WITH new-school boy bands like One Direction and The Wanted hitting it big, old school boy bands are scrambling for a piece of the action with reunion tours and new singles. Even C-grade boy bands like 98 Degrees. Everything about this is absolutely embarrassing -- from the cookie-cutter club-pop vibe, to the asinine do-re-mi-fa-so chorus. And hey! Can you guess what part of the male anatomy they're actually talking about when they say "put it in your hands, hold it up to your lips... and sing into this microphone?" Truly, truly awful. 'Ö
Almost Famous (Battle Axe Records)
FOR a hip-hop crew that's been around as long as steadfast West Coasters Swollen Members have, there's an impressive kind of hunger about this latest single from their freshly launched Beautiful Death Machine album. Sinister melodies and militant beats back some seriously gymnastic raps that range from nerdy Star Wars references to murderous rampages, all in an effort to, as the title suggests, finally reach the top. Swollen Members perform April 6th at the Pyramid. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
TEAM PITBULL FEATURING PITBULL & DAVID RUSH
All Night (Starkillers Remix) (Ultra)
PITBULL and David Rush worked together previously on 2008's gargantuan Shooting Star. This similarly energetic and redundantly credited club track featuring red-hot Starkillers on the remix doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but when that table is loaded up with bacon-wrapped filet minion, who's going to complain? 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
-- Reviewed by Steve Adams
-- POP & ROCK
The Messenger (Warner Canada)
AT this late date, John "Johnny Marr" Maher likely looks back on his time with prominent British hip popsters The Smiths as simply a small part of the arc in the extended curve that has been his musical career. The modish singer/songwriter has been almost an enigmatic figure since those heady, chart-topping days with his mate Morrissey, and his first proper solo album definitely delivers.
The Messenger is a dozen tracks worth of what Marr's fans have come to expect from the fashionable guitarist -- plenty of memorable melodies with a good dose of rock flourish without pandering to any particular subgenre of music. Sure, his burnished riffs are as robust as ever, and will remind anyone within earshot that he can fully lay claim to a specific chapter in the '80s Britpop songbook. Yet The Messenger is more than a sampler of riff and strategy to appeal to an older fan base. The title track is a moody slow burn built on a repeating guitar figure, metronomic drums and an almost dub-like bass throb. Generate! Generate! and the jumpy Upstarts are hyper-kinetic nods to a kind of New Order-ish vibe that cascade from the speakers with style.
Since his time with The Smiths, Marr has worked with everyone from Talking Heads and The The to Modest Mouse, but The Messenger finds him mining his own roots to good effect. Worth a listen for fans old and new. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
DOWNLOAD THIS: Upstarts
-- Jeff Monk
Mindil Beach Markets
It Might Take Long (Independent)
ON their second full-length album, Vancouver indie funsters Mindil Beach Markets have concocted a sweaty brew of reggae-tinged rock songs coupled with easy-grooving funk bombs that is exactly right for the times. Combined with their overt passion for environmental concerns (The Jellyfish Project) on the West Coast, the quintet makes a case for the intelligent mix of music with politics without being strident.
Sure, a song like the lazy Afterlife tiptoes a little too closely into the earnest barefoot folkie sandbox, as does it's equally limp Jason Mraz-esque followup, Ignorance Is Bliss, but the green stoner teens will find something to love even in these unfortunate droops. Where this band really kicks out the jams is on tracks like the powerful, neo-hard rocker With Words and the churning Smoking Gun.
There's no doubt MBM will be compared to Bedouin Soundclash at some point, as both combos tread the same musical paths. Not to worry: if you are truly a fan of this kind of mixture of earthy styles, it won't take long to love this band. ***
DOWNLOAD THIS: Evil Genius Super Villain
-- Jeff Monk
-- HIP HOP
I Am Not a Human Being II (Cash Money/Young Money)
LIL Wayne's I Am Not a Human Being II album opens with a familiar sound -- a flicking lighter. It's Weezy's sonic signature, a nod to the weed, women, booze and bravado that have shaped so many of his musical releases.
Now on his 10th album, singles like No Worries and (Expletives) Love Me suggest that Wayne's priorities haven't changed. Luckily for fans, he covers familiar territory with fresh, tweet-worthy punchlines. But if you're looking for storytelling, look elsewhere. Wayne's expertise is in lyrical zingers.
He unleashes a dazzling array on the 2 Chainz-assisted Rich as (Expletive), which features a swaggering beat from T-Minus. "AK on my night stand, right next to that Bible/But I swear with these 50 shots, I'll shoot it out with 5-0/Pockets gettin' too fat, no Weight Watchers, no lipo," Wayne raps.
The YMCMB captain still has passion for his craft. He's entertaining on Trippy, a sinister presence over the equally sinister beat of the production duo's Trigger Finger, and seems to laugh about his 2010 eight-month jail stint on Gunwalk.
The songs are reminders of a more focused Wayne -- a version of the rapper that seems to be absent from other tracks like Curtains, which he phones in.
He may not saying much (of substance), but he giveslisteners plenty to talk about. 'Ö'Ö1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Trippy
-- Melanie J. Sims, The Associated Press
Same Trailer, Different Park (Mercury Nashville/Universal)
ACM Top New Female Vocalist nominee Kacey Musgraves seems to possess wisdom well beyond her 24 years on her first major label release. Then again it is her fourth album (she released her first independently at the age of 14).
Musgraves is very hands-on, co-producing the project and co-writing all 12 songs. She even co-produced the video for the infectiously dark and witty first single, Merry-Go-Round, with its memorable chorus of "Momma's hooked on Mary Kay, Brother's hooked on Mary Jane, and daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down." Silver Lining opens the disc with "I woke up on the wrong side of rock bottom" but things do get better for Musgraves and the often downtrodden who inhabit her well-crafted songs.
Like Miranda Lambert before her, Kacey Musgraves is an exciting new voice in country music combining insightful and witty lyrics with tasteful arrangements and instrumentation including banjo and harmonica. ****
DOWNLOAD THIS: Blowin' Smoke
-- Bruce Leperre