numerous possibilities, how different the Furnaces' second record will be from this great debut. JODY BETH ROSEN

ORANGER

Shutdown the Sun

(Jackpine Social Club)

It's not as if there's a dearth of bands like this out theresmart, young, white men whose Holy Trinity is Brian Wilson and Gram Parsons and Lennon-McCartney. Hell, we're probably in our third or fifth or 12th wave of them, and there's a new batch baking right now. So what sets Oranger apart from the others? Probably Mike Drake, the San Francisco quartet's songwriter/ guitarist/singer, who never met a deft chord change he couldn't shoehorn into a song: The progression on "Going Under" is so gorgeous it might as well be a Brazilian supermodel, and his surreal wordplay (the "magic carpetbaggers knocking at your door" in "Bluest Glass Eye Sea," for example) never gets in the way of what he's trying to say, whatever that is. But I suspect that Oranger's real advantage here is the fact that they play very well together. No matter what genre Drake throws at his bandmates, they're on top of it, from the stoner ennui of "Cut Off Yer Thumbs" to the rollicking Stones-along of "Sweet Goodbye," complete with the "hoo hoo"s from "Sympathy for the Devil." Unlike most of their competition, Oranger seem to enjoy playing together, and this must always be celebrated. Consumer note: Many copies of Shutdown the Sun come with an added bonus rarities disc, From the Ashes of Electric Elves, which both confirms my hypothesis and has an ass-kicking live version of "Mike Love Not War." MATT CIBULA

DOLOREAN

Not Exotic

(Yep Roc)

Two years in the making, Dolorean's debut is one of the most oddly twisting, ear-turning folk-pop gems of 2003. More than four years ago, the group's leader, Alex James, armed with a bevy of home recordings, approached Jay Clarke of fellow Portlanders the Standard about accompanying him into the studio. Not Exotic was recorded in whole in a mere five days with producer Jeff Saltzmannine songs tracked live with acoustic guitar, keyboards, and strings, all of which are desolate and lingering, but utterly basic. "I found myself again on the morning watch for those of us who cannot sleep," James sings in "Morningwatch," the cello-led opener that begs for tomorrow to overrule today. He slays the first line of each composition like a skilled columnist, tossing out thoughts like "It wasn't my fault she led me here/(To the) Canadian Plains to disappear" (the Elliott Smith-like piano waltz "Traded for Fire") and "Sometimes I try to be a fighter pilot/'Cause you can't see my eyes though goggles and helmet" ("The Light Behind My Head," a cautious love song that recalls Lullaby for the Working Class). By the time you get to "Hannibal, MO," the gloomy murder ballad about a girlfriend "washed out to sea," James has you locked in the prison cell with himbut you're not looking for the key. SCOTT HOLTER Dolorean play the Crocodile Cafe with Damian Jurado and Rosie Thomas at 9 p.m. Fri., Dec. 12. $10.SCOTT HOLTER

STYLES OF BEYOND

Megadef

(Ill Boogie)

You probably remember Styles of Beyond as one of the West Coast's premier late-'90s underground hip-hop groups, a duo with shit-hot mike skills that got them mentioned in the same breath as Jurassic 5 and Dilated Peoples. But between 1998's indie-rap smash 2000 Fold and the recently released Megadef, something seems to have snapped: All of a sudden they're pissing on their audience, carrying around bottles of bleach for emergency viscera cleanups, and being "bling-bling just to piss you off and make you 'url/I'm sippin' Dom P. with some naked girls." Ryu and Tak always had aggressive flows, which worked just fine when they rocked the superscientific robot espionage funka theme they thankfully revisit in hidden track "Gigantor." And they can ride beats proper, whether it's serviceable Stooge-sampling punk-rap ("Be Your Dog") or Roland 808-driven pop-and-lock fodder ("Eurobiks"). But hearing them spit nonstop fuck-you braggadocio, quasi-droog ultraviolence, strident antinerd flossing with hardly a glint of humor, and battle raps that sound aimed at their audience instead of a rival MC gets tiring. It's understandable that they want to move past their backpacker origins. But their cocksure psuedo-player training wheels are wobbly, and the rhymes feel like empty posturing without any charisma, humor, or innovation to back it up. It's dollar-store Shady made by MCs so desperate to escape their past they'd probably go into a time machine and kill their younger selves if they could. At least they won't forget the bleach. NATE PATRIN

BARBRA STREISAND

The Movie Album

(Sony)

Barbra Streisand has officially left the planet, and so, apparently, has her dog. Here's the liner note commentary to her cover of the Charlie Chaplin tune "Smile": "Two nights before I recorded this, Sammy, my sweet little 9-year-old bichon frise, had to be put to sleep. When I stepped into the vocal booth, his brave and loyal face was very much on my mind." Only Babs would require that the faithful pay $1,000 plus to hear her sing live, then talk about recording schmaltz for her pooch. In any case, this collection of mostly romantic songs from Hollywood films would put Sammy to sleep if he weren't already; it's an anesthetizing bore. Shame, really, because Streisand's world-class, richly matured voice still has real resonance, a quality marred by her narcissistic overreach and kitschy middlebrow instincts as an artist/producer. She sounds warmed and ready for "Calling You," the wailing siren song from Bagdad Cafe, but ruins it with orchestral blandishment and a crappy new third verse she strong-armed composer Bob Telson to write for her. Instead of bothering to find another genuinely compelling movie standard, she even makes "The Way We Were" lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman set some goopy new words to André Previn's original theme music for the 1962 remake of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; the unmemorable result, "More in Love With You," also features a syrupy violin that sounds like it missed its Yentl audition. And sexy it ain't: The album is full of the kind of smooth jazz sax solos, cumbersome string washes and twinkly cocktail pianos that might give Perry Como a hard-on but will effectively neuter anyone else. Woof. STEVE WIECKING

info@seattleweekly.com

 
comments powered by Disqus