By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
By Troy Farah
By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
Few may have noticed, but history of sorts was made this past March with the release of Now That's What I Call Music! Volume 18. For the first time since Now! Volume 3's triple bang opener of Smash Mouth, Lenny Kravitz, and blink-182 last millennium, an installment of this best-selling various-artists series led off with a bona fide rock track (U2's "Vertigo"). And unlike recent Now! editions, rock and country weren't relegated to the last six selections (as if they were rap's revenge for making Rosa Parks sit at the back of the bus all those years). Does this mean rock could be on the upsurge again? Are rap and country, the two genres that mutually tore asunder the once-popular Top 40 format, now more tolerant of each other because of that damned Nelly and Tim McGraw duet? Or does it mean the industry is so flummoxed about where its next paycheck is coming from that it can't be bothered with test marketing, separating, and second-guessing this stuff anymore? "All of the above," we say, 'cause that's how we've been doing it here with Home Grown all along, mixing genres in the order that they pile up on the desk. In keeping with this spirit of dialogue and diversity, I urge readers of this column to consider all music as part of one big mosaic of fraternity, friendship and brotherhood. Unless, of course, you hear something that truly blows.
If an imaginary installment of Now That's What I Call Local Music! required a hard rocker right out of the gate, we could hardly surpass former Bostonians Super Sternal Notch and their ready-to-rumble disc, Pack a Lunch. In a less jaded time, this could be viewed as a concept album about the fine art of pummeling -- even the cover art is like a Heimlich maneuver poster, except it's a nasty sucker punch that's being administered. And in case you were wondering about the brown bag advisory title track, lead singer Sully thoughtfully warns his prospective punching bag, "Gonna knock you on your ass, pack a lunch you'll be all day." In the LOL tradition of Monster Magnet, with SSN it's possible to bust a gut either laughing or fist pumping furiously to precision chord play. And Sully's killer voice backs up the bullying -- he can go from Chris Cornell gruff to a pinch-nosed Mike Patton in the snap of a rib. This band's knockout hooks are best felt on the bracing opening cut "Vinyl," where Sully is shooting glacial stares at a neighbor who's just asking for it. It's a universal stew, too -- haven't we all, at one time or another, growled domestic gripes like "I'll smash your head on the ice -- it's my yard too"? Or put some jerk in his place by bragging, "I'm the king of leaky lane"? No? What wussies you people are! Special civic pride note: SSN recorded this awesome-sounding platter at Mesa Community College with students touching the console for the first time -- which either shows great patience on the band's part, or a student body too scared shitless to mess up. The band is scheduled to perform with Soul Driver, Split Lid, and The Furnace at the Old Brickhouse Grill on August 26. (www.supersternalnotch.com)
The first recorded evidence of Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers with new bassist Nick Scropos on board, Live at Billy Bob's Texas is a generous duplication of the first half of ¡Americano!, some choice cuts from Honky Tonk Union, four cuts off the Refreshments' debut album, and even the King of the Hill theme gets an airing. That Clyne dispenses with "Bandito" early in the set gamely illustrates how little he relies on old glories to retain a new crowd's interest. They're in his hip pocket in short order, counting off "Mexico" in Spanish with little prodding. (www.azpeacemakers.com)
Remember how old country albums used to veer from songs about drinking to songs about mama and the family Bible, and no one ever noted the connection? What about rap albums -- has no one made the correlation between spliff-hooving gangstas and their rampant paranoia? Sure, smokin' weed and watching your back goes with the territory, but on Nothin but Smoke, "red-eyed, and half fried" Mesa rappers Dub Deuce manage to turn you on and turn on you in the same song. On "Dub Deuce Band," Messrs. Trouble, Kao$ and Playboy promise "I can get you motherfuckas high" one minute, but all too soon, the talk turns to "buryin' niggas where nobody find 'em." It's no less comforting when the Double D's clarify, "You gonna push up some daisies this weekend, but we jus' hypothetically speaking." Each MC here possesses a rapid-fire, 20-syllable-a-second delivery, but the man called Lil Gotti also has a sweet R&B tenor, the kind other rap groups wish they could have in-house so they wouldn't have to keep farming out work to people who can actually carry a tune. (www.hokispokisrecords.com)
"No more listenin' to that bullshit," declares Heat on the fire-raising intro to Fahrenheit, "it's time to take it back to real R&B, let some real niggas in." And that's what the Heat is packing: Boyz II Men quiet storms for the ladies to let their hair down and sip a Hennessey, which rhymes with ecstasy, which stands for . . . "Innermostess Moistness." Of course, this is the song we would pick for our theoretical compilation -- need you ask? What's not to love about a four-way request to love your body down and start "banging that ass like Halle Berry in Monster's Ball"? The album ends with the heartfelt "Scandalous," which actually busts a cheating chickaroo holding hands with someone else at a Circle K, surely a pop first. Despite explicit language throughout, and crafting jams designed for almost certain fornication, each of these four smooth operators thanks God first and foremost in the liner notes. Very smooth indeed!