Like Da Lench Mob to his Ice Cube (except this time with a national hit), D12 are forever fated to languish in the shadow of their mentor, Eminem. They address this up front in "My Band," a very 2000 Eminem video that skewers his "lead singer" status, even as the video assures him maximum face time. D12 are six nonwhite Eminems who make nothing but "My Name Is" and "The Real Slim Shady." It's the same genteel, slightly parodic rap that allowed Em to break through to a mass audience before he snuck up from behind to bludgeon us with the scary nihilism. But that's what elevates Em from being MC Paul Barman blessed with prodigious talent to one of the best (if most uneven) MCs of the last half-decade. D12, meanwhile, try to "get serious," and churn out one of the biggest bait-and-switch albums in years. "American Psycho 2" remakes the worst track on their debut, with a Dre beat he wouldn't even have admitted making two years ago, and a guest spot from Cypress Hill's B-Real, who sounds better than anyone else—which should tell you something. "How Come" has Em trying to convince the Shady Records–shafted Royce Da 5'9" (whose new album slipped unnoticed into the racks in February courtesy of that rap powerhouse, Koch) that he loves him as much as he loves 50 over the treacly goth-hop (see "Moment of Clarity" and "Cleaning Out My Closet") that he loves more than either rapper. But look out! It's roly-poly comic relief Bizarre to the rescue. On "You Are the One," he laments, "You don't know about Bizarre/All you know is I'm weird and wear a Wonderbra." Also, he's "Talkin nasty shit, Bizarre won't stop/Fuckin' two twins with a midget on top." Someone give this guy a solo deal already. JESS HARVELL
D12 (minus Eminem) play the Showbox with Slum Village and Bone Crusher at 6 p.m. Fri., June 25. $35 adv. All ages.
THE HELIO SEQUENCE
Love and Distance
Listening to Portland's the Helio Sequence, it's hard to tell whether band members Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel spent more time as adolescents getting stoned and listening to Spacemen 3 or to the Rolling Stones. The duo's third release, Love and Distance, plays pretty for a generation living on borrowed time, not to mention other objects filched—Nick Drake records, Schopenhauer, ProTools—on the search for the next best thing. Summers' tattered croon is inseparable from his harp on "Harmonica Song," a back alley crawl toyed and tinkered with enough to sound like the cosmopolis of dive-bar blues clubs. Much of Love and Distance gleams with the same polished-stone effect, as if the doors of perception opened up into CBGB. With "Repeater," the boys came down just enough to fill the dance floor. Weikel turns up the hi-hat while Summers gets philosophical, scanning his own two feet for answers. "Where are we going?" he asks the air. "Nobody's got the answers." Not that Summers claims to, either. "Everyone Knows Everyone" is a dystopian rendering of a place where everyone knows their neighbors' business, there's no escape, and it's always raining. Despite the multilayered choral harmony and harmonica—both suggesting a communal soma tab—Summers continues searching for enlightenment but never finds it. His worried state won't be consoled by any measure of sweet celestial pop. KATE SILVER
The Helio Sequence play Neumo's with IQU and Menomina at 8 p.m. Fri., June 25. $8 adv.
Rachael Yamagata would have been ahead of her time 41 years ago. The 26-year-old singer-songwriter suggests as much in the chorus of "1963," when she references the year with "flowers in my hair" and "little-bitty hearts upon my cheek." Had Yamagata really opted for a sartorial Summer of Love four years before the fact, she'd have probably scared the shit out of the song's affective object (known only as "baby"), as well as everybody else who crossed her path, Allen Ginsberg and Jonathan Winters excepted; even Barbra Streisand—mainstream showbiz's biggest up-and-coming kook in the twilight of that button-down era—confined floral displays to hats and her heart to her torch-bearing sleeve. But in 2004, Happenstance, Yamagata's maiden solo voyage, isn't going to frighten anyone, except for the likes of Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones, who might already smell the competition. Yamagata's lousy sense of historical detail is only skin-deep: "1963," like much of Happenstance, sounds like it could have been on Carole King's Tapestry, were it not for the fact that Yamagata has a far better voice—warm and rich, with just a touch of smoke—than professed influence King. This vocal ace in the hole serves her well on the album, which lingers far too long in the land of mellow-by-numbers to impress anyone except ad execs, Dockers wearers hungry for challenge-free currency signifiers, and maybe a few million other people. But, hey—she's only been solo since 2001, the year she left Chicago funksters Bumpus. Plus, every now and then, as on the haunting dump notice "Even So," Yamagata swerves from the tired-and-true and reveals herself as a potential peer of Rufus Wainwright and Nellie McKay. ROD SMITH
Rachael Yamagata plays Crocodile Cafe with Jonathan Rice at 8:30 p.m. Mon., June 28. $9 adv./$10.