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Bloodhound Gang
Use Your Fingers
(Cheese Factory/Underdog/Columbia)

You'll find white rappers generally fall into two camps: Beastie Boys disciples and the House of Pain clique. In the former, honky hip-hop has nothing to do with the African-American experiences that gave birth to the rap form; rather, the genre has been borrowed to express the middle-class -- often suburban -- ennui that comes from too much pop culture and too much leisure time (e.g., Beck). In the latter, groups attempt to co-opt the Afrocentrism and identity worship from black rap and use it as a template for their own particular ethnic trumpeting (Irish, in House of Pain's case).

On their debut album, Use Your Fingers, Bloodhound Gang make it clear which group they expect to be lumped in with: "No, I'm not the guy from the Beastie Boys!" yells Jimmy Pop (or is it his partner, Daddy Long Legs?). Hailing from somewhere near Ween-land (suburban Philadelphia), Bloodhound Gang is a self-contained frat party dying to offend anyone who'll listen to their often hilarious, in-your-face political incorrectness. They fight for their right to be moronic throughout this nineteen-track disc, whether salaaming to comedian Rip Taylor or invoking the Cavity Creeps from an old toothpaste commercial.

It's not all just fat-chick and cripple jokes, though: Bloodhound Gang backs up their obnoxious idiocy with some fairly wise musical maneuvering. While their ages and backgrounds lead them to mine the Eighties for material -- Duran Duran and Cure samples, Michael Jackson and Blondie interpolations, a cover of Kim Wilde's "Kids in America" -- a sly comment or ingenious a cappella snippet proves they're also surprisingly sharp and able. Best of all, their knack for placing references completely out of context keeps the irony in control while ensuring the lunacy reigns unfettered.

By Roni Sarig

Jimmy Buffett
Barometer Soup
(Margaritaville/MCA)

There's something both comforting and distressing about listening to Jimmy Buffett's new album, Barometer Soup. On one hand, Buffett is like that favorite old Hawaiian shirt A once you put it on, you're ready to party. On the other hand, though Buffett's senior slacker image may remain intact, his routine is getting worn.

Don't get me wrong. As a devout Parrothead (the nickname by which Buffett fans go), I stand by our beloved beach bum. But these days, as he nears age 50, most of his songs are either bogged down by mawkish sentimentality (the self-indulgent "Jimmy Dreams") or formula licks (the boringly skittish "Diamond as Big as the Ritz," to name one). The smirk and wit that highlighted his earlier work now comes across as strained, and Buffett risks becoming that crazy uncle at a family function, the one whose idea of a great gag is making fart noises with his armpit.

Obviously, Buffett, like the Grateful Dead, hasn't needed to sell albums in order to fill amphitheaters. But on this, his 26th album, he simply continues to serve up the same themes he's been pondering for the past twenty years, only with far less raillery and sarcasm. (Almost all of the dozen songs here were cowritten by Buffett with four cronies. So much for safety in numbers.) And Buffett's swashy rap, his comic sermon that precedes or follows a song, is all over this album and distracting as hell. What might work well in concert should stay there. Just because I'm listening to his CD in my living room doesn't mean I need to lift my Zippo lighter in exaltation every time a song ends.

The album's not a complete washout, however. The title track amiably seems to answer his 1977 hit "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes," and "Lage Nom Ai" appears tailor-made for a Club Med conga line. There's even a James Taylor cover (the deftly jammed "Mexico"). And on the steel drum-swathed (aren't they all?) "Don't Chu-Know," Buffett seems to confront his own fate as he sings, "The well seasoned pro knows how long he can go." I guess we'll have to wait and see.

By George Pelletier

Prick
Prick
(Nothing/Interscope)

Trent Reznor of nine inch nails obviously loves his own style of music. If not, he wouldn't have signed his old pre-NIN bandmate, Kevin McMahon, and McMahon's current group, the Cleveland-based Prick, to his Nothing imprint. Comparisons between nine inch nails and Prick are inevitable. Both use the same production techniques -- distorted vocals and instrumentation, loud-soft dynamics, samples of everyday sounds, scraping noises -- to more or less the same degree. However, while the sauce may be the same, underneath lies the meat of two completely different creatures: NIN comes off darkly and dangerously obsessive, whereas Prick is playful, whimsically pompous, even gentle. Without the effects, Prick's songs would be wildly melodic and chaotically catchy new-wave tunes, heavily influenced by glam and early metal; with them, they juxtapose familiar elements to create something quite foreign, applying the staples of industrial music (computerized synth and drum loops, sampled noises and sound bites, slamming guitars, bullhorn vocals) to good, old-fashioned pop to produce a new type of art rock. For example, superhumanly fast guitars meet ebullient keyboards and fluffy choruses on "Tough" and "Other People."

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