CD Reviews

Moonspell "2003" (Century Media) Metal

*

If you are in search of mediocre talent and unimpressive riffs then you will love Moonspell's latest effort, "The Antidote." This Portugal-based band has no strong points and is outdone in every area - musical talent, vocals, lyrics - by bands such as Tool, and even Korn and Evanescence.

While most bands would provide difficult riffs or guitar solos and diverse vocal ranges, Moonspell supplies simple guitar strumming and nearly unintelligible yelling. "Capricorn at Her Feet" and "Antidote" serve as this album's most tolerable songs since they provide the most interesting guitar work. Every song on this album adheres to the same basic format - talking, guitar strumming and yelling. There is a slew of angrier, more gothic and more talented bands than Moonspell, so do yourself a favor and spend your money on them.

- GRANT RITTER

Stereolab "Margerine Eclipse" (Elektra) Electronica

***

Stereolab has a unique sound that melds ambient pop with the sounds of new age music straight from the yoga studio, and it is a sound that is an acquired taste. "Margerine Eclipse," Stereolab's ninth full-length album over a span of 12 years, is a soothing fusion of quietly synthesized instrumentals and melodic female vocals.

The album has a very vintage feel, and at times could be straight out of a lounge from the 1960s. This album is also reminiscent of fellow new age-pop musicians Delirium, that very may well have drawn its influence from Stereolab's carefully arranged synth melodies.

The major problem with the release is that, except to a select group of listeners, it is understated and borderline boring. "Margerine Eclipse" belongs in a meditation room or in the background at an upscale coffee house, but has no place in your stereo or on your car radio. There is no denying that what this band does, it does extremely well, and is probably at the top of this rather tight genre of music. "Margerine Eclipse" is not a CD for everyone, and will only truly be appreciated by fans of the genre.

- EMILY ZEMLER

Jack Johnson "Thicker Than Water: Original Soundtrack" (Brushfire) Folk

*** 1/2

"Thicker than Water," the soundtrack to Jack Johnson's movie, has the kind of laidback, relaxing music that makes one feel like going to the beach. This is the kind of album to pop in after a stressful day at class or to relax before that big exam. Jack Johnson is, not surprisingly, the prominent artist of this album, but he is accompanied by a wide assortment of folk musicians including G. Love, The Meters and Smoke City. Each song on this album has its own unique character like "Rainbow," with its traditional folk style, and "My Guru," in which you will find sitars mixed with a gentle beat. These songs would be ideal for campfire jam sessions.

There is nothing truly wrong with the album as long as you enjoy chill folk music. Anyone expecting screaming, fast beats and thrashing guitars will be sorely disappointed by this disc. "Thicker than Water" is not the type of LP that you throw in to hear a song or two; its feel-good sound almost gives listeners no choice but to play it through repeatedly. If you can't make it to the beach, this album will take you there. And if your going to hit the waves, take "Thicker than Water" with you.

- GRANT RITTER

Damageplan "New Found Power" (Elektra) Metal

*

Apparently, Dimebag Darrel and Vinnie Paul of Pantera have a new plan; Damageplan. This is written on the outside jacket of Damageplan's debut "New Found Power." Horrible vocals by a horrible lead singer almost indicate that Vinnie & Dime need to go back to the drawing board because this "plan" doesn't seem to work at all.

This album is Pantera gone wrong, and the liner notes request Pantera fans to support this "New Found Power" which is complete bull. Dime & Vinnie have created a piss poor version of Pantera with a vocalist that needs to be kicked in the face and a bassist who is completely awful. Funny how Rex wasn't included in this project, otherwise it would be Pantera without Phil.

"Breathing New Life" is the first single off Damageplan's new record and it sucks the life out of everything. This album is not original at all, no song is worth reviewing at all. The only good to come out of Damageplan is to hear Vinnie and Dime play again, though an imitation of the almighty Pantera is insulting to all of us. Keep your money and don't drop a dime on this CD.

- FRED NETZBAND

Descendents "'Merican" (Fat Wreck Chords) Punk

****

The Descendents, a punk band that wrote the blueprints for pop-punk, had all but disappeared from the music scene both before and after its last release "Everything Sucks" in 1996. Now this seminal band has returned eight years later with a new EP, "'Merican," that reflects the shifts pop-punk has undergone during the Descendents' leave of absence.

Excluding the first track, "Nothing With You," "'Merican" is a far cry from the band's previous releases. "Nothing With You" emulates the band's old lovelorn, but upbeat melodies, but it is the only song of the five included on this EP that does. With the title track, the only written by guitarist Karl Alvarez, The Descendents tests its hand at political punk, a sub-genre for a band so lyrically rooted in lost love.

The influences from which each song draws its inspiration are vast, and this EP is extremely varied in song tone and type. From the lovesick desperation that has come to define this genre to snappy, three-chord punk rock, "'Merican" has it all.

Two songs off this release will grace the band's upcoming LP "Cool to be You," and judging from the quality of these two songs, it will be one of the best pop-punk albums of 2004.

- EMILY ZEMLER

DFA Compilation No. 1 (DFA) Indie rock

****

The Rapture, ICD Soundsystem, The Juan Maclean and Black Dice. What more can be said about a compilation so brilliantly put together by DFA Records, other than it is quite possibly one of the best mixes ever made. With eight tracks, each song has its unique eclectic beats and chaotic rhythms that smoothly transition from one song to the next. Strategically, the first three tracks are definitely quality body shakin' tunes. It starts off with The Juan MacLean's "By the Time I get to Venus" and procceds to The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers." No worries though - Black Dice's "Cone Toaster" is the song to cool down to. Then the dancing resumes with The Juan MacLean's "You Can't Have it Both Ways." Although this is a diverse mix, it is definitely an innovative and fresh collection of songs. Bottom line: This is for anyone who likes to move. So get rid of those cheesy Jock Jams and Now Music hits and just dance.

- DEBBIE KANG

Stars "Heart" (Arts & Crafts) Dream-pop

* 1/2

On paper, Canadian band Stars' lyrics are poetic. But on paper is probably where most the songs on its debut album, "Heart," should have stayed.

The male and female lead singers' breathy voices do exude a quiet eloquence, but Stars' musical style is just as tired as its calming vocals. Track after track is built on recycled keyboard-driven pop motifs, to the point where it's hard to tell when one song ends and another begins. Stars' blandness is especially disappointing because the band clearly has lyrical and vocal potential.

"Life Effect," the next to last track on the album, begins, "Sorry for wasting your time." Thanks for the apology, Stars, but why not try getting a more interesting musical style instead? Give it an innovative edge to fit the vocal beauty and insightful lyrics. Or, just forget the music business and publish a book of poetry.

- COLLEEN MCCARTHY

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