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December 18, 2001

No Doubt: Rock Steady

Interscope, 2001

Rating: 2.0

A bold step forward from the muddle of Return of Saturn for what that's worth. Gwen Stefani and cohorts finally achieve the radio-, arena- and dance floor-friendly sound they've always strived for, but at the cost of whatever soul the band once possessed. Tracks like "Hey, Baby" and "Start the Fire" bristle with energy but are over-produced to a glassy-eyed sheen.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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December 10, 2001

Limp Bizkit: New Old Songs
Interscope, 2001

Rating: 1.8

When guest rappers take the mic from Fred Durst, this collection of Limp Bizkit remixes-reimaginings is more like it -- shows real potential. But even the best efforts of some talented producers -- the Neptunes, Timbaland, even Butch Vig -- can't do much more than disguise the fundamentally weak source material. When the results work, they sound nothing at all like Limp Bizkit. Which should tell you all you need to know about Limp Bizkit.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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November 21, 2001

Creed: Weathered
Wind-Up, 2001

Rating: 3.5

Earnest and overblown, but with a difference. Where past Creed efforts have stumbled over Scott Stapp's blowhard spirituality, Weathered embraces his pomposity and wraps it in vaguely generic chord structures that nonetheless resound with grungy crunch and by-the-numbers uplift. The title track, "My Sacrifice" and "One Last Breath" are guilty pleasures.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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November 21, 2001

 

Jim O'Rourke: Insignificance
Drag City, 2001
Rating: 4.0

"Don't believe a word I say." Thus begins Chicago multi-instrumentalist/avant-everything provocateur Jim O'Rourke's latest singer/songwriter noise experiment. The smart-alecky sarcasm underlying the seven, expertly constructed art-pop tracks presented here threaten to undermine the entire affair. Fortunately, O'Rourke's obvious talent and a backing band that includes such respected, but outside the mainstream luminaries as Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Chicago Underground Trio cornetist Rob Mazurek, the distinctive saxophone of avant-garde jazzman Ken Vandermark, Tim Barnes' percussion and Ken Champion on piano and pedal steel helps ensure that Insignificance, at least musically, will be anything but irrelevant. There are glimpses of 1999's lighthearted, musically expansive Eureka (Drag City), with Burt Bacharach-inflected tunes like the title track and "Memory Lane." The most refreshing aspect of the album comes when O'Rourke lets down his self-consciously smarmy guard (the brilliant, near-rocking, vulnerability-behind-the-bravado "Therefore I Am," and the heartfelt, confessional "Good Times"). On "Times," when O'Rouke sings, "I'd like to raise the Titanic here/Take a walk/Down its molded streets/And feel right at home," it's hard not to believe the man, even if there is a contrary smirk lurking just behind his microphone.

::: Laurence Station

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November 12, 2001

Kid Rock: Cocky
Lava/Atlantic, 2001

Rating: 2.9

A classic case of success going to an artist's head. The hunger that fueled Rock's breakthrough Devil Without A Cause is absent here, and the complacency shows. The mix of classic country and hard-edged hip-hop is still intriguing. But the boasts ("Forever," "You Never Met a Motherf-ker Quite Like Me") are empty and secondhand, the attempts at roadhouse soul ("What I Learned Out on the Road," "Picture," "Lonely Road of Faith") pedestrian. Even if you don't like Kid Rock, you know he's capable of better.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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November 10, 2001

Rob Zombie: The Sinister Urge
Geffen, 2001

Rating: 3.5

Zombie's patented techno-thrash anthems and B-movie sensibilities are still in place, but nothing here comes close to the transcendent dance-rock grind of "Living Dead Girl" from "Hellbilly Deluxe." There are some moments here ("Iron Head," "Never Gonna Stop") to satiate the metalhead faithful, but ultimately Urge is just empty calories.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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November 05, 2001

Sevendust: Animosity
TVT, 2001

Rating: 3.8

Sevendust's angry-young-man thrashings can get tiresome in a hurry, but on its third album the Atlanta collective shows a propensity for dense, layered atmospherics that elevates the proceedings above mere rap-rock thuggery. Relies a bit too heavily on tired metallic clichés, and listening straight through can be something of a grind. But on ballads like "Follow" and "Crucified," vocalist Lajon Witherspoon's husky growl makes up for muddy lyrical sentiments. Still a bit too staid, but shows promise for the future.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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October 30, 2001

Kittie: Oracle
Artemis, 2001

Rating: 3.9

Kittie's one-note formula is something of a novelty: hard-hitting Sabbath sludge and otherworldly banshee shrieks and guttural, hellhound growls, all delivered by young girls gone bad. As novelties tend to do, it stays put stylistically, but that's a faint criticism. Fun, rocking and more than a little unsettling.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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October 20, 2001

Bush: Golden State
Atlantic, 2001

Rating: 2.5

The good news: Comes closer than the previous two efforts to the sound and swagger of Sixteen Stone. The bad news: An imitator, not an innovator. A solid and satisfying batch of songs, complete with Gavin Rossdale's boilerplate turmoil, but falls into by-the-numbers formula.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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October 19, 2001

Lenny Kravitz: Lenny
Virgin, 2001

Rating: 3.5

A few token stabs at modernism, in the form of half-baked electronica, don't do much to pull Lenny Kravitz out of classic-rock Valhalla. Churning, singalong rockers ("Dig In," "Battlefield of Love") and Bic-approved ballads ("Yesterday is Gone") don't tread any new ground, but that's not why you buy Lenny Kravitz albums anyway, is it?

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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October 15, 2001

Incubus: Morning View
Sony/Epic, 2001

Rating: 0.0

The aural equivalent of nails on a blackboard. If Shaking Through had a lower rating, this would get it. This writer has always found Incubus off-putting, from singer Brandon Boyd's grating warble and sensitive-boy lyrics (seriously in need of an editor) to the band's generic progressions and the completely superfluous "scratching" of its turntablist. Bland as week-old oatmeal, sappier than Yellowstone National Forest, Morning View is offensive in its innocuousness. And did we mention wussy? Any band with lyrics like "I dig my toes into the sand" should be beaten, hog-tied and thrown out of the rock club on sheer principle.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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October 14, 2001

The Strokes: Is This It
RCA, 2001

Rating: 3.4

2001's great white hype, channeling classic New York punk attitude (the Velvets, Television, Blondie) for modern audiences. Not even remotely as ground-breaking as so many critics gushed, but solid and filled with potential. Julian Casablancas is modern rock's answer to Justin Timberlake, all pouty, passive-aggressive man-child sexuality. And hands-down, the band with the best hairdos since At the Drive-In.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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October 13, 2001

 

The Shins: Oh, Inverted World
Sub Pop, 2001
Rating: 3.0

On the Shins' debut release, Oh, Inverted World, the Albuquerque, NM, quartet willfully borrows from such notable influences as the Beach Boys, the Byrds and Big Star. While the group's sound is unmistakably mined from the mid-'60s/early '70s power pop era, the overall mood of World recalls the Feelies' The Good Earth (Twin/Tone, 1986, now sadly out of print), in its winsome longing and plaintive yearning for something better in life. "New Slang," the best of the bunch, could have come from those Good Earth sessions. Lead songwriter/guitarist James Mercer writes amusingly abstract lyrics about mundane matters of infatuation and boredom. The first half of the record is filled with a strong mix of pop-melancholia ("Caring Is Creepy," "One By One All Day") and punchy declarations of outsider defiance ("Know Your Onion!"). The second half loses steam quickly, however, and, despite the polished (perhaps too polished) mix, leaves but a marginal impression. The Shins are a talented band, with a time-proven sound. Here's hoping the group finds something more meaningful (and consistent) to say on its follow-up.

 

::: Laurence Station

 

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October 12, 2001

 

Cannibal Ox: The Cold Vein
Definitive Jux, 2001
Rating: 3.9

The rap duo of Vast Aire and Vordul Megilah shine a harsh light on the world of New York ghettoes on Cannibal Ox's combustible debut. Renowned producer EL-P nearly steals the show with edgily futuristic and decidedly experimental beats that mesh well with the duo's lyrics, even while contrasting sharply with the rappers' gritty urban landscapes. The apocalyptic opener, "Iron Galaxy," is a hard-line statement of purpose regarding the prison-like conditions faced by residents of the Bronx and Harlem's impoverished neighborhoods. Similarly, the elegiac yet positive "Pigeon" offers hope for those who have little faith left in a world dominated by rundown tenements and gang-controlled streets. "A B-Boy's Alpha" traces a cycle of poverty and connives ways of escaping the neighborhood by non-violent means. Cannibal Ox's key achievement is the transposition of Greek and Norse mythology into the black urban experience, as evidenced on key tracks "Battle for Asgard" and "The F-Word," which, in its own way, works even better than Wu-Tang Clan's intentionally kitschy integration of martial art motifs into its releases. Aire and Megilah are undeniably verbose and have plenty to say, but unfortunately the duo's debut lacks the kind of powerful hooks that stay in one's head after the CD's finished spinning. Which is a shame, because what the two are saying, regarding poverty, crime and urban decay, is definitely worth listening to.

 

::: Laurence Station

 

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October 12, 2001

 

Live: V
Radioactive, 2001

Rating: 3.8

Ed Kowalczyk's aggressive mysticism still grates, but V counters it with the most self-assured rocking since Throwing Copper, especially on "Simple Creed," the majestic "Flow" and the Middle-Eastern-tinged "Forever May Not Be Long Enough." A healthy, if jarring, dose of hip-hop attitude ("Deep Enough"), surprisingly enough, does more good than harm.

 

::: Kevin Forest Moreau

 

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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