The Gap
(Jade Tree)

Exemplifying the influence experimental film currently has on music, The Gap (as in the store) is filled with the essence of a good film score. Somebody call Hal Hartley! Characteristically beautiful melodies smattered with distant talking, jolting edits, and deconstructionist singing make it nearly impossible to examine The Gap as mere music. The album removes itself distinctly from linear recording in a way that implies Joan of Arc didn't have a set agenda; it's encased in that flexible glass cube of studio experimentation. The Gap is presumptuous, random, pretentious; there's even a song called "John Cassavetes, Assata Shakur, and Guy Debord walk into a bar..." Christ! It's also a fucking great record--as much as you might want to hate them, you can't deny those Kinsellas keep delivering. JULIANNE SHEPHERD


Bridging the Gap

For years, Black Eyed Peas have represented all that is playful and angelic about underground hip-pop. Their last album took them as far as they could go within these sophomoric boundaries, but their latest proves they've finally transcended youth by demonstrating a mature understanding of hip hop, increasing the pace, intensity, and limits of their rhymes. They've combined the best parts of their older sound with this maturity, producing an album that finally capitalizes on every one of their various talents. There's only one major flaw: the line-up. With guests such as Esthero, Mos Def, Wyclef, and Macy Gray, one expects an equal performance from all these big, fat names. Unfortunately, Black Eyed Peas outshine everyone else, leaving us wondering if Interscope is relying on reputations, not talent. KATIA DUNN

Lipstick Killers--The Mercer Street Sessions 1972
(Reach Out International)
[No stars]

One boon of the digital age is that it's allowed rock fans to dive into the vaults of their favorite artists and cheaply excavate heretofore unheard gems. Often, this sheds some light on the gestation of a familiar album (The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds box set) or allow an artist to piece together an aborted project (Pete Townshend's Lifehouse Chronicles). On the other hand, one can't help but wish there were some industry-enforced criteria on what actually deserves archiving. This collection of original demos by the New York Dolls gives the bottom of the barrel a bad name. And what does it really say about the band, except that they had one blueprint they followed consistently through their career, with little deviation or improvement? Stick with the Dolls' self-titled platter and let their glamtastic legacy remain untattered. JAMIE S. RICH