Mark Ronson "Here Comes the Fuzz" (Elektra) ***
DJ and Producer Mark Ronson, who has collaborated on previous albums such as Sean Paul's "Dutty Rock" and Jimmy Fallon's "The Bathroom Wall," delivers "Here Comes the Fuzz" a collection of tracks featuring Ronson and various emcees and musicians.
Ronson does a good job flowing the songs together, making the segues between tracks seamless, and the result is a fine-tuned party record. The standout tracks are "On the Run," based on a Lenny Kravitz riff with an excellent verse from Mos Def, and "Ooh Wee" with the Wu-Tang's best emcee, Ghostface Killah, and Nate Dogg.
While there are filler tracks like "Bluegrass Stain'd" with the Nappy Roots and "International Affair" with Sean Paul and Tweet, Ronson counteracts these with collaborations with amazing musicians, such as the Roots' drummer questlove, and Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo (Who pairs up with Ronson on an inane, but insanely catchy self-deprecating anthem "I Suck").
- DAN LONGINO
Grandaddy "Sumday" (V2 Records) ***
On "Sumday," Grandaddy creates condensed and sparkling suburban landscapes that tell stories of broken-down machines, idleness, dreams and love.
"Now it's On," the first song on the album and single, is standard Grandaddy fare: incredibly catchy vocals, crunchy guitars and bright synthesizers backed up by a simple rhythm section. The next few songs, though lacking much in the way of dynamics, are held together by Jason Lytle's gentle and dreamy vocal melodies. By the time "El Caminos in the West" arrives, the sixth track on the album and one of the strongest, the listener is more than ready for the bubbly toy-like synthesized instruments that chime as Lytle sings about "El Caminos in the west, all collapsed and futureless."
"Sumday" employs the quirky, whispery vocals Grandaddy is so good at and simple melodies, making it a solid album. The familiarity and gentleness of "Sumday," along with Grandaddy's always-loveable eccentricities, produce a very enjoyable album.
Grandaddy will play at the 9:30 club on Thursday, Oct. 2. Tickets cost $15.
- JULIAN OSTI
Live "Birds of Pray" (Radioactive Records) ***
First performing nearly 16 years ago in a middle school talent show, all four original members of Live remain and boast new sounds on every album. "Birds of Pray," the sixth album by the Pennsylvania quartet, has the band returning to its roots and leaving experimentation behind.
Slightly less intense than "Throwing Copper," "Birds of Pray" brings lead singer Ed Kowalczyk's driven, raw vocals to the front line, but the lyrics are sappier than previous albums. While Live is best known for its edgy sound, many fans may feel that "Birds of Pray" is a step away from harder days.
All 13 of the songs on the album, the first of which is the single "Heaven," show Live moving away from electronica and returning to the guitar-heavy sound that fans are used to. While "Birds of Pray" is somewhat softer than previous albums, it's a nice delivery back to Live's roots.
- RACHEL BURSTEIN
A Static Lullaby "And Don't Forget to Breathe" (Ferret Records) ** 1/2
A Static Lullaby's latest effort, "And Don't Forget to Breathe" is a good record. It's just not great.
The Orange County, Calif. band mixes hardcore-type screaming with melodic singing. It is quite catchy at times, but sometimes it's just annoying. A Static Lullaby treads similar grounds as genre-breaking artists Glassjaw and Thursday, however it ends up sounding like a watered down, generic version. This is not to say that it will never get better. There is a lot of potential in "And Don't Forget to Breathe" and hopefully A Static Lullaby has not yet reached its creative peak.
Songs like "The Shooting Star that Destroyed the World," "A Sip of Wine Chased with Cyanide" and "Love to Hate, Hate to Me" are excellent proof of the band's skills. Fans of bands like Finch, The Used and From Autumn to Ashes will probably enjoy A Static Lullaby.
-JORGE DEL PINAL
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club "Take Them On, On Your Own" (Virgin Records) ***1/2
On Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's "Take Them On, On Your Own," the follow-up to the band's enlightening eponymous debut, all knobs are on 11.
Tip-toeing between the footsteps of T. Rex and the Jesus and Mary Chain, Black Rebel turns away from driving punk and meandering melodies in favor of scintillating soundscapes that reek of sweat-stained jeans and smoke-filled bars. "Stop" and "In Like Rose" personify this portrait as both cuts are lacerated with Phasers and fuzz, while "Six Barrel Shotgun" is a million mile per hour mess of Stooges madness.
One of the most noteworthy shifts on "Take Them On, On Your Own," can be heard on "And I'm Aching" an acoustic ode to loss, which simmers like a Radiohead track.
On the whole, "Take Them On, On Your Own," lives up to the hype, but does so in an unexpected and enjoyable way, that forces more than one listening.
- ALEX KARGHER
Those Peabodys "Unite Tonight" (Tiger Style Records) ****
Austin, Texas locals, Those Peabodys, have quietly earned the reputation of the best rock 'n' roll band never heard. Following tours insupport of fellow Texans Spoon and And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, the Peabodys stepped it up from Post Parlo to Tiger Style Records in search of better distribution. Their latest effort, "Unite Tonight" warrants air guitar solos only "Back in Black" can rival.
"All My Friends Are Good Looking," the first track, rivals Jon Spencer vocals with a double Les Paul combination that would make Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott smile down from the great beyond. The affable Blue Oyster Cult cowbell stylings are widespread on "What's Up Turbo."
The Phil Spector penned "River Deep, Mountain High" for Ike & Tina Turner (later covered by Deep Purple) takes on entirely new meaning when heard through Clarke Wilson's Jon Spencer-like intonation.
- COSTA CALOUDAS
Vertical Horizon "Go" (RCA) * 1/2
They were everything you wanted, everything you needed in 1999. Now Vertical Horizon is back with its blend of catchy soft rock that your mom or lonely middle aged relatives will probably love.
Interestingly enough Vertical Horizon formed after meeting at a Georgetown party where several of the members went to school. Vertical Horizon scored a bunch of hits in 1999-2000 from its CD "Everything You Want." Unfortunately none of the songs on "Go" seem to have the magic of "Everything You Want." From the apparent lack of radio play and the fact that not that many people seem to remember them, it is hard to say if "Go" will mark the triumphant return of Vertical Horizon.
Vertical Horizon will be on tour with Train and Sister Hazel and will be hitting the Georgetown campus on Oct. 10. Fans of bands like Train, Barenaked Ladies, Matchbox Twenty, and Third Eye Blind will most likely find Vertical Horizon enjoyable.
Strike Anywhere "Exit English" (Jade Tree Records) ****
Words cannot describe how good this CD is. Strike Anywhere's first release, "Change is Sound," was indeed a solid album, but "Exit English" far surpasses it.
Like Strike Anywhere's first album, "Exit English" is marked by fast-paced rhythms and politically-charged lyrics that attack the proverbial system. Despite the highly political messages contained within, the songs all manage to feel distinctly personal for the listener, even if the listener cannot relate to the politics.
Unlike "Change," where "Chalkline" was the best song, it is difficult to discern which song stands out on "Exit English;" "Extinguish," however, comes pretty close.
This band has seriously succeeded in making an album that is, for all intensive purposes, perfect. Strike Anywhere should return immediately to the studio and churn out as many CDs as possible because if there is more where this came from, society needs it now.
- EMILY ZEMLER