Hey Hey My My Yo Yo
Heeeeeeeey party DJs: You may now breathe a sigh of relief. Did you do it? Okay, good. Because get this, you can finally tell the Go! Team to go shove it(!), and send Annie off to get her roots done. The next soiree gem is finally here after an inappropriately lengthy disco-floor famine.
While their last album was fine for parties, it was clear that there was substantial filler—HHMMYY, on the other hand, is more consistent and consistently innovative. All the good ideas—like hand-clapping, call-and-response backup vocals, purely funk bass lines, laughably simplistic lyrics, and s-s-s-singin' like t-t-t-this—are retained while new unexpected delights are thrown around. "Ur a Girl" incorporates harpsichord and Hawaiian guitar while "Itch U Can't Skratch" proves they can handle a slower beat and lo-res horn and string samples. Dissenters may contend these ex-indierockers have pigeonholed themselves into the sparkling gay disco floor, but with the malleable talent that HHMMYY implies, it's clear that they can p-p-pull themselves out whenever it p-p-please them. JENNA ROADMAN
Poor People's Day
Bigg Jus dwells in hiphop's hall of fame for his verbal contributions to NYC underground legends Company Flow. (If you don't own Funcrusher Plus, cop it now.) Few can match CoFlow's caustic lyrical science and rugged, disturbing productions. Jus' declamatory delivery reveals years spent spitting on the same mic as bandmate El-P.
Jus' solo career began with 2001's solid Plantation Rhymes, then improved with 2004's Black Mamba Serums 2.0, one of the few hiphop LPs this decade on the level of Antipop Consortium's output. Sadly, Poor People's Day represents a decline, especially production-wise.
"Orchestrated" by DJ Gman, Poor People's Day is self-proclaimed "Hiphop at its most classic, roughest, and freest." If only. Gman's prone to saccharine Hollywood strings, maudlin piano loops, and clunky beats that undercut Jus' venomous words. Castigating media manipulation, unveiling conspiracies everywhere, and delineating his own formidable powers, Jus doles out edutainment to which you can sporadically nod your head. He says many important things with urgency and finesse.
If you're a liberal, you'll swallow his words with smug satisfaction. If you're a conservative, you probably aren't listening to underground hiphop (or reading the Mercury's music section, for that matter), so it's a moot point. And that may be the problem with Poor People's Day; Bigg Jus is mostly preaching to the converted, albeit in a spirited, artful manner. But the people who should be heeding Jus' words don't even know he exists. DAVE SEGAL
Codex Teenage Premonition
Codex Teenage Premonition gathers previously unreleased material from 1980-'81 by the greatest band you've never heard of, unless you're a Scottish post-punk aficionado, an aging Anglophile, or an obsessive collector of Franz Ferdinand singles—the hot hit-makers recently covered Fire Engines' classic "Get Up and Use Me," which appears here twice. But now that Fire Engines have opened for FF and covered their song "Jacqueline," the masses may be getting hip to Davey Henderson and Company.
Fire Engines surfaced in 1979 and immediately distinguished themselves as iconoclasts within their country's burgeoning indie-pop scene. Uniquely paradoxical, Fire Engines' songs balance a charming crankiness with a jagged jauntiness, as vocalist Henderson barks acidic taunts and croons wry wisecracks about consumerism.
Fire Engines' sound essentially derives from Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band's choppy, sun-zoom-spark guitars and corkscrewed rhythms, and from the Velvet Underground's mantric, jangle-nerved chug. But Fire Engines churned these elements into quasi-no-wave blurts of tunefully cacophonous joy. Even today, their songs bristle with cheerfully antagonistic energy.
Although it lacks the scope of Rev-ola's 1992 compendium, Fond, Codex is crucial for both novices and FE completists. DAVE SEGAL
Birds Make Good Neighbors
If the Rosebuds' sophomore CD seems like simplistic, gather-round-the-bonfire stuff, its romantic soul and bird-envy lyrics harbor soaring ambitions. The band heaves like '80s big sky hook-weavers the Reivers or the Feelies. By the third song, "Leaves Do Fall," the duo has humbly hit perfection, Morricone guitar licks tickling married pair Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp's traded verses. There're too many loaded lines to list, but whatever the Rosebuds are crowing about, Howard can maneuver around a croon as if Chris Isaak and Morrissey had a thrift-store-swaddled child.
"Wildcat," "Blue Bird," and "Warm Where You Lay" lilt around, and even the rowdier romps like "The Lovers' Rights" or the go-go-booted "Outnumbered" drip with the ennui of beer-swigging desire to get outta some small college town. If all this sounds sweetly passé, there's a lot of conjecturing about desperation, fighting, and even re-writing history books. By "Shake Our Tree," the romantic ruse is up. This clangy, drum-pumped, proletarian sea shanty places them near the darker thatch of rootsy revamps like Sons and Daughters and the Starvations.
But for all the musical and ornithological wanderlust—including more spruced-up production than previous releases—the Rosebuds are content to stay on the porch for now. ERIC DAVIDSON