CD Reviews

THE NOTWIST

Different Cars and Trains

(Domino)

In the early '90s, the M&M/ Mars Company's geniuses reworked the classic caramel Twix bar. They stripped out the silky caramel, piped in a grainy cookies-and-cream paste, and packaged it in a shiny blue wrapper. The "improvement" was no more than a brief marketing distraction?it tasted OK, but had nothing on the original. This EP from metamorphic German electro-pop industro-rockers the Notwist is similarly futile, outshined by its own prototype, the ab-fab Neon Golden, released two years ago in Europe and last February in the U.S. Four of Different Cars and Trains' five tracks are remixes of Neon Golden songs. Unfortunately, the first rule of remixing?that the result should enhance the original in some way?goes unobeyed here. The two done by Console? the alter ego of Notwist's own keyboardist/programmer Martin Gretschmann?strip the formerly gorgeous laptop rock of "Neon Golden" and "Pilot" of most of their live instrumentation and replace them with elementary house beats; "Neon Golden"'s gritty, bow-legged guitar and banjo are drowned, while "Pilot"'s jazzy bass line and breezy, up-tempo melody?along with Markus Acher's sexy vocals?are replaced by showy electrojizz. The ambient, dirgelike instrumental "Red Room" is more interestingly textured?and previously unreleased domestically?but could also benefit from Acher's vocals. The one prize is Four Tet and Manitoba's pretty, atmospheric remix of "This Room." Caramel, anyone? KATIE MILLBAUER

The Notwist play Chop Suey with Themselves at 9 p.m. Fri., Feb. 13. $12 adv.

THE A.M.

The A.M.

(Storm)

When a publicist invokes David Bowie, it's painful, because I immediately think of Velvet Goldmine, which sucked and was the film I rented to mollify an ex once after a regrettable incident of domestic violence where I attacked her with what I drunkenly thought was a live chicken. I could tell it was a bad film even though I wasn't paying attention, as I was too busy applying ointment to her fresh stumps while she reminded me that real chickens aren't connected to extension cables. The A.M.'s debut is less Velvet Goldmine than Human Highway, though?the Neil Young flick with Devo as a radiation clean-up crew. The tracks here are a series of sneaks squirting symphonic curlicues onto a new-wave muffin tray with the doughy stuff taken out for maximum thinness of tone. At its best, it reminds me of Cars tunes like "Dangerous Type" or "All Mixed Up." Making a glam version of Young's On the Beach is a great idea. Every dying off-interstate town has at least one resident who painted their nails once and never added another coat so they have chipped bluish residue on their fingers that looks like they slammed a car door on them. This bunch is from New York, though, which makes the double-headed asparagus-cross logo on the back even more puzzling. Maybe it's a reference to phenylalanine, the stuff that causes odd-smelling urine. Phenylketonuria is an autosomal recessive disorder, caused by mutations in both alleles of the gene for phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH), found on chromosome 12, the most obvious symptom being mental retardation. People with this condition, as well as being retarded, have strange-smelling urine all the time. I used to think that if I ate enough asparagus, I would become retarded, too, and get to take the short bus to the "special needs" class, where they wouldn't give me so many difficult assignments. This review is the way it is because I ate the album cover. The best song is the last one ("Colors Are Beginning to

Deepen"), in which David "If I Could Only Remember My Name" Crosby wakes up, spots a harmonium, and decides it's Nico. (Do harmoniums have lids that can slam shut on fingers and make them blue?) "Trangression" is a backhanded anti-indie construction revealing the Strokes and Flaming Lips as the same people, while "Chanay" does the same for Suicide and Keith Richards solo albums, except with not quite as much vocal belligerence. The A.M. are perhaps the best eclectics since Spoon?the band or the record label, I'm not sure which. DAVE QUEEN

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