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March 4, 2008

CD Reviews for 3-05-08

Go Away WhiteBauhaus(REDEYE)This is not the Bauhaus I remember. Yes, they are still British; yes, they are still self-important; and yes they are still doing New Wave 20 years after New Wave fell out of vogue — but for some reason, this CD feels different. Go Away White sounds closer to the Joy Division side of New Wave than the sugar-coated, synthetic end they are more suited to.    They blow their rock load with the opening track “Too Much 21st Century” and fool you into thinking that this might be an entirely different band — then Peter Murphy’s vocals come in like a familiar beacon in strange Bauhaus territory.They quickly fall back into the old familiar ways long enough to make you believe this is little more than a nostalgia record after all. But again the band throws a curve with “International Bulletproof Talent,” a song that literally sounds like an Ian Curtis outtake circa 1979. Once you pass this creative crest, the record begins to drown in bass heavy ambiance.Ultimately, Go Away White reinforces an embarrassingly true platitude for most bands of this era — it will please diehard Bauhaus fans but is entirely unlikely to garner any new ones. —Brent OwenAsking for FlowersKathleen Edwards(ZOE)If anyone recording today is likely to produce an Americana masterwork — the next Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, maybe — my bet’s on Edwards. This release, her third, isn’t that great deliverance, though. But it’s a step forward toward maturation, in which the whole builds well beyond the sum of its parts.Her debut Failer was a blast of roughened folk-rock that evoked waves of empathy and cynicism. The follow-through had a spit personality, sometimes dialed down, like too many alt-country thrushes, but with occasional breakouts into subtle portraiture and storytelling adventure (“Pink Emerson Radio”). Now Edwards has her complementary skills in fine balance. She’s still the best woman performer for drawing inspiration from Neil Young at his most flailing (“Oh Canada”).There’s again a steadfast refusal to sentimentalize, counterweighted with the dryly whimsical cataloguing of family history and household objects (including a mortally wounded cat). And then you get to pieces like the realistically frightening “Alicia Ross” and more where strings, voice and guitar are blended to perfection. This stuff's emotionally rugged but very right. —T.E. LyonsJah Is My NavigatorLuciano(VP)Luciano must be the hardest working man in reggae music. Jah Is My Navigator is his latest, though by the time you finish reading this review, he may have two more ready, seeing how he’s released 40-something discs since 1995. The Messenger relies on positive messages in his music, a mixture of spirituality and social and personal reformation. A cynic may even sneer at the abundant positivity inherent in Luciano’s music. Going along with the aforementioned personal reformation, this cynic is enjoying the change of pace.This is true Roots music. Gentle, lilting rhythms, staccato horn blasts and the odd acoustic ballad are the rule and the norm here. Mostly originals, Navigator also includes a cover of Peter Tosh’s “I’m The Tuffest,” featuring Tosh’s son, Andrew, and the excellent message anthems “Wise Up Youth” and “Sweet Jamaica.”There aren’t any crossover songs, no superstar guest appearances, and I’m not holding my breath for any skin-flick disguised as music video to start airing anywhere. Uplift is the message of the day, and what a nice diversion from the rigor of being a professional cynic. —Damien McPhersonYou Mean We Get Paid For This?The Juggernaut Jug Band(SELF-RELEASED)More fun from a group of guys who have been making upbeat, traditional jug music for the better part of three decades, You Mean We Get Paid For This? is dominated by jazz and country swing covers from the early half of the 20th century.This crisply produced local effort leads off with the original title track that details life on the road in a modern jug band — what more could one want in a four-minute song?Interestingly, Mr. Fish, Roscoe Goose and their talented bandmates have chosen three covers from the Mills Brothers’ 1930s catalog for this 14-song collection, and added a Russian folk composition for good measure.While the selections differ from past efforts, like silly sendups of “Black Dog” and “People Are Strange,” the Juggernauts once again remind us just how far washboards, kazoos, slide whistles and incredible vocal harmonies can go in the right hands. These guys are true professionals. The fact that they know how to have a damn good time (ask them for a rubber chicken keychain and see what happens) doesn’t hurt a bit. —Kevin GibsonMadeScarface(RAP-A-LOT)We have to begin here: Scarface is the greatest rapper the South ever created. If you cannot agree with that statement, then we have nothing further to discuss. And before you savage me for your own sacred cow, know that your favorite Southern rapper agrees with me (Andre3000, Wayne or whoever else you care to name).His is an unforgiving catalog: His only missteps seem to be his latter day infrequency in recording and his loyalty to working with lesser talented label-mates. His classics speak for themselves: Mr. Scarface is Back, The Diary, The Fix, The World Is Yours, and this says nothing of his work with the Geto Boys or his countless guest appearances.Made is Scarface’s return to his long-time home, Rap-A-Lot Records, and a return to the producers (Mike Dean, N.O. Joe, John Bido) he’s made his career with. He’s not working for radio play, not making songs for BET’s “106th & Park” crowd: He’s making Scarface songs. Lead single “Girl You Know” as well as “Never,” “Who Do You Believe In?” and “The Suicide Note” prove that Scarface is still, once and forever, the “King of the South.” —Damien McPhersonSaturnaliaThe Gutter Twins(SUB POP)What is it with our middle-aged Alternative Nation icons turning to mid-’90s trip-hop beats in the later days of the George W. era?Perhaps The Gutter Twins, Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan, can go on tour with Bob Mould — We’re 40-something and Fierce! co-sponsored by Paste magazine and Zima, for those of you who used to rock but are now in recovery and/or too sore.Though their press release brags them up as “The Satanic Everly Brothers,” Dulli and Lanegan are caught in the purgatory of their own creations. No longer 20-something hellions, not yet The Next Tom Waits — these aging bad boys are still vital artistically, yet more known commercially to people who haven’t watched MTV since Kennedy was introducing the next hot bands.Lanegan, still one of the best singers in the world, is wise to share the stage with Dulli. The whiny Dulli tries hard and emotes often, but can’t sound much better than Alanis Morissette next to the bluesy, poetic Lanegan, a David Lynch muse whom Lynch just hasn’t discovered yet. —Peter Berkowitz