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MAY 15, 2000: 

*1/2 Pimpadelic SOUTHERN DEVILS (Tommy Boy)

The funniest thing about the self-produced major-label debut by Fort Worth's Pimpadelic is that it's dedicated to Tom Landry. If the God-fearing Dallas Cowboy coaching legend weren't dead already, he'd surely keel over after one listen to the tawdry tales on this disc. Pimpadelic are a hard-rock power trio -- plus obligatory MC and DJ -- led by rapper/guitarist Easy Jesus, a Kid Rock clone who also calls himself YDB. Jesus shares Rock's obsession with porn and malt liquor, hip-hop and classic rock; and here he quotes everyone from Big Pun to G.G. Allin. On "Nasties Get Up," he even slips in a particularly choice reference to Head East's '70s stoner-rock obscurity "Never Been Any Reason."

Unfortunately Pimpadelic don't have much of their own to add to the cultural lexicon. "Vegas" is a suicidal ballad Rock would be proud of; the horny "So Damn Tough" is one of the few tunes with a groove dirty enough to justify all the foul language. Otherwise, Jesus's raps are sleepier than a church service, and the band don't distinguish themselves in either of their two modes, laconic or hard-hitting. -- Sean Richardson


*** One Minute Silence BUY NOW . . . SAVED LATER (V2)

This English band's sophomore effort spreads its noises loosely, widely, publicly across the aural universe. The dense occupation of a tiny and determinedly private area has been far more typical of "modern rock" -- from Nine Inch Nails to Godsmack, Drain STH, Pearl Jam, and Slipknot, too many of today's rock bands implode when they might be exploding.

But there's an entirely other mode of modern-rock thinking that's been taking over, one adapted from the past and adopted by bands like Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, and Limp Bizkit. It involves a return to the loose and open universalism of the Led Zeppelin years (with hip-hop taking the place of the blues as a foundation), and it's the approach One Minute Silence prefer. From the bitter satire of "Holy Man" to the freaks-come-out ecstasy of "Fish out of Water" to the enigmatically gloomy Europop of "16 Stone Pig" and the party beat in "Spoonful of Sugar," this band's music sings it all. You name it: bebop beats, orchestral pop, thrash, voodoo, funk, Europop, house-music dub effects, Pet Shop Boys -- One Minute Silence live up to what frontman Brian "Yap" Barry sings in "16 Stone Pig": "You never know what life will throw at you." Only one aspect of their music never seems to change: its midnight darkness. Zeppelin howled and hurt but they also smiled, even glowed. One Minute Silence never glow. Like night-flight bombers, they see just fine in the dark. -- Michael Freedberg


***1/2 Medeski Martin & Wood TONIC (Blue Note)

Before Medeski Martin & Wood became Phish-anointed kings of the "groove" circuit, they were monsters of acoustic jazz (as you can hear on their 1992 Accurate album debut, Notes from the Underground). Recorded live at the title club in New York's Lower East Side, Tonic is a return to those roots -- which show in more ways than one. MM&W acknowledge the rudiments with outright homages: Lee Morgan's "Afrique," Coltrane's "Your Lady," and Bud Powell's "Buster Rides Again." Africa is established in the group's "Invocation" by Wood's zither-like strumming; the heavily accented Morgan piece follows. In this context, Coltrane and Powell have the vintage "soul jazz" flavorings of hard bop, to which the band add their own gospel-tinged "Rise Up." This bluesy, Africanized percussive concept of the piano trio, where Medeski occasionally breaks up the funk with torrents of clattering note clusters, connects the band to predecessors like Horace Silver, Cecil Taylor, and Don Pullen (rather than Bill Evans or, say, Brad Mehldau) and lays the groundwork for their current interstellar conjurings of Sun Ra, Weather Report, and electric Miles. -- Jon Garelick


*** The Makers ROCK STAR GOD (Sub Pop)

Having established themselves as a force to contend with in the trashy realm of grungy, guitar-powered garage punk over the past decade, Tacoma's Makers take a clever stab at something grander. A two-part (Knives, Needles, Bullets, Blood and How Hard Is Your Heart?), 16-track rock opera of sorts, Rock Star God opens with the voice of a narrator setting the scene: "Backstage at a small rock-and-roll venue somewhere in the Northwest of the United States . . . the curtain rises, a roaring noise is heard from the stage . . . a crowd of well-dressed mean and women have gathered for the ceremony . . ." A small rock venue with a curtain? A well-dressed audience? Apparently we're dealing with a spoof of some sort, though the jury's still out on whether it's meant to parody seminal high-concept rock projects like Ziggy Stardust and Tommy or more recent retro glam scams -- i.e., Major Manson's Mechanical Animals and the faux bio-pic Velvet Goldmine.

No matter, the disc is an entertaining throwback to rock's most self-indulgent era (the early '70s). More important, it's a cunning way for the Makers to sneak out of the garage-punk ghetto and -- with a wink wink here and a nudge nudge there -- engage in a little self-indulging of their own. Mick Ronson-esque guitar flourishes, Ray Manzarek-style organ work, riffs borrowed from familiar classics (The Doors' "Hello, I Love You," the Who's "Substitute"), and melodramatic power ballads replete with mellifluous string arrangements are some of the favored tools of the Makers' new trade. And singer Michael Shelley spends a good part of the disc sounding like Alice Cooper doing a very bad Bowie impersonation as he reels off zingers like "Eye for an eye/Tooth for a too/We were as sweet on your lips as a Baby Ruth." By the time the Makers do get around to unleashing the kind of fiendishly fast and furious garage-punk rocker they're famous for -- "Too Many F**kers (On the Street)" -- it's no longer clear whether they're pretending to be the band whose tale is told on Rock Star God (à la Urge Overkill) or are simply telling someone else's fictional story. Ultimately, though, Rock Star God works just fine either way. -- Matt Ashare


*** The Jayhawks SMILE (Columbia)

Although only two of the band's founding members -- singer and guitarist Gary Louris and bassist Marc Perlman -- remain, much of the Jayhawks' sixth album recalls the their past as seminal alterna-country heroes. There are doleful, rootsy ballads like "A Break in the Clouds" and "Broken Harpoon," both of which echo with a familiar dusty stillness; there's the rambling and pensive "What Led Me to this Town," which features twangy Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris harmonies between Louris and keyboard player Karen Grotberg (a member since the early '90s, Grotberg departed the band after Smile's completion). Elsewhere Smile blossoms into the Jayhawks' most stylistically diverse album to date, with a distinct pop vibe brightening the band's pastoral songwriting, transforming the rootsy "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" into a melodic Byrds-do-Dylan nugget, and endowing the rousing final track, "Baby, Baby, Baby," with a tuneful psychedelic edge. And it doesn't hurt to have a veteran producer like Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Kiss) on board to get all those little period touches from the '70s just right. -- Linda Laban


*** DJ Cam THE FRENCH CONNECTION (Shadow)

Although the hands-in-the-air and four-on-the-floor grooves of French house have been popular mix-CD material for the past few years, The French Collection highlights beats that are more of the pass-the-blunt and ass-on-the-couch variety. Mixed by Parisian b-boy DJ Cam, The French Connection works best as a nicely packaged transatlantic promotion tool for the Paris-based Artefact, since the entire track selection comes from that label's vaults. And though DJ Cam gets top billing for executing some well-placed scratches and tasteful blends, it's the source material that supplies all the character here. None of the artists is a known quantity on these shores (Mr. Quark, Zend Avesta, and Shinju Gumi, anyone?), but Artefact has a sonic stamp that is immediately recognizable. Mixing viscous trip-hop beats and gritty rap samples with unabashedly romantic instrumental flourishes, the Artefact productions have a decidedly European flair. Like DJ Premier on Percocet, the slinky vibraphones, plush synthesizer padding, and breathy saxophones smooth out the rugged drum loops into a dreamy and breathy beatscape, straddling the line between a constant head nod and an REM-inducing nodout. -- Michael Endelman


**1/2 Del the Funky Homosapien BOTH SIDES OF THE BRAIN (Hiero Imperium)

Del entered the game more than a decade ago (long before backpacking skater types began worshipping the extended Bay Area Hieroglyphics camp), amusing 'em with "Pissin' on Your Steps" and confusing 'em with "Mistadobolina." Back belatedly with Both Sides of the Brain, Del and his in-house lyricist, Casual, are captured at their finest in "Jaw Gymnastics." And Prince Paul's (continuing) mind-blowing production helps out Del (an alum of Paul's Handsome Boy Modeling School) on "Signature Slogans." "Soopa Feen" is an obligatory, run-of-the-mill tale about the neighborhood crack fiend that lacks personality. And having come this far in his career, Del really shouldn't have to resort to cheap laughs, as he does on the ode to personal hygiene "If You Must" (as in "You gotta wash your ass if you must"). But his booze and Buddha-obsessed verbal acrobatics are still one-of-a-kind, and the beats throughout Both Sides of the Brain are bouncy enough to salvage even the weakest hooks. -- Chris Conti


*** Bad Religion THE NEW AMERICA (Atlantic)

Arch intelli-punks Bad Religion are back with their gazillionth album (it's their fifth for Atlantic Records) and, well, it doesn't pack any real surprises unless you count Todd Rundgren's production credit. Rundgren's involvement is reported to have fulfilled a lifelong dream of founding Bad Religion vocalist Greg Graffin, but the band have been fusing choirlike background vocal harmonies and little prog-rock touches to their brand of punk for years, so it's not as if they really needed Rundgren.

The return of their founding guitarist, Epitaph honcho Brett Gurewitz, to collaborate with Graffin on the emotional, loosely autobiographical "Believe It" is good news. Other than that, the band continue to deliver their trademark stalwart anthemic riffs, buoyant harmonies, and churning rhythms. Evolutionist Graffin remains an engaging, thought-provoking lyricist, whether he's delivering playful warnings ("I Love My Computer") and life-affirming wordplay ("A Streetkid Named Desire") or just being his usual incitefully earnest self ("Let It Burn," "It's a Long Way to the Promised Land," "There Will Be a Way"). Fortunately, Bad Religion's consistency isn't a sign of stagnation or lack of passion. Groups like Nirvana may have exploded through the glass ceiling of the underground in the early '90s and disappeared almost as quickly. But Bad Religion, with their enduring style and passion, have remained behind to continue to fight the good fight. -- Mark Woodlief


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