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Resolutions
By John Brodeur

New Year’s Day is just around the corner. You might not be able to see it through all the Christmas hoo-ha, but it’s right there, staring us down like a stalker through night-vision goggles. I’m getting an early jump on it this time around—my desk is full (again) of CDs that may never get a “real” review, so I’ve allotted them each a few words here, after which I’ll set them free . . . or on fire.

Lloyd Banks

The Hunger For More (G Unit/Interscope)

“On Fire” pretty much sums up how things are going for Banks and his G-Unit cronies, but if it weren’t for 50 Cent’s enormous commercial clout, the odds of this album getting made would have been slim. Let’s face it—the expressionless Banks doesn’t exactly exude star power. Occasional forays into early-’90s-style G-funk (“I Get High,” “Karma”) and guest spots from 50 and Eminem try and make up for Banks’ lack of character, but the weak tracks (“When the Chips are Down,” “If You So Gangsta”) sound tossed-off. Where’s Dr. Dre when we need him?

Jimmy Eat World

Futures (Interscope)

These guys practically defined the emo sound with their first two records (Static Prevails and Clarity), which, admittedly, were darn good. Then the Brinks truck backed up to their door upon the release of 2001’s Bleed American (or Jimmy Eat World, as it was known post-9/11). It wasn’t half bad, but a few dumbed-down overtures toward the mainstream (see: “The Middle”) made it anyone’s guess what they’d do next. On Futures, they’re trying to be everything to everyone, and the results are mixed. The sensitive sing-alongs (“Kill”) and slow-burning epics (“Drugs or Me”) are as good as anything on Clarity, but attempts at edginess (lead single “Pain,” for instance) sound forced. Be what you are, boys—if that means embracing your inner Morrissey, so be it.

Helmet

Size Matters (Interscope)

Sure, size matters, but quality, apparently, does not. Eleven songs in the key of suck. Terrible.

John Wesley Harding

Adam’s Apple (DRT)

Until now, Wes seemed unable to decide if he wanted to be a pseudo-activist folkie (he did swipe his pseudonym from a Dylan album, after all) or a Difford-and-Tillbrook-influenced mod-popper. Now he’s gone whole hog toward the adult-pop sound he began to practice with 2000’s The Confessions of St. Ace. He still has a knack for the occasional sly turn of phrase, and the recording is spotless, but it’s more than a little disappointing overall. One major bright spot: the string-quartet-driven “Sussex Ghost Story,” a delectable murder-fantasy tale.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters

The Delivery Man (Lost Highway)

It’s strange to use the words “return to form” when describing a songwriter as prolific and classification-shy as Elvis Costello, but following a collection of syrupy piano ballads (North) and an overcooked “comeback” album (When I Was Cruel), this is a welcome return to basics at the very least. Recorded in the Deep South, The Delivery Man crackles with an energy not heard from Costello since 1994’s Brutal Youth, perhaps even Blood and Chocolate. Never fear, fans of Elvis the Eccentric: This album was released simultaneously with Il Sogno, Costello’s first full-length orchestral work.

 

Midtown

Forget What You Know (Columbia)

Forget what you hear.

Northern State

All City (Columbia)

I’ll be damned—I thought Luscious Jackson broke up years ago. This is kinda fun if you dig lame mid-’90s party-rap. The three girls of Northern State drop awkward monotonous rhymes over beats by Muggs (Cypress Hill), Pete Rock, and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson (The Roots). Best track: “Summer Never Ends,” which features a guest spot by Har Mar Superstar. Try and guess why it’s the best track.

TV on the Radio

Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch and Go)

I’m amazed and confused. It’s the MC5 on ecstasy. Too cool for words.

Various Artists

Confuse Yr Idols:
A Tribute to Sonic Youth
(Narnack)

How do you cover a band best known for their unorthodox guitar tunings, feedback-drenched odysseys, and half-spoken, half-sung pseudo-poetry? Half the bands on Confuse Yr Idols think purity is key, mimicking Kim Gordon’s sultry slur and Thurston Moore’s disaffected drawl, while re-creating every skronk and ping of the original recordings (see New Grenada’s “Eric’s Trip”). More effective, at least in spirit, are the bands who take the other route: unhinged reinvention. Rapider Than Horsepower’s “Little Trouble Girl” comes drenched in queasy strings; Tub Ring turn “Kool Thing” into a snarky grunge-lounge mess.

The Exies

Head for the Door (Virgin)

Formulaic modern rock, Á la early Stone Temple Pilots: heavy on the guitars and drums, light on content and melody. They don’t sound as much like assholes as Nickelback, but maybe that’s why Nickelback are selling millions, while the Exies can’t even get a spot on the Warped tour.

Trevor Dunn’s Trio Convulsant

Sister Phantom Owl Fish (Ipecac)

Any friend of Mike Patton’s is a friend of mine. Trevor Dunn typically hangs with Patton in Fantômas and Mr. Bungle; on his second record as a bandleader, his trio (Mary Halvorson on guitar, Ches Smith on drums) careens through 11 tracks of avant-jazz that will have you screaming “Mommy!” (or, perhaps, “Dali!”). They show a great deal of nuance and restraint on a version of the Ellington/Strayhorn composition “The Single Petal of a Rose,” then challenge the very concept of nuance by dropping in menacing blasts of mind-shredding noise. Solid.

 


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