America's Sweetheart


Let's face it: Courtney Love's personal life has always been a helluva lot more interesting than her music. Correspondingly, her first solo outing is ripe with four-letter words and sexual innuendo, but when Love croons about "her coochie" over a watered-down radio rock riff, it's still about as threatening as Finding Nemo. America's Sweetheart's blazing opener, "Mono," wouldn't sound out of place on Hole's Celebrity Skin, but Love's tired brand of mid-tempo power-pop quickly becomes monotonous, with sappy Skid Row-esque ballads like "Almost Golden" the only thing disrupting the three-chord fare. Love's cigarette-stained voice is still captivating, but manufactured music and revelatory lyrics like "everybody dies" ultimately overshadow what little substance exists here. In fact, America's Sweetheart's only moment of real honesty is when Love sings, "I'm overrated, desecrated. Somehow illuminated." True, but as her deceased husband, Kurt Cobain, wrote in his infamous suicide note (quoting Neil Young), "It's better to burn out than to fade away"--and Love's tabloid-snatching antics won't keep her ablaze forever. JONAH BAYER


Chicken and Beer

(Island/Def Jam)


Ludacris is lewd, overproduced, and besides the hits like "Stand Up" and "Splash Waterfalls," his latest album, Chicken and Beer, is just filler. He repeats lackluster phrases like, "blow it out your ass" over the songs you'll never hear, and relies on Snoop Dogg-style skits (four on the CD) to pass time; unfortunately, they're not funny. I think the problem is that his audacity is only tolerable in small doses, and with all the talking and sampling on this disc you can tell that his talent only goes so far; aka, he's an amateur with decent cadence and a good producer. Sorry, Luda. But, I'm still psyched to see "Move Bitch" at the show. KATIE SHIMER



(Arena Rock)

Originally released by the Belgian Quatermass label in 1999, Calla's first (and best) album captures that year's pre-millennium tension better than almost any rock music I've heard. Tracks like "Tarantula," "Only Drowning Men," and "Awake and Under" conjure the eerie, ominous feeling you felt in your gut in the days leading up to Y2K, when many thought civilization would descend into chaos, bloodshed, and the end of file-sharing when the clock ticked 12:00 on 1/1/00. That the nightmare scenario didn't ensue doesn't diminish Calla's subliminal, subterranean power. The NYC trio's bass dirges, immaculately sculpted guitar feedback, and clattering bone-on-skull percussion manifest as slow-rock juggernauts. Sadly, Calla's later work mellowed out into more conventionally melodic downer rock, but here is the primal Calla experience. DAVE SEGAL

**** Tony Stark

*** Johnny Storm

** Steve Rogers

* Millionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne