Disc Reviews

Utilizing irony to the hilt - even for the title of their greatest hits collection - Garbage is definitely a band for the new millenium.

garbage disk 88 224 (photo credit: )
garbage disk 88 224
(photo credit: )
GARBAGE Absolute Garbage (HaTav Hashmini) Utilizing irony to the hilt - even for the title of their greatest hits collection - Garbage is definitely a band for the new millenium. Pop music never sounded so cold and detached, yet pulsating and hypnotic as in the hands of this motley crew from Wisconsin and their icy siren Shirley Manson. Full of synthesizers that sound like guitars and guitars that sound like synthesizers, the band's metallic, crunching music is conducted with a modern Spectorish flourish by drummer and super producer Butch Vig. Tempered with Manson's coquettish, almost belligerent vocals, songs like "Queer" and "Stupid Girl" sound like a personal challenge to the listener. The 18 songs on Absolute Garbage - forget the 13 dispensable remixes with special guests on the bonus CD - make a strong case for Garbage as the 21st century's successor to The Cars as the ultimate cool singles band. AGAINST ME! New Wave (HaTav Hashmini) Political rock hasn't sounded this full of fury and self righteousness since the heyday of The Clash. And while Butch Vig's Garbage-y "in your face" production work on Against Me!'s latest album may attempt to commercialize those that would not be commercialized, the band's on-the-sleeve conviction and raw approach bursts through the professional sheen provided by its new major label. Starting off a decade ago as more of a punk-folk outfit in the Billy Bragg vein, Against Me! roars on seminal rock & roll cylinders on New Wave, while still keeping their populist Woody Guthrie grassroots sentiments an integral element of their music. Frontman Tom Gable is able to write cumbersome choruses ("Protest songs in response to military aggression") to even more awkwardly titled songs like "White People for Peace," and still manage to turn them into sing along, fist pumping anthems. There's only one truly outstanding song - the opening title cut - a rush of crashing chords, self-righteous pronouncements like "We can eclipse all that came before us" and "We can be the bands we want to hear" complemented by equally brash music which finds vintage Daltrey-Townshend harmony counterpoint set against a martial beat. If they had been able to keep that up for a whole album, they would indeed, as they proclaim, be the "crest of a new wave." But even if they can't do that, New Wave still storms in like a hurricane hell bent at tearing down the mediocrity of today's airwaves. Tracks like "Up the Cuts," "Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart" and the aforementioned "White People for Peace" almost rise to the level of "New Wave," channeling both punk circa 1977 and the classic rock of the E Street Band and the Stones. Against Me! will shake you out of the musical doldrums - figuratively, and literally. VARIOUS ARTISTS Make Some Noise - Save Darfur The Songs of John Lennon (HaTav Hashmini) It's pretty hard to criticize an album with such noble intentions as Make Some Noise - some of today's top musical stars performing the solo songs of John Lennon - whose proceeds are earmarked to the 2.5 million refugees from Sudan. But I'll try. First of all, there is the puzzling decision to include three different versions of "Instant Karma," none of them coming close to touching the original. Overall, the double CD is a hodgepodge of sublime reworkings, (Snow Patrol's "Isolation," The Flaming Lips' "(Just Like) Starting Over," Regina Spektor's "Real Love"), inspired but closer to the book renditions (Christina Aguilera's "Mother," Green Day's "Working Class Hero," Jakob Dylan and Dhani Harrison's "Gimme Some Truth"), some ordinary but acceptable rote for rote versions, (U2's "Instant Karma" - the best of the three - REM's "#9 Dream," Lenny Kravitz's "Cold Turkey") and some downright oddities (nearly everything else). Avril Lavigne's "Imagine" is clumsy, yet still more listenable than Jack Johnson's version. And indie fave Jack's Mannequin garbles the lyrics to the pristine "God," one of Lennon's most accomplished vocal performances. When hip hopped up, the music can be intriguing, like Black Eyed Peas' rousing reworking of "Power to the People." But Matisyahu does a reggae misstep on "Watching the Wheels" - you half expect to hear Bobby McFerrin chirping in "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Ultimately, it doesn't really matter if there are ebbs and tides on Make Some Noise, it's a worthwhile endeavor anyway - it helps the refugees, it reintroduces Lennon's music to a new generation, and it reconfirms rock & roll's ability to spur people to action. But three "Instant Karmas"?