RECORDINGS

Morrissey
World of Morrissey
(Sire/Reprise)

Back in the Sixties, patchwork albums like Magic Bus: The Who on Tour or the Rolling Stones' December's Children and Flowers were the norm. Part rip-off, these collections of B sides and unreleased-in-the-U.S. tracks were often padded with selections already available on other albums without being credible greatest-hits collections. World of Morrissey is no different. Sure, last year's Vauxhall and I was a superb album, but is that any reason for Morrissey to give his fans duplicate copies of "Billy Budd" and "Spring-Heeled Jim"?

Much of what's here would only interest the Glum One's collectors, but Morrissey's bizarre cover of "Moon River" provides fascinating insight about why you've either gotta love or hate the guy. First, he takes liberties with the lyrics, since Morrissey doesn't have any friends, huckleberry or otherwise ("Two drifters off to see the world/I'm not so sure the world deserves us"). Then, as soon as he's won you over, he completely sours the effect by stretching what could've been a great three-minute remake to a brain-numbing nine minutes and 38 seconds of mostly depressing instrumental work, saddled with sound effects of a woman crying and heaps of lonesome wind noises.

And just when you think Morrissey's left the studio to go home and slash his wrists, our boy returns to warble the entire song all over again from what sounds like an open elevator shaft. Stop this World of Morrissey, I wanna get off!--

Mudhoney
My Brother the Cow
(Reprise)

Just as Frank Zappa exposed the phoniness of the flower power movement from within on We're Only In It for the Money, Mudhoney is equally sickened with the whole grunge scene it rode in on. "Generation Spokesmodel" sounds like it was written solely to make Evan Dando squirm ("Hey, kids, how do I look on the cover of Spin. . . . Look at me and you'll recognize your fate/I'll lose my shirt for ventilation"). Courtney Love bashers will no doubt interpret "Into Your Schtick" as being a vicious attack on the poor merry widow ("You're so demented, tormented/Why don't you blow your brains out, too?"). Whether that's the case, there are plenty of other lesser-known targets that Mudhoney goes after. There's Sue, the record-company lackey whose job description includes posterior puckering-up; Stan, the barfly who can't control his raging fists; and Mitchell, the rock star whose destiny must include a Hollywood supermodel.

The upbeat, heavy "Today Is a Good Day" sounds not only damn near radio-friendly, it's also the closest thing Mudhoney has to a love song. Blood is falling from the sky and fish are washing ashore, but, as the chorus says, "I've still got yeeeeeeeeeou!" Also gleaming in this embarrassment of riches is the first song to take a shot at those "Fearless Doctor Killers." This cradle-to-the-electric-chair saga has a chorus that would be hilarious if it weren't so deadly accurate: "Save the baby/Kill the doctor." On the lighter side, how can you resist a song called "Judgment, Rage, Retribution and Thyme"? Or "Orange Ball-Peen Hammer," which lampoons Zeppelin's "Lemon Song" while telling the sad saga of a guy in a movie theatre getting arrested for having orange juice dripping down his leg? As Johnny Carson would say, "Funny stuff."--Serene Dominic

Kitchens of Distinction
Cowboys and Aliens
(A&M)

"Sand on Fire," the opening cut off Kitchens of Distinction's latest disc, sounds like standard Brit-pop hiding behind waves of guitar chords. If that formula sounds familiar, it should. Jesus and Mary Chain developed the genre years ago, and My Bloody Valentine blurred it to perfection not long thereafter.

Yet "Sand on Fire" isn't as harsh and forbidding as those aforementioned acts; it's catchier and more radio-friendly. It's also reminiscent of the Kitchens' past few mildly attractive albums. But the formula soon gives way to a series of songs standing in the clear, free of masquerades. And that's too bad. The London-based Kitchens have a lot to hide, most notably static song structures that prove instantly distracting. The title cut, in particular, almost defies listeners not to turn away, as does "Come on Now," which could've been a winner if not for major limitations with the song's melody, chorus and vocals.

Bands like Kitchens of Distinction are often tagged as being "smart" because of their studied subtleties. As if anything this sober and tedious must have something else going for it. But smart money says the band goes back to hiding behind swirling guitars and other production dressing when next venturing out in public.--

 
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