For all of their apparent sonic indignation, The Blood Brothers have crafted quite a comfortable career for themselves out of saying a whole lot of nothing. Certainly, a road-ready argument must be made for the strength of metaphor in their dueling lyrical assault, but beneath all of their Electric Children and Piano Islands, the Brothers are much more adept at crafting their own elaborate, surrealist mythology than delivering any cohesive social statement. With Crimes, the fourth full-length in as many record labels, the band seems content to simply recline in their own allegory--despite some Shock and Awe imagery thrown in for good measure. A more technically subdued version of last year's Burn Piano Island, Burn, the main difference in Crimes comes with vocalist Johnny Whitney's creepily worn vocal delivery of late--which grates and gratifies in equal measure. Still a compelling listen, it's difficult to listen to Crimes without beginning to wonder: exactly where does endless self-mythologizing end, and treading water begin? ZAC PENNINGTON

Talib Kweli
Beautiful Struggle

Since Reflection Eternal with Hi Tek and Black Star with Mos Def, Talib Kweli has been one of hiphop's most eloquent, intelligent, and daring emcees--an artist simultaneously capable of carefully honed verses and socially minded relevant invectives. So it was pretty disappointing that Kweli's first solo album, Quality, had a total of three good songs on it, with the remainder marred by inconsistent production. While Struggle is less jarring than Quality, it still feels more like an incongruous collection of singles than a real album. The best tracks team up Kweli with Kanye West ("I Try") and Hi Tek ("Back Up Offa Me," "Work It Out"), plus the Neptunes turn in some stellar work on "Broken Glass." These tracks easily justify the price of the album, but it's too bad that the others have such mediocre beats that they overpower Kweli's lyrics. ERIK HENRIKSEN


One listen to Brian Wilson's re-recorded version of "Good Vibrations" sets the perfect "grain-of-salt" barometer with which to compare Brain Wilson's Smile with The Beach Boys' Smile--one of the world's only "lost masterpieces" that merits the doting spent upon it. The new recording is, of course, inarguably inferior, but what's more unsettling is that Smile isn't a total travesty. In fact, it's actually pretty good. Complaints arise, of course: with production subdued and modern, the record is absent the overarching melancholy of Wilson's prime (the "broken man too tough to cry" of "Surf's Up" sounds positively cheery). But this isn't the Beach Boys' Smile, after all--it's more than anything a tremendously hyped cover record. And at that, it's surprisingly successful. ZP

**** Stymie
*** Spanky
** Alfalfa
* Buckwheat