By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
By Karli Evans
By Jose D. Duran
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
Supersexy Swingin' Sounds
Rob Zombie had this great idea for a party: Invite a bunch of dance-music and hip-hop hotshots to remix some tracks from White Zombie's best-selling Astro-Creep: 2000. And, surprise, Supersexy Swingin' Sounds throws down in mighty style. No Trent Reznor circle-jerk, this thing not only kicks, but displays a relative subtlety that White Zombie have seldom shown in the past. Some tunes stick fairly close to their well-known templates, although the magnified stomp of Charlie Clouser's new "More Human Than Human" does place the song a good bit closer to the dance floor than it lived before. One of the biggest pleasures here, though, is hearing RZ's mock-threatening vocals in clubland contexts. "I, Zombie," for instance, has its power chords stripped down in favor of a techno getup that recalls the original's crunch while making room for a whole new closetful of tricks.
Some of the band's metal-head fans are likely howling in protest, but as there was never anything serious or authentic about this crew in the first place, this groove thang will make the rest of us feel mighty real. If nothing else, Supersexy certainly packs more of a wallop than the lethally dull funk-punk of Rage Against the Machine or the sleepytime ska-revival revivalism of every third band on 120 Minutes this month. And while "El Phantasmo and the Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama" probably won't replace "We Are Family" in anybody's house-party heart, it just might make ZZ Top jealous as hell.
This album had two things against it right off the bat: (1) It's world beat, a genre I respect more than I actually listen to; (2) a record company flak recommended it.
Despite these obvious danger signs, No Sant is one of the finest albums I've heard this year, a brilliant musical tapestry that deftly weaves instrumentation from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
Wasis Diop is a Senegalese songwriter of the same approximate vintage as Youssou N'Dour. Like N'Dour, his career has been spent primarily in Paris. Unlike N'Dour, Diop knows how to rock. Consider the title track: The hypnotic melody is goosed with a Cuban rhythm, while Diop's resonant baritone (think Lou Rawls) tells the story of his travels from Senegal to Gay Paree in both French and Wolof, a Senegalese dialect.
"African Dream" is a sunny melody propelled by bopping polyrhythms. Diop's velvety delivery is answered by the gorgeous vocal accompaniment of Lena Fiagbe, a London-based Ghanian chanteuse. "Di Na Wo" fuses a solid rock chord progression with a traditional Senegalese chanted anthem. Japanese sax wizard Yasuaki Shimizu contributes a lovely, languid outro. "TGV" relates the true story of a bloody African protest to French oppression. Percussionist Steve Shehan and talking drum maestro Leity M'Baye lend the song its chugging backbeat, and Diop's nephew Tim provides a mellifluous French rap.
"Dames Electriques," Diop's tribute to Sine Ladies -- the polyphonic singers he heard perform evening chants when he was a boy in Senegal -- features a full chorus of Sines. Listening to their voices swell and swoop, you can tell why the young Diop was hypnotized.
Perhaps the most ambitious cut on this most ambitious album is "Le Voyageur," which combines the keening Japanese vocals of opera star Kaoru with the traditional Scottish cornemuse, or bagpipe, of Loik Taillebrest. It sounds like it's a mess, I know, but in Diop's nifty arrangement, the two potentially strident noises weave a strangely satisfying spell.
The same can be said of this entire disc. Rarely has world beat sounded as simultaneously exotic and acces-sible.
Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers
Gonna Take You Downtown
Without doubt, this Kinder, Louisiana, combo is the greatest zydeco outfit to emerge since the mid-Eighties death of Clifton Chenier, the genre's forever master. Beau Jocque plays the push-button accordion like some kind of virtuoso bayou swamp beast, and sings in a guttural growl that could summon Howlin' Wolf from the grave; and no one can ride a groove longer and harder than the Hi-Rollers. Sadly, album number four finds Jocque and band monkeying around with the sound that made their first three Rounder sets so essential. Guitarist Russell Dorion now whacks off endlessly on numerous solos, and Jocque has taken to covering the likes of War ("Cisco Kid," not as bad as you'd think) and Dylan ("Knockin' on Heaven's Door," exactly as bad as you'd think).
There's some good, smoking stuff here, with a few Jocque originals that extend the legacy of zydeco and rock like mad in the process. Judging by the covers, though, Beau don't know his own considerable strengths. You shouldn't make the same mistake; snap up last year's live set, Git It, Beau Jocque! instead.
-- John Floyd
Flippin' the Script: Rap Meets Poetry
Remember the spoken-word craze a few years ago, when all the hip-hop poets on MTV and the trendy magazines were declaring "poetry is back"? Well, if it ever was back, it sure left again in a hurry. Once the novelty wore off, people remembered that poems were just like song lyrics, except they didn't have a beat. And without a beat, they weren't very much use to audiences weaned on pop music.