Complete Recordings 1987-1989
If you wonder how they got two discs out of a band no one's ever heard of, rest assured, kids--back in the heyday of indie rock, bands were prolific. That's why a band like Donner Party, a Bay Area outfit that existed for only two years, can put out a disc that contains over two hours of music (including all the necessary EPs and live shit). There are some noise bursts and lotsa jangle-strum, but filtered through an ultra-sarcastic edge. One tends to forget, but in the '80s R.E.M. was the band of choice among collegiate indie mavericks, and sure enough, the influence of those Athens ironists is rampant here. In fact, I'd see this band's place in history as kind of the missing link between R.E.M. and Buttercup.
Unfortunately, at times lead singer Sam Coomes tends to be adenoidal in an almost Jad Fair way. Songs like "Please Don't Listen" (a disgusting litany of bodily discharge) and "When I Was a Baby" (about a mutant-like half-freak) are repugnant little ditties, and "When You Die Your Eyes Pop Out" and HomeGrocer.com theme song "Would You Like to Have Something to Eat?" are topical in that precocious, childlike way that makes most right-thinking people have their doubts about indie rock. Coomes would, of course, bring some of these same annoying tendencies to his current venture, Quasi. JOE S. HARRINGTON
Silver & Gold
It wasn't long after I found Harvest Moon that "Old Man" and a bottle of cheap merlot were the first things I reached for after college-era breakups. Recently, though, I've been returning to Harvest Moon and the maturity of Young's later work. Lyrics like, "In the meadow dust/I park my Aerostar/With a loaded gun/And sweet dreams of you," speak more to me now than "Down by the river/I shot my baby."
Young doesn't make too many missteps, and Silver & Gold is no exception. The tracks "Great Divide" and "Buffalo Springfield Again" prove it's not just the pups who sit on the porch while the big dogs hunt. The vets are up there too, discovering that taking it easy and stretching out in the sun is even better than they remembered.
I may not need to hear "Old Man" at the moment, but I'll always need to hear Neil. TANYA RICHARDSON
Blessed with the most uncritical fans in the history of rock, Phish have had the luxury of existing, for the most part, unburdened by the yoke of corporate music. But why do they keep recording albums? The live performance, the two-day overnight festival at the Gorge, has always been what makes the high school kids giddily confirm their plans during sixth period trig. Why? Farmhouse isn't an uninspired recording; it was the offspring of a band retreat to guitarist Trey Anastasio's barn, presumably in bucolic upstate New York or Vermont. Problem is, barn music doesn't mean good music, and while a track like "Gotta Jibboo" may have been born of a particularly stirring starlit hootenanny, absolutely none of that translates to my Discman on the #10 to Downtown. JASON PAGANO
Equally Cursed and Blessed
So it appears that weak cups of tea, a shitty selection at the grocery, and being demoted from Empire to Second World State is still the best recipe for good music. No matter where you stand on the British vs. American rock 'n' roll debate, one thing's for certain: Pop is still a glimmering jewel in that tiny island's shrinking crown.
Enter Catatonia, a Welsh band making its U.S. debut via the album Equally Cursed and Blessed, complete with lyrics so smart they're sure to never catch on in the States. The record offers 11 new songs and, just to get us good and wet, slaps the group's two previous smash hits on the end as bonus tracks. Is there any better argument against Snapple, 57 varieties of Campbell's, and being the number-one superpower in the world than Brit pop? Me thinks not. TANYA RICHARDSON
IN STORES 5/23 by Juan-Carlos Rodriguez
Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (Aftermath/Interscope) His twisted mind attacks boy bands and Britney Spears, and he is helped by Snoop, RBX, and Xzibit.
Matchbox 20, Mad Season by Matchbox 20 (Atlantic) Without Carlos Santana in the studio, this should suck as much as their last one.
Gloria Estefan, Alma Caribeña (Epic) Apparently Her Highness has descended from her Cuban American soapbox to let a little air out her head through her mouth. Pffffft!
Don Henley, Inside Job (Warner Bros.) Oh yeah, love songs and cheesy SoCal wisdom from a big drip.
En Vogue, Masterpiece Theater (EastWest/Elektra) They're still minus Dawn Robinson, but goin' for it as a trio.
XTC, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2) (TVT Records) Same sessions as Vol. 1, but these are apples, those were oranges.
Crowded House, Afterglow (Capitol) Somebody should evict them.
Marvin Gaye, The Final Concert (The Right Stuff/EMI) All the hits, recorded in 1983 in Indianapolis.
Pete Townshend, Lifehouse Chronicles (Redline Ent) This was supposed to be the follow-up to Tommy, written by Pete before Quadrophenia.
No WTO Combo, Live From the Battle in Seattle (Alternative Tentacles) Plenty of discouraging facts about the state of the world, plus a good version of "Full Metal Jackoff."
Towa Tei, Last Century Modem (Elektra) Totally modern, even futuristic!
Dilated Peoples, The Platform (Capitol) They couldn't decide on Dilated Peoples or Diluted Poopholes. I think they messed up.