Thursday, March 24, 2005
The Cosmic Game | ESL Music
Apparently not banking on the star power of their own names, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation have brought in some bigger guns for their fourth album of studio originals, The Cosmic Game. With names like David Byrne, Perry Farrell and the Flaming Lips attached to this release, there’s the hype of cross-genre collaboration, but in the end, it’s those marquee tracks that ultimately fall flat.
Take “Marching of the Hate Machines,” for example: what starts off as a fine hi-fi opening gets thrown off by the misplaced warble of The Lips’ Wayne Coyne. Byrne’s overamped collaboration, “The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter,” marks the worst track on the album. Farrell comes off a slightly better on “The Revolution Solution,” although he lacks the subtlety of Thievery Corporation’s lesser-known (and infinitely more effective) singers such as bossa nova crooner Verny Varela on “Ambicíon Eterna.”
Big names aside, there are moments of triumph: “Holographic Universe” comes in as the tightest, upbeat successor to the duo’s ubiquitous single from 2000’s Mirror Conspiracy, “Lebanese Blonde.” The title track is a refreshing instrumental, while “Amerimacka” (featuring Notch) and “The Time We Lost Our Way Out” (featuring LouLou) are reminders that Thievery Corporation’s music was always this good, even when we had no idea who their vocalists were. (BS)
Mushroom Jazz 5 | Om Records
Back in ’98, the chill-out room finally got its soundtrack with Mark Farina’s Mushroom Jazz. As close to a musical institution as any, Farina’s acclaimed series has hit its 5th volume, and it’s a long way from its initial roots. Whereas the downtempo grooves of old relied mostly on smooth jazz with a psychedelic edge, mid-tempo lounge music these days sounds a lot like straight, chilled-out hip-hop.
With tracks straight from beatmakers we know and love (Zion I, Nu-Mark, Pete Rock) Farina keeps a solid hip-hop flava through the whole thing. There’s rhyming mixed in periodically, with varied results. Thes One’s “The Yacht Club” flows smoothly, but Shortie No Más comes in too in-your-face on “You Like My Style” to fit in.
To his credit, Farina still drops in some rainy-day jazzy smoothness, particularly with sweet piano licks on “Autumn Evening Breeze” by Soundproviders and “Maintain” by The Strange Fruit Project. But make no mistake; head nodding is clearly the name of the game. (BS)
Cursed, Poisoned, Condemned | Steel Cage
Gotta love any disc whose title comes from the second line of the NY Dolls’ classic “Subway Train.” And you gotta love the commitment this garage-rock lifer (and former Angry Samoans vocalist) has shown to the form.
Driven by simple beats and good ole ‘60s tambourine/organ bubblegum, this is punk rock that has absorbed the Nuggets/Stooges/MC5 axis to the hilt and never transcends its sources. And why should it? Badfinger cover notwithstanding, this is just hard enough and just tuneful enough to provide the balance this kind of music has always aimed for—unsmooth, unpretty but not unlistenable.
As a student of marginal rock ‘n’ roll, Mr. Dahl’s discs are consistent and always a pleasure. This latest installment meets his typically high standard of output and anyone that’s ever enjoyed the two true strains of OG punk will just plain suck this up like the mother’s milk it’s intended to be. Seek it out! (JA)