CD ROMP

NEW RELEASES: YOU'VE SEEN 'EM IN STORES, NOW READ ABOUT 'EM

Morphine
Cure for Pain
(Rykodisc)

There's no way you're going to hear any music through reading words on a page, but some descriptions are easier than others. This is not one of them. Morphine has a sound that is pretty damn close to original--part pop-blues hooks, part dour midnight jazz. Yeah, it does echo Tom Waits here and there, but that's okay. Bassist-vocalist Mark Sandman plays a homemade, two-stringed instrument; beyond that, Morphine's message comes only from a baritone sax and drums. That's right, no guitar. Lots of space, lots of air; this allows the trio to raise the dynamic level only slightly, and it still feels drastic--but never overwrought.

On songs like "I'm Free Now," "Candy" and "A Head With Wings" the band produces a feel you can truly describe as muscular yet sensual without feeling like a pompous music critic. These are melodies, these are songs, but there is also a wonderfully somber feel to this stuff that falls somewhere between a bar and a lounge, between jazz and blues. And that's an interesting place to fall.--Peter Gilstrap Tool

Undertow
(Zoo)

Like the photo on this album's inner sleeve, which depicts a grossly obese nude woman lovingly embracing an equally nude--but diminutive--man, Tool surrounds the listener with layer upon layer of sonic excess. Overpowering, dense and enveloping, Undertow's bottom-heavy sound leans heavily toward the often-imitated essence of grunge. But it leans only so far--the album utilizes refreshingly melodic vocals, solid song structure and pure angst to distinguish itself from its peers.

"Prison Sex," which graphically (but correctly) depicts rape as an act of violence rather than of sex, and the MTV hit "Sober" are standouts both musically and vocally. And Henry Rollins' cameo, a spoken-word contribution on "Bottom," helps to legitimize Tool with the hard-core crowd.--Joy Lambert

Love Jones
Here's to the Losers
(Zoo)

A first listen to this dead-on send-up of a sizzling lounge combo will have you checking the packaging to see if it's not XTC in disguise again. The members of Love Jones are regulars at the 4-H Club of Hooks, Harmonies, Humor and Horniness, and they know how to have a hot time without taking the chill off your Dubonet. Only a grump could resist titles like "Paid for Loving" and the seductive "Warming Trend." Ditto for untried pickup lines like "My heart is on the half-shell" and "I like that dress/I'd like to see it on the floor." A second listen will have you wishing you could program out the spoken-word intros and sound effects that stop this from being the perfect soundtrack for your next dirty weekend.

But time's a-wasting, and you're not getting any younger. Wake up and smell the Cafe du Monde! Grab that rinsed-out-blonde divorc‚e two barstools away and give Here's to the Losers a listen before these guys get booked on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno for the umpteenth time and stop being funny. For now, you won't find a better double-entendre than "your swimsuit is a-peeling" anywhere else.--Serene Dominic

Don Caballero
For Respect
(Touch and Go)

Caballero's instrumental-only For Respect takes up where Austin, Texas' WatchTower--the critically acclaimed, commercially ignored, progressive-metal purveyor--left off a few years back. Combining influences and inspirations as far-fetched as Metallica, Rush and Yes--with some jazz-style noodling thrown in for good measure--the disc showcases the Pittsburgh band's highly technical musicianship.

Guitar aficionados and fans of like-minded musicians such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Stuart Hamm will be overjoyed. For the average rock fan, though, Don Caballero's self-indulgence and schizophrenic melody lines will undoubtedly wear thin.--Joy Lambert

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