System Of A Down-Innervision(unchanged)
Innervision is on Steal This Album, a collection of songs that didn't make System Of A Down's first two records. Innervision is good and similar enough that it would have fit on the Toxicity CD. Innervision has the great, bizarre energy of songs like that CD's title track. Guitar player Daron Malakian, bass player Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan all play fast and hard and contribute to Innervision's exciting intensity. Singer Serj Tankian is, typically, so passionate that he almost seems possessed or insane, veering between crooning and shrieking. A lot of the fun of a SOAD song is following its twists. In its 2« minutes, Innervision shifts from speed metal to a hardcore bridge with Tankian ranting "It's never too late to reinvent the bicycle." Malakian appropriately shifts his guitar to a quiet, dreamy sound for Serj's epiphany("there is only one true path to life, the road that leads to all, leads to one.") then the song crunches to a conclusion. Malakian sings on Innervision about seeking the guidance of an unnamed spiritual source.
Good Charlotte-Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous(down 11 positions)
I like twin brothers Joel and Benji, Good Charlotte's singer and guitar player, as hosts of MTV's All Things Rock. They're pleasant, self deprecating and not too stupid. I certainly prefer them to the blond bimbo who seems to have replaced them. But Good Charlotte's good nature isn't enough to make me like the single from their The Young and The Hopeless CD. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous feels a little stale. Wasn't the tv show the song's named after on more than 20 years ago? And the choices of famous people to exemplify famous person misbehavior, O.J. Simpson and Marion Barry, aren't exactly fresh. Lifestyles also suffers musically from similarity to other poppy punksters. If anything distinguishes Lifestyles from recent hits by New Found Glory, Sum 41, I'm missing it. With big, upbeat drums, high energy vocals and a catchy chorus, Lifestyles is pleasant and easy to listen to, like a perky cover band's version of Iggy's Lust For Life but it's so unimaginative and unoriginal that it barely gets my attention. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous has the punky/Robin Hood premise that since the rich and famous are self pitying, they deserve to be taught a lesson by having their mansions burglarized or being forced to live on the street. It doesn't address how a modicum of fame and riches will effect Good Charlotte though, in their defense, I don't think they'll be "always complaining." Good Charlotte seem like nice guys. Too bad their single's music and lyrics aren't more interesting.
Sum 41-Still Waiting(unchanged)
Sum 41's new CD is called Does This Look Infected? Sum 41 broke through with the youthful, poppy, punky hits from All Killer, No Filler CD. Still Waiting shows signs that the band is making the huge mistake of wanting to grow up and be taken seriously. Still Waiting's video reveals jealousy at the critical respect The Strokes receive. On Fat Lip, the band just demanded the chance to have a good, stupid time. Now they want us to believe that they're looking for "hope to believe" in a world full of hating. It seems clear that Sum 41 is best suited to make dopey, fun music and that's what people want from them. Still Waiting, with its attempt at lyrical significance and Derick Whibley's meaningful ranting, has an uncomfortable resemblance to the lesser work of The Offspring, whose music seems to get stupider the more they try to seem smart. Still Waiting does show benefits of Sum 41's new intensity. I don't love the darkness of the singing and Whibley and Dave Baksh's guitar but I do like that Still Waiting is fast, energetic and focused, without the foolishness that has made some of their music more cutesy than fun.
Creed-Weathered(down 6 positions)
The title track and fourth chart hit from the Weathered CD again shows Creeds gift for predictable, blandly catchy soaring arena rock. Creed frontman Scott Stapp is even more self pitying and self dramatizing than usual. Presumably referring to his critics, Stapp complains: slings and arrows are killing me inside. He feels alone and bemoans the fact that his love is met with indifference. Though sometimes I feel like giving up, Stapp finds solace in God and his instruction to take pride and leave it behind.
Pink-Family Portrait(down 3 positions)
When her M!ssundaztood CD came out, Pink proclaimed that she was taking a huge chance by abandoning a safe musical formula. As its turned out, Pink just traded one radio friendly style for another slightly different one. In retrospect, the real chance Pink took was in filling M!ssundaztood with all kinds of biographical information. The risk has paid off. Pink was a fairly generic dance pop artist. Now she has a very identifiable image as feistily overcome obstacles life has thrown at her. Family Portraits success is the clearest sign yet that a large audience is willing to follow Pinks search for self discovery wherever it goes. Pinks previous hits were catchy enough that listeners could just have been tolerating the self expression because the music helped it go down easily. The only purpose of Family Portraits music is to accentuate the poignant mood and stay out of the way of Family Portraits story. Family Portrait is unadorned enough and apparently so much about Pink that much of its appeal must come from its vicarious look at Pinks youth. Family Portraits soap opera style piano brings Mary J. Bliges No More Drama to mind. But unlike that songs self dramatizing portrayal of not being dramatic, Family Portrait keeps things fairly subdued until pushing the emotional buttons by closing with a kiddie chorus. Family Portrait, with Pinks character feeling responsible for and trying to fix up her parents screwed up relationship, doesnt say anything about domestic strife that hasnt been said in dozens of TV movies but Pinks pained delivery sounds real enough that her simple portrayal of a dysfunctional family packs some emotional power, even with its cliches. Nothing about Family Portraits music gets my attention. And in conjunction with its video, with a tv commercial cute kid playing young Pink, Family Portrait is too much of an ego massage for my liking. But Pinks fans surely appreciate the chance to fill in her back story.
Disturbed-Remember(up 12 positions)
Remember is the second chart hit from Disturbed's Believe CD. Remember is another piece of trash from the Chicago based band led by troubled singer David Draiman. Disturbed apparently weren't satisfied selling millions of their angry, edgy, threatening Sickness CD. Believe preserves Distubed's attacking, nasty sound but it also seems made with one eye to the market. Remember has a slightly calmer, commercial sound than the band's previous hits. Disturbed's attempt at mainstream rock success makes them seem lamer than ever. On Remember, Draiman again tells about his excruciating inner sickness. Draiman apparently had suppressed "pain I felt so long ago." He is no longer able to ignore the pain but he tries to hide it behind a mask. For a guy who comes on like such a tough guy, Draiman is quite a whiner.
Dave Matthews Band-Grey Street(unchanged)
Grey Street is the third chart hit from the Busted Stuff CD. With Matthews pleasant, empathetic vocal, Grey Street has the comfortable, familiar, well played feel of a lot of Dave Matthews Band music. Leroi Moores sax and Boyd Tinsleys violin give Grey Street the lurching, stop and start flow of a song like Ants Marching. Grey Street is about a woman trapped in her home by depression. Matthews shows his knowledge of dynamics, letting the music rise as the character is offered an opportunity to experience the world. But just as the woman chooses to stay inside, Matthews mostly chooses to stay within his familiar, comfortable musical form.
B2K and P. Diddy-Bump, Bump, Bump(up 7 positions)
Bump, Bump, Bump is from the Pandemonium CD. B2K, P. Diddys young proteges, have shown little talent except for the ability to look good and confident in their videos but a year after hitting the charts with the dopey, catchy Uh Huh, they have an even bigger hit with the equally dopey and even catchier Bump, Bump, Bump. B2K owe R. Kelly, who wrote and produced Bump Bump, Bump, for the songs success. Bump, Bump, Bump has the single minded focus on sex and pleasure of much of Kellys previous work. With a sensual bass drum beat, a good acoustic guitar riff and an emphatic synth underlining the title, Bump, Bump, Bumps music is enticing. I see why Bump, Bump, Bump is a hit but I still find it very annoying. Starting with the cliched sending this out to all the ladies, the boys lines and delivery are so heavy handed and uninspired that I dont see what theyre so cocky about. The lyrics dont go much beyond admiring a girls sexy style and requesting that she start pleasin me. Im no fan of P. Diddys flat, low energy raps but his portion of Bump, Bump, Bump has a little more substance than B2Ks lightweight singing. I only find Bump, Bump, Bump tolerable when I ignore the vocals and focus on the groove.
Tori Amos-A Sorta Fairytale(unchanged)
Tori Amos had some mainstream radio success with songs like God, Silent All These Years and Crucify from her early solo CDs Under The Pink and Little Earthquakes. Recently, Amos' career has taken a slightly more obscure path, concluding with 2001's Strange Little Girls, her collection of songs originally done by guys. A Sorta Fairytale, supported by a bizarre video with an oddly poignant conclusion, is Amos' first hit in the four years we've been doing the All-Reviews top 50. A Sorta Fairytale, from Amos' Scarlet's Walk CD, is a nice reminder of Amos' gift for mixing melody, classicism and eccentricity. A Sorta Fairytale shows Amos' ability to subtly grab our attention. A Sorta Fairytale starts quietly with Amos' delicate piano playing and an effective, fairly inobtrusive drum machine beat. It builds a little on the chorus which has David Torn's good, simple guitar riff. A Sorta Fairytale also varies its subdued sound with a slightly brighter bridge. Amos sings slowly. Her vocal is restrained but her thoughtful, interesting personality still shines through. A Sorta Fairytale's sound matches its lyrics. Amos sadly relates how an apparent "life long thing" relationship was lost.
Audioslave-Like A Stonebuy it!
Audioslave follow Cochise, the very enjoyably over the top, heavily Led Zeppellin influenced headbanger with a good, very subdued song. Who would have thought that the union of members of two hard rocking 90s bands would create a mellow, restrained hit? Rage Against The Machine weren't known for rock ballads but their musicans sound surprisingly comfortable playing a radio friendly midtempo rocker. Chris Cornell previously eschewed his usual Robert Plant inspired shriek on Soundgarden songs like Fell On Black Days and his solo record so his participation is some what less surprising, but his smooth vocal on Like A Stone is still notable. Like A Stone sounds like various mainstream rockers but it still has power. Like A Stone's sprawling pace and Cornell's controlled, strong singing give Like A Stone an epic, spell binding appeal. Guitarist Tom Morello does a good job providing a low key, textured background with a slight sense of menace. He also gets to shine with a solo that's not as hard as his Rage playing but shows a good sense of flair and drama, as his processed guitar twists around the notes. Like A Stone's lyric is a tale of devotion. Cornell sings about being obsessed by a long ago relationship. He apparently takes solace in the hope that if we're good, we'll lay to rest anywhere we want to go, so he'll eventually be reunited "in your house." Like A Stone is a bit formulaic and sappy but it's also quite gripping.
Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow-Picture(unchanged)
Until Picture was released as a single, Kid Rocks Cocky CD wasnt selling and his career was in decline. Now, a year and a half after it was released, Cocky is another multiplatinum hit for Kid Rock. Ive never been a Kid Rock fan but Picture impresses me. Picture shows more smarts than I thought Kid Rock had. Picture, with its story of a guy cheating on the road while his woman cheats at home, has the feel of a country classic. Kid Rock uses the comfort of a traditional form but doesnt condescend. Pictures music gets an authentic feel from steel guitar but doesnt overdo the twang. The music stays nicely minimal with restrained drumming and organ and a good, simple guitar solo. Kid Rock isnt a great singer but hes decently controlled. As usual, vocal pro Sheryl Crow is solid. Shes a natural with a country ballad but she doesnt upstage Kid Rock. Picture is a big improvement over Kid Rocks previous hit ballad, the self pitying God Only Knows. Picture has a surprising sad sweetness. The adulterers regret their actions and both just want him to come back home.
Beck showed that hes not just a studio genius obsessed with beat and samples on Mutations, a record of serious country rock, but he still surprised people with the mellowness of his Sea Change CD. Theres a difference of opinion out there about whether the subdued Sea Change is a subtly beautiful tour de force or kind of a bore. Still, its hard for me to imagine much criticism of Lost Cause, Sea Changes strikingly delicate single. With acoustic guitar and quiet, dreamy synths and chimes, Beck simply creates a moving mood. Becks downbeat vocal communicates Lost Causes mix of sadness and frustration with a screwed up friend hes tired of fighting for but also finds hard to leave alone. Lost Cause also suggests a touch of hope in slightly optimistic chord changes. Lost Cause is a fragile, thoughtful masterpiece.
Nelly-Air Force Ones(down 8 positions)
Air Force Ones is the the third hit from the Nellyville CD. Taking four minutes to pay tribute to Nellys sneakers and endlessly repeating a not great record scratching riff, Nelly is proudly unambitious on Air Force Ones. Like much of Nellys music, Air Force Ones succeeds by staying relaxed and creating an irresistable groove. Nelly lets his buddies do most of the rapping. Most of them arent particularly impressive but Air Force Ones effectively keeps the raps coming one after another. As is often the case with Nellys music, what hes saying is less enjoyable than how he says it. Nelly and his posse test the patience of any listener whos not a Nike aficionado by detailing shoe sizes and favorite colors and making silly brags about only wearing a pair once then discarding it. I do like the cool way they pronounce pair as "par".
Jennifer Lopez-Jenny From The Block(down 10 positions)
Jenny From The Block is the first single from Lopez This Is MeThen CD. Jenny From The Block is Lopez latest proclamation of realness but she apparently had no significant role in writing it. Jenny From The Block seems inspired by a marketing persons belief that Lopez can only remain a huge star if, despite her ambition, success and high profile romances, people think shes a regular gal. In that regard, Jenny From The Block strikes me as unsuccessful. Placed along side repeated brags about the rocks that I got, Lopez claim that I know where I came from is meaningless. More importantly, Jenny From The Block, has the light, relaxed sound thats given her an impressive string of hits. Lopez thin voice is again wrapped by backing vocals and studio effects but her nearly spoken vocal also projects a straight forward confidence the audience can connect with. With an inobtrusive, steady beat and perky flute effect, the music isnt novel but it is smooth and likable. A brief, big beat break giving props to Lopez former South Bronx home adds a touch of flavor and seamlessly fits Jenny From The Blocks catchy dance pop. Jenny From The Block has an assembly line quality that undermines its statement of genuineness and keeps it from being particularly interesting but it also guarantees Lopez another hit.
All-American Rejects-Swing Swing(up 2 positions)
The All-American Rejects are a young band from Stillwater, Oklahoma who fit somewhere within the emo genre. They share a love of a big, basic, upbeat, enthusiastic sound with Jimmy Eat World and other emo practitioners. Swing Swings mix of crunching guitars and shaggy goofiness brings to mind emo predecessors and godfathers Weezer. The way it adds cheesy keyboards to glossy guitar rock recalls an earlier generation of bands like Cheap Trick and Split Enz. Swing Swing is a good time, easily shifting musical focus from a jagged guitar riff to the keyboards to a good bass line. Tyson Ritter is appealingly earnest as he intensely yells. On Swing Swing, Ritter admits being devastated by a breakup but puts on a brave face, promising to find someone new.
T.A.T.U.-All The Things She Said(up 5 positions)
A lot of contemporary European music is garbage. People on the continent seem to love music that takes 70s disco and makes it even more glossy and superficial. However, All The Things She Said reminds me of how, after listening to American pop carefully produced to sound familiar, European music, with its love of big sounds, over the top dramatics and odd subjects, can be refreshing. All The Things She Said, from T.A.T.Us 200 Km/h In The Wrong Lane CD, with its big beat and power chords, cheesy synths and anguished vocals, is currently one of my favorite pop songs. The frantic emoting of Julia Volkova and Lena Katina, T.A.T.U.s young Russian singers(who are probably not real life lovers), effectively matches All The Things She Saids story of tortured lesbian attraction. All The Things She Said is packed with intense, passionate soap imagery of passion thats opened my eyes but made her feel totally lost and like shes lost my mind and crossed the line. It would be inaccurate to imply that All The Things She Said travelled, without alteration, from Russian dance clubs to American airwaves. All The Things She Said was polished by producer Trevor Horn who in his work with, among others, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Buggles and Yes, practically defined a flashy, dramatic early 80s dance rock sound. Either Horn is trapped in his production style of 20 years ago or he realized it would work well on All The Things She Said. Regardless, his retro sound helped create a very fun final product.
Pearl Jam-Save You(down 9 positions)
Save You, the second chart hit from the Riot Act CD, is a good, uncomplicated straight ahead rocker. There isnt much of a sense of growth on Pearl Jams new CD. But after showing signs of fading away on their last couple records, especially 2000s Binaural, Pearl Jam seem engaged on Riot Act. Riot Act has a number of songs that match up favorably with tracks on their classic records. Pearl Jam have done rockers like Save You, such as Hail Hail, Brain Of J and Spin The Black Circle, before but Save You is still fun and exciting. It must sound great live. Mike McCreadys guitar riff rips through Save You and, along with Jeff Aments matching bass line and Matt Camerons pounding drums, sends it barelling forward with nonstop energy. Under its tough music Save You has a sweet lyric. Eddie Vedder sings about selfishly wanting to keep a screwed up friend around because hes too important to me. Deploying his naturally dramatic voice as loosely as he can, Vedder promises to save the friend whether he wants it or not. Pearl Jam obviously influence the neo-grungsters like Puddle Of Mudd and Creed but, admirably, they largely avoid the new generations narcissism and cynical commercialism.
Disturbed-Prayer(down 24 positions)
I really hated Stupify and Down With The Sickness, the angry, unpleasant rock hits from Disturbed's Sickness CD. But, with David Draiman's manic, staccato delivery, they at least had the courage of their nasty convictions. Prayer, the first single from the new Believe CD, is a weird mix of tight hard rock for their fans and a slick sound presumably intended to appeal to a broader audience. Prayer has a stomping, slashing guitar sound. Draiman's vocal is still harsh in parts but, bizarrely, he sings a melody on the verse not unlike Ricky Martin's Livin' La Vida Loco and the chorus has a cliched pop rock gloss. Prayer seems to be about how Draiman has turned away from God and found his own form of prayer after seeing all the sorrow, pain and suffering in the world.
John Mayer-Your Body Is A Wonderland(unchanged)
Your Body Is a Wonderland is the second chart hit from the Atlanta based singer/songwriter's Room For Squares CD. Like No Such Thing, Your Body Is a Wonderland is pleasant and almost proudly inconsequential. Unlike No Such Thing, where Mayer tried so hard for whimsical cheekiness, Your Body Is a Wonderland mostly keeps things nicely understated. His voice, in a tone not much more forceful than a whisper, effectively communicates the song's sly confidence. His guitar playing is also unassuming but pretty cool. Its only flourish is a short Steely Dan style riff towards the end. A skinny young white guy can't help but seem a little leering singing a song about pleasuring a lady but his admiration of a woman's looks is generally appealing. A bit too much bravado accompanies Mayer's promise to take a while making love and discovering a woman's body but he generally avoids the objectification that often accompanies songs complimenting the female shape.
Counting Crows-Big Yellow Taxibuy it!
Counting Crows' version of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi was originally on the Two Weeks Notice soundtrack and wasn't on early pressings of the Hard Candy CD but it's now Counting Crows' biggest pop hit since Long December. There's something ridiculous about Counting Crows doing Mitchell's delightfully buoyant hit. Mitchell's vocal was light and playful and helped Mitchell's complaint about crass money grubbing ruining natural beauty go down easily. Adam Duritz can't help but sing in a mannered, self satisfied way. He's more relaxed than usual on Big Yellow Taxi but he's hardly as charming as Mitchell. The original's slightly subversive vivacity is replaced by smooth professionalism. Duritz shifts the focus from paving paradise to the lover's departure that led Mitchell to whimsically muse about how "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." The new version has a spare, pleasant sound and a crisp beat. Vanessa Carlton's brief ooh bop bop bops go a long way in softening the stiff feel Duritz creates. And you can't go too wrong with a song with that still has that great line about putting trees in a tree museum. But I really don't see the need for a smooth, string filled muzaky version of a classic.
JC Chasez-Blowin' Me Up (With Her Love)(up 4 positions)
The fun, frenetic Blowin' Me Up With Her Love ensures that Justin Timberlake isn't the only N Sync-er finding solo success. While it doesn't indicate that Chasez will replace Timberlake as pop music's top hunk, I actually prefer Blowin' Me Up, with its sense of mischief, to Justin's carefully crafted hits. Blowin' Me Up is on the soundtrack to Drumline, a movie about competitions between school drumming groups that often infuse their synchronized performances with a hip hop sensibility. With its energy and big beat, Blowin' Me Up is a strong companion to the film. Deploying different riffs in different sections but maintaining a strong, stirring beat, Producer Dallas Austin(TLC, Boys II Men, Pink) creates an anything can happen feel and has more to do with Blowin' Me Up's success than its fairly innocuous singer. I don't love the way Blowin' Me Up starts with Chasez trying to sound cool but coming across a little lame. But the song improves as backup singers and beeping effects juice things up. Blowin' Me Up catches fire about two thirds of the way through with horns and drumline style percussion cueing Chasez to show a little more life as he proclaims "now it's on tonight." Blowin' Me Up is a fairly standard come on to a sexy girl in a club but the sleek sound emphasizes the lyric's sensuality.
Alone is on the Boston bred singer/guitarists second record: Wait For Me. On Alone, Susan Tedeschi sounds a lot like Bonnie Raitt. I dont know if Tedeschi has Raitts vocal talent but she has her relaxed confidence. Like Raitt, Tedeschi has a love of the blues that helps her seem comfortable rather than showy in trying to emulate the style of her heroes. Alone is quite a bit like Raitts 2002 single I Cant Help You Now. Unlike in that song, where Raitt told a guy who dumped her then asked for a second chance that he was too late, Tedeschi admits her loneliness, takes the blame for their problems and asks him to come back. The lyrics make Tedeschi seem like a doormat but her self assured vocal keeps her sounding strong. Alone was written by Tommy Sims, who cowrote Eric Claptons Change The World. Alone resembles Change The World. Alone isnt particularly original and theres a sense that, with its smooth sound, tasteful horns and minimal keyboards, its designed to be an easy listening hit like Change The World. But while Alone isnt exciting, Tedeschis singing and unshowy guitar playing keep things cool and likable.
The Wallflowers-How Good It Can Getbuy it!
I enjoyed When You're On Top, the first chart hit from the Red Letter Days CD, and its icy, synth dominated atmosphere and self loathing lyrics. How Good It Can Get is more standard Wallflowers fare. It's got a smooth, pleasant sound but it's nothing new. The lyrics are a nice message to a friend that things will get better. But How Good It Can Get is pretty insubstantial.
Ja Rule featuring Ashanti-Mesmerizebuy it!
I am really sick of hearing Ja Rule's self satisfied rasp of a voice on his and other people's hits. And I don't like the way Ashanti fits into Jeff Atkins' and Irv Gotti's "man's world" as the ideal, submissive woman. But, damn it, Ja and Irv know how to make catchy, if very lightweight, hits. On Mesmerize, from his The Last Temptation CD, Ja's croak is as annoying as ever. But Ashanti's sweet voice is as appealing as ever and the perky little synth riff is ridiculously catchy. I'd imagine that disses from 50 Cent and others would encourage Ja to toughen up his sound, but I guess, with the success he's had, he's crying all the way to the bank. Mesmerize is another opportunity for Ja to objectify women as he dissects the parts of a women that he loves and uninterestingly says how he wants to "do it" with her. Annoyingly, Ashanti's character mostly plays along, swooning and asking him to "take me tonight and do what you do to me baby."
Transplants-Diamonds and Guns(down 2 positions)
Transplants are led by Rancid singer/guitar player Tim Armstrong and his pal Rob "SR" Aston and features Blink-182's Travis Barker on drums. Transplants self titled debut is anarchic fun. Diamonds and Guns has turned out to be a timely tribute to The Clash's Joe Strummer, who died late last year. Rancid's music clearly showed the influence of The Clash. Diamond And Guns, with its unpolished sound, jagged blasts of guitar and Armstrong's rough, slurred vocal evokes The Clash's looser music and seems like another sign of love for the band. The way Armstrong's singing alternates with Aston's cocky rap brings to mind the partnership of rocker Strummer and dance music fan Mick Jones. Both liked to bring elements of black music into their punk. With its positive energy and rollicking western flavored piano sample, Diamonds and Guns has a fun, goofy feel. Diamonds and Guns has a silly lyric that feels like a bad version of a Tarantino movie, with brags about "taking more shots than Karl Malone", showy evocations of drug dealers and philosophizing about the morality of cops, criminals and businessmen.