Weekly Wire
The Boston Phoenix The Big Noises of Early '98

Pearl jamming, and Courtney loving, and more.

By Douglas Wolk

JANUARY 5, 1998:  "Long-awaited" will be the term you'll most often hear used to describe major albums in 1998. The best-selling bands rarely take less than two years between records these days, and sometimes they take significantly more.

Take, for instance, Hole. Their forthcoming album is rumored to be a killer, and at this point -- four years after Live Through This -- it'd better be. Tentatively due out April 21, it has no official title yet, though Celebrity Skin has been batted around in public since, oh, 1994. Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan worked on a few tracks, and last year Courtney Love was doing some writing with Jordan Zadorozny of the Montreal band Blinker the Star.

Pearl Jam are practically racehorses in comparison. Yield will be released February 3 on Epic -- a mere 18 months after No Code -- though the single "Given to Fly" is already showing up on the airwaves. Produced by Brendan O'Brien with the band and recorded in Seattle and Atlanta, it also includes such titles as "Do the Evolution," "Brain of J," and "Pilate." But don't necessarily expect to see Eddie Vedder on stage: the band will be playing a single show in Hawaii in February, then touring in Australia and New Zealand.

Fellow Pacific Northwesterners the Presidents of the United States of America have a third album due out March 10 on Columbia, though the label has reported that they've broken up. And who could blame them? Their spiritual kin, They Might Be Giants, have been trying out a bunch of new material at a series of small club shows for imminent recording. And New York's fascinating, food-loving duo Cibo Matto have been cooking up a second album, due this summer; there's a tape making the rounds of their samba-fied cover of Nirvana's "About a Girl."

The Breeders have recorded demos for their first album in five years, planned for this fall. Their Ohio compatriots and occasional collaborators, Guided by Voices, have regrouped with a new lineup after the old one collapsed, and brought former bassist Greg Demos back into the fold; they'll be recording an album to be released late in '98.

Indie-rock labels don't tend to plan too far ahead, but there are some indie wonders due early in the year, notably Neutral Milk Hotel's exquisite, heartfelt In the Aeroplane over the Sea, out on Merge March 3. Ani Difranco's Little Plastic Castle will appear on her own Righteous Babe label February 17. After a few months as an import, Shleep, Robert Wyatt's album of collaborations with the likes of Brian Eno, Paul Weller, and Evan Parker, will be out domestically on Thirsty Ear January 20. Mark Eitzel has a solo album due on Matador in January, with the brilliant title of Caught in a Trap and I Can't Back Out 'Cause I Love You Too Much, Baby, and a band including members of Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo.

Sonic Youth have an album due in March themselves (on DGC/Geffen), and it'll be more song-based than their current series of experimental EPs; at recent shows, they've previewed songs including "Sunday" and "Hits of Sunshine." Geffen is also releasing Girls Against Boys' major-label debut in April, and Elastica's long-overdue second album in June.

In the "who knows" department: Liz Phair's new record was unfinished at press time, though Matador Records hopes for a late spring release. Bonnie Raitt's first studio album in four years, produced by Tchad Blake, isn't quite scheduled yet, but it's raw, lovely, and worth waiting for. Scott Weiland, formerly of Stone Temple Pilots, has his solo debut due soon, though God only knows if he'll be able to tour. Definitely not touring: the late, great Jeff Buckley, whose second album, My Sweetheart the Drunk, was reportedly unfinished at the time of his death, but has nonetheless been put together for release at the end of March by Columbia.

Drum 'n' bass hero Goldie's mammoth Saturnz Return is a double-CD set due out on London in February. How big is it? Well, the first track, the symphonic "Mother," is just over an hour long. DJ Shadow will be releasing a collection of his singles in January, and Krautrock/electronic pioneers Dieter Moebius (of Cluster) and Mani Neumeier (of Guru Guru) have teamed up with members of Faust, Amon Duul, and Die Krupps for an album under the name Space Explosion.

The big soundtrack of this spring is likely to be Eric Clapton's electric blues score to Gary Oldman's writing/directing debut, Nil by Mouth. In the fall, Storefront Hitchcock -- Jonathan Demme's film of a Robyn Hitchcock concert -- will be released, along with Hitchcock's soundtrack. Given that Demme's last concert movie was the brilliant Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense, this should be a treat. In the meantime, Hitchcock's working on a new studio album.

In hip-hop, the Year of the Wu seems to have turned into a dynasty: though the Wu-Tang Clan itself doesn't have a new disc scheduled, Cappadonna and Ghostface Killer both have albums due out this spring, and so does GP Wu, composed of early members of the group. According to ICE magazine, Public Enemy is supposed to have a new album soon as well; by the time it's released, it will have been almost four years since Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age.

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