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Illadelph Halflife

The Roots

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2012 | DGC

For the Roots' second major-label album, the band apparently recognized the weaknesses of the debut, since there are several songs which provide more structure than previous jam-session efforts -- two even became R&B radio hits. But for all its successes, Illadelph Halflife mostly repeats the long-winded jams and loose improvisatory feel that characterized Do You Want More?!!!??!. And while these songs may sound great live (a field where the Roots excel over any other rap act), in a living-room setting listeners need hooks on which to focus. © John Bush /TiVo
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DGC Rarities Vol. 1

Various Artists

Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | DGC

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Mellow Gold

Beck

Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2004 | DGC

From its kaleidoscopic array of junk-culture musical styles to its assured, surrealistic wordplay, Beck's debut album, Mellow Gold, is a stunner. Throughout the record, Beck plays as if there are no divisions between musical genres, freely blending rock, rap, folk, psychedelia, and country. Although his inspired sense of humor occasionally plays like he's a smirking, irony-addled hipster, his music is never kitschy, and his wordplay is constantly inspired. Since Mellow Gold was pieced together from home-recorded tapes, it lacks a coherent production, functioning more as a stylistic sampler: there are the stoner raps of "Loser" and "Beercan," the urban folk of "Pay No Mind (Snoozer)," the mock-industrial onslaught of "Mutherfuker," the garagey "Fuckin' With My Head (Mountain Dew Rock)," the trancy acoustic "Blackhole," and the gently sardonic folk-rock of "Nitemare Hippy Girl." It's a dizzying demonstration of musical skills, yet it's all tied together by a simple yet clever sense of songcraft and a truly original lyrical viewpoint, one that's basic yet as colorful as free verse. By blending boundaries so thoroughly and intoxicatingly, Mellow Gold established a new vein of alternative rock, one that was fueled by ideas instead of attitude. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Celebrity Skin

Hole

Rock - Released January 1, 1998 | DGC

From the moment the Pyromania guitars herald open the title track on Celebrity Skin, it's clear Hole no longer is tortured. Gone are the roaring guitars and noise, the pain and the anguish that informed Pretty on the Inside and Live Through This. Some angst remains, but it's buried under a glaze of shiny guitars and hazy melodies, all intended to evoke the heyday of Californian pop in the late '70s. Conceptually, it's a bold move for a band that's nearly synonymous with grunge, but the makeover doesn't quite work. Part of the reason is that Hole's music was always compelling as nakedly cathartic spectacle -- and that's exactly what has been excised on Celebrity Skin. In the past, Courtney Love pushed her emotions to the forefront, and the sheer forcefulness of her personality disguised the anonymity of her bandmates. A toned-down Love still may not be able to carry a tune, but there's little grit to her performance on Celebrity Skin, so she effortlessly blends with the faceless musical support -- which is strange, considering her overpowering public image. Walking the line between soft rock and confessional grunge was a difficult task regardless, and to its credit, Hole -- with the assistance of producer Michael Beinhorn and consultant Billy Corgan, who is credited with co-writing five songs and essentially pioneered the very sound of Celebrity Skin with his Smashing Pumpkins albums -- has created an album that sounds like an arena rock monster, but the hooks sink only halfway in, so it doesn't have much impact. It is a complete makeover, but instead of metamorphosing into a new band, Hole has unwittingly neutered itself. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Across A Wire

Counting Crows

Pop - Released July 14, 1998 | DGC

It certainly says something about the state of the music industry in the '90s when it has become a common occurrence for bands to release live albums after only two albums of original material. On one hand, it's indicative of how the labels have to fight the proliferation of high-quality live CD bootlegs. On the other, it illustrates that the labels have a difficult time receiving new product from their major bands. And that makes the Counting Crows' double-disc set Across a Wire: Live in New York both welcome and odd. Certainly, all of the group's hardcore fans will delight in having two complete live shows on one specially priced double-disc set, but skeptics can't help but wonder if a double-live set is necessary. Actually, Across a Wire may be necessary if you are a dedicated fan, simply because it showcases the group's versatility in a way that neither of their albums have. Although those two records were eclectic, accomplished recordings, these live shows find Counting Crows rearranging familiar tunes and performing cohesive conceptual concerts. The first disc consists of their performance for VH1's Storytellers, the second of MTV Live from the 10 Spot. They share some songs, such as "Angels of the Silences" and "Rain King," yet the versions themselves are different, fitting neatly into the concerts themselves. The end result is two fascinating, entertaining concerts in one package -- a small blessing for the committed, even if it won't be of much interest to the unconverted. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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A-Haunting We Will Go-Go

The Ghastly Ones

Rock - Released January 1, 1998 | DGC

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www.pitchshifter.com

Pitchshifter

Rock - Released January 1, 1998 | DGC

Pretty ingenious idea: publicize your album by titling it after your website URL. And this is music that deserves to be publicized. On their first major-label release, Pitchshifter maintains its socially -- and politically -- conscious views while making a huge progression musically. www.pitchshifter.com melds the band's usual punk intensity with the hard and fast (bpm speeds are included with each song for the curious) rhythms of drum'n'bass, but with a distinctly organic feel, perhaps a result of the band sampling live drums. J.S. Clayden and John A. Carter show themselves to be masterful programmers. The addition of grinding metallish guitars courtesy of new member Jim Davies also enhances the live feel. Songs such as "Microwaved" and the excellent single "Genius" are dynamic and exciting, and have a dangerous edge that is missing from much current drum'n'bass, which tends to sacrifice intensity for complexity. Even when Pitchshifter slows down the beats, as on "w.y.s.i.w.y.g." -- perhaps the best song on the album -- there is an unbridled fury that shoots through www.pitchshifter.com like a train. Pitchshifter is only getting better. (For the second straight album, the band has included free samples at the end of the CD for the use of listeners.) © Stanton Swihart /TiVo
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Halloween Hootenanny

Various Artists

Rock - Released January 1, 1998 | DGC

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A Thousand Leaves

Sonic Youth

Rock - Released May 1, 1998 | DGC

Truth be told, the grunge era never quite fit Sonic Youth. They may have been at the peak of their popularity, but they had traded their experimentalism for sheer, bracing noise. It may have sounded good, but ultimately Dirty didn't have the cerebral impact of Sister, largely because it was tied to an admittedly effective backbeat. Beginning with Washing Machine, Sonic Youth returned to more adventurous territory, and in 1997, they released a series of EPs that illustrated their bond with such post-rock groups as Tortoise and Gastr del Sol. Those EPs, as well as the epic Washing Machine closer, "The Diamond Sea," provide the foundation for A Thousand Leaves, the band's most challenging and satisfying record in years. The blasts of dissonance that characterized their SST masterworks have been replaced, by and large, by winding, intricate improvisations. There's a surprising warmth to the subdued guitars of Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, and Kim Gordon, which keeps the lengthy songs captivating. Both Moore and Ranaldo concentrate on quiet material, which almost makes Gordon's noisy politicized rants sound a little out of place, but her best moments ("French Tickler," "Heather Angel") have unsettling, unpredictable twists and turns that greatly contribute to the success of A Thousand Leaves. It may be their most cerebral album in ages, but that only makes it all the more engaging. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Permanent Midnight: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Various Artists

Film Soundtracks - Released January 1, 1998 | DGC

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Head Shrinkin' Fun

The Bomboras

Rock - Released January 1, 1998 | DGC

Recorded in just seven days on Rob Zombie's Zombie A Go-Go label, the Bomboras' fourth album is a compilation of 15 tracks (only two of which are longer than three minutes), comprised almost entirely of fast, furious instrumentals that combine the surf of Dick Dale and the frenzy of the Ramones with a decidedly dark overtone. Of course, this all adds up to goofy fun; you almost expect to hear a surf version of the Munsters theme (which is, actually, covered by Los Straitjackets on Halloween Hootenanny on the same label). Based in Southern California, Shane Van Dyke on bass, Dave Klein on drums, Gregg Hunt on lead guitar, Jake Cavaliere on organ, and Johnny De Villa on rhythm guitar churn out rollicking concoctions that don't come up for air with a psychotic bent that is raw and instantly accessible. It's great party music, whether you're at the beach, home, or a club, and it's a perfect CD to have on hand for Halloween. © Bryan Buss /TiVo
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Freak*On*Ica

Girls Against Boys

Rock - Released January 1, 1998 | DGC

When the band's major-label effort emerged, the band members were quoted in interviews as saying they were aware of the post-Nirvana '90s cliché where a highly regarded indie rock band signed to a major and then seemingly disappeared after a mediocre effort. Unfortunately, that's just about what happened to the band itself, and it's little wonder why -- Freak*on*ica, on the heels of three brilliant albums, was practically a joke, sounding more like a commercial band attempting to cover Girls Against Boys than the group itself. That's not to say it's not enjoyable at points, especially with the quite excellent "Exorcisto," but instead of the thick, tense energy and inventive arrangements of the past, Freak*on*ica is all too clean and crisp, a bizarre slice of techno-metal far more appropriate for the likes of Garbage, who the band opened for around that time. Part of the blame lies squarely with the choice of producer -- instead of the productive Ted Niceley/Janney partnership that had been in place since Venus Luxure, the band either opted for or was assigned Nick Launay. The Australian's credentials at commercial but smart rock & roll were unquestioned, but either he and his crew smoothed out all the edges or let the group dig its own particular grave. Indeed, it should be said that a fair number of songs, right from the start with the fairly drab "Park Avenue" and "Pleasurized," lack a real spark. Scott McCloud's singing sounds petulant instead of threatening, the occasional weird blast of guitar or sample noise loop sound too clean by half, and the whole thing is an unfortunately classic example of what happens when a band with its own distinct sound and style gets wrung through the commercial wringer to no good purpose. Little wonder that Girls Against Boys realized their mistake and practically celebrated their eventual depature from Geffen to the skies. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Dissent

Linoleum

Rock - Released June 1, 1997 | DGC

London-based indie rockers Linoleum managed two albums, beginning with 1997's Dissent, and, unfortunately, it couldn't manage to weather the (mostly negative) comparisons to Elastica that crept up in the first paragraph of each review. This is a real shame, because Linoleum not only formed years before Justine Frischmann's group did, they shared little other than a mixed-gender lineup and an interest in sexual politics with their better-known compatriots. Lazy reviewers might have more profitably compared Linoleum to '80s avant-funk feminists the Au Pairs or, most especially, turn of the '90s Liverpool shoegazers the Heart Throbs. Like the Heart Throbs, Linoleum drape their intelligent, often cutting lyrics in a miasmic haze of heavily processed guitars and keyboards. Lead singer/lyricist Caroline Finch's attractive, conversational voice is usually mixed well back, only coming forward on the choruses, where it's supported by bassist Emma Tornero's breathy harmonies. Finch and guitarist Paul Jones put atmosphere in front of melody, which is only a flaw on the few songs where the atmospherics aren't terribly engaging, but the best songs are those which combine the atmosphere with a memorable chorus or vocal melody. The album's high point is the clattering "Dangerous Shoes," which has the best chorus of the lot, though both "Marquis" and the atypically poppy "On a Tuesday" (which reappears in French as an unlisted bonus track at the end) are nearly its equal. Though a critical and commercial disappointment at the time, Dissent is the sort of album that bears rediscovery. © Stewart Mason /TiVo
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Static & Silence

The Sundays

Rock - Released January 1, 1997 | DGC

It took the Sundays five years to deliver their third album, Static & Silence. Five years is a long time, especially in the quicksilver world of pop music, but the Sundays sound totally unbothered by their absence on Static & Silence. Instead of sounding labored and forced, the album is gentle and effortless, as if it were recorded five months after Blind instead of five years. In some ways, that's a disappointment -- it would have been nice for the duo to show some progression, considering all of their time off -- but the record delivers the pleasant, endearing jangle pop that is the Sundays' signature sound. There's certainly nothing as catchy as "Here's Where the Story Ends" on Static & Silence, and there aren't many songs that are instantly memorable, yet the album has a quiet charm that should satisfy most longtime fans. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Your Body Above Me

Black Lab

Rock - Released January 1, 1997 | DGC

Black Lab's debut album, Your Body Above Me, is an odd juxtaposition of earnest, heavy-rocking post-grunge with the moodiness of goth-rock. At times, the band develops a brooding yet propulsive sound that's actually quite intriguing. Lead singer/songwriter Paul Durham has trouble coming up with memorable songs, but he's pushed his band in the right musical direction. The best moments on Your Body Above Me have an alluring, dark charm that makes up for the occasional awkwardness while suggesting that Black Lab could develop into something distinctive in their own right. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Plastic Seat Sweat

Southern Culture On The Skids

Rock - Released January 1, 1997 | DGC

Although Plastic Seat Sweat lacks some of the manic energy that made Southern Culture on the Skids' early independent records so entertaining, it nevertheless is a strong latter-day psychobilly record. The style is predictable, but there are unexpected twists and turns in every other song, plus an abundance of catchy hooks and tightly written songs that makes Plastic Seat Sweat go down easily. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah

Nirvana

Rock - Released October 1, 1996 | DGC

From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah is the second posthumous Nirvana record, an attempt to capture Nirvana at the peak of its powers on stage. That doesn't necessarily mean all the band's best-known songs are here -- "Come as You Are," "All Apologies," and "About a Girl" are all absent -- but it does mean that this is the closest representation to what Nirvana sounded like on-stage. It may not be perfect and it's a little scattershot due to its varied source material (the tapes were recorded anywhere between 1989 and 1994), but it's still a terrific record, thanks to a sharp selection of performances and a set list that relies on B-sides, album tracks, and album favorites, highlighting the group at its best. It's not necessary, but it still finds a great band in top form. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Recovering The Satellites

Counting Crows

Rock - Released January 1, 1996 | DGC

For their second album, Recovering the Satellites, Counting Crows crafted a self-consciously challenging response to their unexpected success. Throughout the record, Adam Duritz contemplates his loss of privacy and sudden change of fortunes, among other angst-ridden subjects. In one sense, it's no different from the subjects that dominated August and Everything After, yet his outlook is lacking the muted joy that made "Mr. Jones" into a hit. Similarly, the music is slightly more somber, yet the approach is harder and more direct, which gives even the ballads a more affecting, visceral feel. Recovering the Satellites occasionally bogs down in its own pretentiousness -- for a roots rock band, the group certainly has a lot of artsy goals -- yet when they scale back their ambitions to simple folk-rock, such as on the single "A Long December," they are at their most articulate. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pinkerton

Weezer

Rock - Released January 1, 1996 | DGC

From the pounding, primal assault of the opening track, "Tired of Sex," it's clear from the outset that Pinkerton is a different record than the sunny, heavy guitar pop of Weezer's eponymous debut. The first noticeable difference is the darker, messier sound -- the guitars rage and squeal, the beats are brutal and visceral, the vocals are mixed to the front, filled with overlapping, off-the-cuff backing vocals. In short, it sounds like the work of a live band, which makes it all the more ironic that Pinkerton, at its core, is a singer/songwriter record, representing Rivers Cuomo's bid for respectability. Since he hasn't changed Weezer's blend of power pop and heavy metal (only the closing song, "Butterfly," is performed acoustically), many critics and much of the band's casual fans didn't notice Cuomo's significant growth as a songwriter. Loosely structured as a concept album based on Madame Butterfly, each song works as an individual entity, driven by powerful, melodic hooks, a self-deprecating sense of humor ("Pink Triangle" is about a crush on a lesbian), and a touching vulnerability ("Across the Sea," "Why Bother?"). Weezer can still turn out catchy, offbeat singles -- "The Good Life" has a chorus that is more memorable than "Buddy Holly," "El Scorcho" twists Pavement's junk-culture references in on itself, "Falling for You" is the most propulsive thing they've yet recorded -- but the band's endearing geekiness isn't as cutesy as before, which means the album wasn't as successful on the charts. But it's the better album, full of crunching power pop with a surprisingly strong emotional undercurrent that becomes all the more resonant with each play. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Amazing Disgrace

The Posies

Pop - Released January 1, 1996 | DGC

The Posies learned to rock on 1993's Frosting on the Beater, where their splendid hooks and creamy harmonies were matched with towering walls of guitar that made them sound like power pop supermen. The lessons they learned were clearly audible on their next album, 1996's Amazing Disgrace, but the tone was dramatically different. Where Frosting on the Beater was overflowing with the fuzzy joy of big loud rock, Amazing Disgrace feels edgy, filled with anxiety and bad feelings, and while beefed-up electric guitars still dominate the mix, the tone is sharper and more brittle, adding an undercurrent of punky venom that roughed up the surfaces of their peerless pop songwriting. The Posies were struggling with severe interband tensions and troubles with their record label while they wrote and recorded Amazing Disgrace, and it's not hard to hear the rancor informing the songs and the performances. "Hate Song" and "Everybody Is a Fucking Liar" wear their disgust on their sleeves, and even the relatively warm numbers like "World," "Precious Moments," and "The Certainty" seem deeply downbeat beneath their well-crafted exteriors. Amazing Disgrace is the Posies' Bad Karma album, but that is a big part of what makes it so memorable. If the emotions aren't especially positive, they lit a fire under this band and there's a strength and drama in the ensemble playing the Posies rarely touched. This lineup of the band -- founders Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow joined by bassist Joe Skyward and drummer Brian Young -- crackles with energy and ferocity, and producer Nick Launay captured it all with admirable grit and clarity. The fact the Posies actually managed to record and release another album after this (1998's Success) is far more remarkable than the fact they soon broke up, but Amazing Disgrace is a stellar example of how rage can fuel an artist into creating something remarkable, and if it's not always easy to listen to, it's genuinely rewarding. © Mark Deming /TiVo