Foo Fighters-Learn to Fly(unchanged)
Dave Grohl has the ability Kurt Cobain, his Nirvana bandmate, had to make a melodic song with a good pop hook that still rocks. He's made great rockers like Monkey Wrench, This is a Call and I'll Stick Around and very good pop songs like Big Me but Learn to Fly, from Foo Fighters' third CD There is Nothing to Lose, is the best combination yet of Grohl's rock and pop skills. With its fun video, Learn to Fly deserves to be a hit. The music creates a buoyant mood. The lyrics aren't as strong as the music but Grohl delivers them with likeable enthusiasm. In his singing, Grohl emphasizes the word "looking". He seems clearer about the fact that he's looking than about what he's looking for. The message about trying to shake up his life, looking "for a complication" or a "new evolution" shifts in the second verse when Grohl says he "can't quite make it alone and asks for "one last try."
Filter-Take a Picture(unchanged)
The usually intense band follow the powerful, cynical Welcome to the Fold with a change of pace from their Title of Record CD. While mellower and slower, Take a Picture doesn't sound like a sell out and still has an edge. Take a Picture has a cool, evocative atmosphere. Richard Patrick goes into his trademark scream at the end of the song but for the most part, his vocals are appealingly restrained as he sings of trying to capture a perfect moment.
Counting Crows-Hangin' Around(unchanged)
Adam Duritz has often taken himself so seriously that he can come across as pretentious. On Hangin' Around, from the band's third studio album Desert Life, Duritz complains that he's been bumming around for too long. Luckily, his solution on this single isn't a return to navel gazing. Hangin' Around is kind of insubstantial but it has a nice, loose feeling.
REM-The Great Beyond(unchanged)
The movie Man in the Moon, starring Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman, gets its name from the great REM song about Kaufman. The Great Beyond is from the movie's soundtrack. While they've lost their way commercially and, to some extent, artistically on their last two CDs, The Great Beyond shows the band's pop talents intact. It's a good song, reminiscent of their classic material. Like the song Man in the Moon, The Great Beyond starts slowly and gracefully and builds to a blissful climax. It has a reflective feel and a lush sound fleshed out with the strings. Michael Stipe has moved far from his mysterious and indecipherable singing of old with nice, clear plaintive vocals, singing of looking for answers and suddenly having things fall into place.
Live-The Dolphin's Cry(unchanged)
Live have always been intense. The success of their Throwing Copper CD came from striking a balance between the intensity and a likeable REM-influenced poppiness. Their last CD, the Secret Samadhi, lost that balance and often seemed pretentious and self indulgent. The Dolphin's Cry, from Live's new The Distance to Here CD, isn't much fun but it is a quite moving love song. Ed Kowalcyk's vocals are a little over the top but the sentiment, about how "love will lead us", is certainly heartfelt.
Santana with Everlast-Put Your Lights On(up 2 positions)
Santana follows up the success of Smooth, his song with Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas, with another single from his Fundamental CD teaming him with one of today's big young stars. Unlike Smooth, which sounded like an equal partnership, Put Your Lights On seems more like an Everlast song where Santana is just around to add a little color though Carlos' guitar doodling is still interesting. Everlast's warning to all of a danger lurking, which might be him, has the pluses and minuses common to his work. It has a compelling, stark sound and a feeling of sincerity but his messages are delivered so humorlessly and monotonously that each song and each listen means diminishing returns.
Smash Mouth-Then the Morning Comes(unchanged)
Smash Mouth's 2nd single from their Astro Lounge CD isn't quite as irresistable as All Star but it also has a light, sunny charm. The lyrics actually seem to be a dis of a woman living in a dream world but the message doesn't drag the song down. As they showed in their cover of Can't Get Enough of You Baby, they like a retropop sound, using fuzz guitars to good effect.
Santana-Smooth(down 2 positions)
Carlos Santana hasn't had a hit in nearly 20 years but with Smooth, from his new record Supernatural, he's found a savvy, irresistable sound. The music is classic Santana. Carlos' guitar riffs are evocative and the percussion and horns create a great groove. The new element is the vocals of Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas. Matchbox 20 has been one of the most successful groups of the last 2 years with 5 hit singles from their Yourself or Someone Like You cd which still is getting radio play 3 years after its release. It's kind of funny that Thomas, whose success is largely based on a commercially calculated sound that works to appeal to rock fans without offending easy listening audiences, is singing about giving of your heart and not just being smooth. Nonetheless, it was smart for Santana to work with Thomas. Besides being a smart commercial move, using Thomas does work musically for Santana. His vocals are smooth and they invite you into Santana's cool world.
Vertical Horizon-Everything You Want(up 2 positions)
The title track and second chart song from the band's CD does have interesting guitar effects but it is a pretty generic sensitive rock song. The singer is hyperserious in telling the story of a woman who's never satisfied with a man. The tone is bitter so that it's not much of a twist when the lyrics change from he's everything you want but he means nothing to you to I'm everything you want.
Creed-Higher(down 1 position)
The tremendous impact of Creed's My Own Prison CD at rock radio was one of music's most bizarre success stories. Nearly all of their songs were overtly about God or christianity. You have to assume that Higher, about a place where blind men can see, is about heaven. Most of their young male audience could care less about the religious message. As with their earlier work, the appeal of Higher comes from its meaty guitars and Scott Stapp's charismatic, anguished vocals. Higher, from their Human Clay CD, is their most polished single yet with a chorus that begs the kids to sing along. With so many rock bands playing angry heavy metal or rap edged rock, Creed's fans must be reassured by their familiar arena rock and meaty power chords. But Higher is tediously predictable and repetitious.
Bush-The Chemicals Between Us(down 1 position)
Without getting much attention in their native England, Bush had huge success in the U.S. with their Sixteen Stone CD, which took the edge of grunge bands like Nirvana and presented it with commercial polish and Gavin Rossdale's hunky looks. Though it didn't have a thrilling rocker like Sixteen Stone's Machinehead, the followup Razorblade Suitcase had pretty decent rockers and power ballads and its lesser record sales were more of a reflection of changing tastes and the death of grunge than of a drop off in quality. Though their sales are likely to continue to decline, Bush has shown some signs of establishing a distinctive personality and making fairly good music within a niche of intense rock. The Chemicals Between Us has a good raw, ragged sound that does a good job of communicating the tension and electricity of an exciting relationship.
Blink 182-All the Small Things(unchanged)
The video to All the Small Things mocks Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and other teen pop idols but Blink 182 are kind of a punky pop version of those groups. Their songs are hardly complicated, lyrically or musically, their upbeat lyrics are targeted towards teens(though boys, instead of girls) and they have fairly unthreatening symbols of cool(tattooes instead of weird facial hair). All the Small Things is particularly basic, with it's na-na-na chorus and very simple words about all the things she does for him. But Blink 182's fast version of pop is more fun, energetic and unpretentious. All the Small Things is exuberant, mindlessly perky guitar rock.
The followup to Nookie from the Significant Other is musically more subtle than Nookie. The vocals and guitars don't scream and the song has a good groove with a nice bass line. Lyrically, Fred Durst is still a bitter guy. He's clearly upset about his latest breakup but he tries to convince himself that he thanks God it's over and that she's going to need him when he's gone.
Metallica-No Leaf Clover(up 1 position)
Metallica's music is pretty overblown to start with. Having them play with an orchestra on the new S & M CD would seem to play to their worst, most bombastic instincts. Somehow, while it's way too much and a little silly, the band does find some beauty and meaning in the new setting. No Leaf Clover brings to mind the dramatic dynamic of Led Zeppelin as well as ELO, Yes and Metallica's own previous over the top work.
Fiona Apple-Fast as You Can(down 1 position)
Fast as You Can, from Apple's When the Pawn . . . CD, is one of the best, most interesting singles of the year. Apple shows growth from her debut CD, Tidal. On that record's singles Criminal and Shadowboxer, Apple projected an image of a young woman who was idiosyncratic and a combination of innocent and seductive tease. Fast as You Can is still idiosyncratic but seems more concerned with substance than image. It starts with a rough, jagged jazzy beat and a fast rush of words from Apple. The song slows down in the middle to catch its breath before racing forward and bouncing around again, all to exciting effect.
Smashing Pumpkins-The Everlasting Gazebuy it!
After the disappointing sales of their Adore CD, Smashing Pumpkins return to the rocking sound of Cherub Rock, Bullet with Butterfly Wings and especially Zero for the first release from their Machina/Machines of God CD. Everlasting Gaze is pretty powerful with James Iha's slashing guitar and good, driving drumming from Jimmy Chamberlin, who the band has rehired after firing him because of drug problems. Billy Corgan's singing is still annoyingly whiny but it's at least fairly aggressive.
Korn-Falling Away From Me(up 2 positions)
With Nine Inch Nails' sales way down on their new CD, veteran gloom rockers Korn could be the new kings of intense, paranoid, gothic influenced rock. Falling Away From Me is humorless and not fun, but Jonathan Davis' pain sounds real as he sings of being so tormented by his painful life and the voices in his head that he's given up hope and is flirting with suicide. The music is powerful with good, hard guitars and genuinely spooky, atmospheric effects.
Train are enjoying a long chart life with this single from their self titled debut. Different radio formats and listeners keep discovering this likeable, unpretentious loving tribute to an idiosyncratic, somewhat screwed woman. Meet Virginia isn't ground breaking but it has a nice low key southern rock tinged feel which is only broken when things get a little too heavy towards the end as singer Patrick Monahan screams about how Virginia doesn't want to live this life and then the song goes into a heavy guitar solo.
Stroke9-Little Black Backpack(up 1 position)
Little Black Backpack, from the band's Nasty Little Thoughts CD, is nothing extraordinary but it is extremely catchy. It grabs your attention from the start with a slow Toad the Wet Sprocket type intro. Then it speeds up with rocking guitars and keeps changing tempo. The backpack reminds the singer of the ex-girlfriend who left it behind. He claims he doesn't want to tangle with her but wants to smash in the head of the guy who followed him.
Red Hot Chili Peppers-Around the World(down 4 positions)
Scar Tissue, the first single from Californication, was a real breakthrough. The song, with Anthony Kiedis singing "with the birds I share this lonely view", had a nice sense of maturity. Around the World is more traditional Chili Peppers fare but it is a good time. Kiedis is cheerfully dopey whether crooning, doing a goofy rap or degenerating into gibberish. It's a fun love song with Kiedis singing "you say hello and I say I do" as well s a tribute to how life is beautiful all around the world.
Rage Against the Machine-Guerrilla Radio(up 2 positions)
Guerrilla Radio is more driving, heartfelt guitar driven rock. Rage are probably the most popular political band around. While the excitement of their intense music probably attracts more fans than their left wing politics, the sincerity of their beliefs is part of their appeal. On Guerrila Radio, the band again comfortably mixes rock and rap. Zack de la Rocha sings optimistically, "it has to start something" and "can't stop us now."
Stone Temple Pilots-Heaven and Hot Rodsbuy it!
Down, the first single from STP's No. 4 CD, had an interestingly grungy sound but wasn't too appealing. Heaven and Hot Rods, which made the chart about the time of lead singer Scott Weiland's release from jail for a probation violation, is a more traditional STP rocker.
Kid Rock-Only God Knows Whybuy it!
While he usually comes across as a smart ass narcissist, on Only God Knows Why from his Devil Without a Cause CD, Kid Rock wants sympathy for his pain and the fact that people don't understand him. I would have thought Kid Rock would be embarrassed to sing a ballad about trying to find himself but I guess we already know he's shameless. The model for Only God Knows Why seems to be one of Pearl Jam's soaring, personal ballads but Kid Rock doesn't have Eddie Vedder's chops. He sounds best when his voice is distorted.
The Offspring-She's Got Issues(down 3 positions)
She's Got Issues is the fourth hit from the band's Americana CD. Part of the CD's appeal to the kids surely comes from the band's irreverent attitude. As on Why Don't You Get a Job, Dexter Holland is proudly insensitive, telling his girlfriend to "check your baggage at the door." It seems like she really has legitimate issues and Holland is too dopey to deal with them. The band's appeal also comes from their energetic, straight ahead music. While it's strangely reminiscent of .38 Special's Hold on Loosely, She's Got Issues is catchy, power chord filled guitar rock.
Shannon Curfman-True Friends(unchanged)
True Friends is from the CD Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions. Curfman is still in her early teens. It's seems good that the latest guitar prodigy is a girl.