Get Hustle
Rollin in the Ruins

This means something. It has to. There's no way so much random, self-consciously avant-garde posturing can mean nothing, right? Sure, maybe that's the point, but I'm not quite buying it—a dissonant mix of Valentine Falcon's vocals, Maxamillion Avila's drums, and Mac Mann's electric piano, Rollin in the Ruins is a five-track-long exercise in meandering, apparently unguided rock that, for all its hints of passion and edginess, feels neither passionate nor experimental. While Ruins hints at some method to the madness, it largely just sounds like a fun but disposable drunken jam, or a half-coherent tune-up session. While the album boasts five fairly quick tracks, strangely the best song is the only one over four minutes in length—the almost 15-minute-long "Don Quixote & I" lethargically wafts in and out of structure with a persistence that's welcome, if not especially effective. There are bursts of randomized fun—Falcon's vocals sporadically surprise and capture, while Avila's muscular drums are occasionally allowed to rise above the strains of Mann's distorted piano and give the limp songs some semblance of backbone. But mostly, one comes away from Ruins with the distinct feeling that if there is indeed something more here, Get Hustle don't care to clue us in on what it is. ERIK HENRIKSEN-HENRIKSEN

These Beautiful Ghosts
(United for Opportunity)

When their first two albums, Nowhere and Going Blank Again, came out, I geeked out hard on Ride, what with all the thick, swirling, just-poppier-than-shoegazer Brit cuteness. And as the '90s dragged on, I watched with mild horror as the band slipped into bland, Byrds-jocking insignificance before singers/songwriters Mark Gardener and Andy Bell finally realized how sucky they'd gotten and bailed.

Bell went on to join Oasis as a hired hand, while Gardener soldiered on quietly with the dream of being an effective songwriter, finally releasing his first solo album, These Beautiful Ghosts, this year after being out of the spotlight for nearly a decade.

I wish I could say it was entirely worth the wait.

The album starts out strong. Gardener, backed by fellow Brits Goldrush, turn out some dusty Americana with opener "Snow in Mexico" (à la Giant Sand or the Iron and Wine/Calexico team up). Similar gorgeous collisions of acoustic guitar, lap steel, and piano almost prop the album up, but are unfortunately bogged down with annoying attempts at post-ProTools studio gadgetry that sounds about seven years past its prime (canned, tinny programmed drums, phased vocals, and holy crap is that seriously a vocoder?).

Ultimately, though, what sinks the album—and it pains me to say this—is the blandness of the songwriting. Gardener's melodies tread soft rock waters that go nowhere, except to the bargain bin circa 1996. SCOTT MOORE-MOORE

Mark Gardener and Goldrush perform Thurs Dec 15 at Dante's, 1 SW 3rd

Curtain Call: The Hits

There is something truly admirable in opening a greatest hits collection with a track like "Fack"—a freaky, X-rated, sex jam chorused by the line "shove a gerbil in your ass." It's a lame, obvious, throwaway—all incestuous threesomes and fingers in asses and flimsy, see-through, how-far-can-we-push-this shock tactics. But it's refreshing—in a way—as a big EFF YOU to the whole stinkin' crowd-pleasin', greatest-hits tradition.

The rest, though, is same ol', same ol' hit package stuff. We've got the jokey, dirty Em ("Just Lose It"), the movie star Em ("Lose Yourself"), and the daddy Em ("Mockingbird," "Like Toy Soldiers"). Me, I'm into his songs about songs—big, jabbing, unfunny shit-kickers like "Sing for the Moment," which takes Aerosmith's only good song ("Dream On") and turns it into a bruising, all-encompassing, existentialist op-ed about life in the rap business. Or "Mockingbird," which seems like a song for his little girl, but is really about trying to grow up and be a man amid life's landmines, turncoats, and booby traps.

Like most comps, there's some seriously inessential, retarded crap on here. The intro skit blows. (Why do we need rap skits on hits discs?) And the bonus song, a live version of "Stan" with Sir Elton singing Dido's part, is just uninspired and kinda creepy.

Eminem's a good writer—great sometimes. I'd call him a "guilty pleasure," if I was guilty about pleasure, but I'm not, so let's be honest: his stuff can kick your head in with heaviness, stinging flows, and perfect beats BUT—and here goes the cold water—it can also be middling, blasé, and, worst of all, savagely misogynistic. You see him respecting his daughter in song, fighting to give her a good life, but he doesn't have the perspective to realize she'll one day be a woman. And women, for the most part, he treats like horny, gold-digging come receptacles. And don't give me that shit about sexism being vital to hiphop's "honesty." Being an asshole is being an asshole, no matter what kinda paintjob you give it. ADAM GNADE-GNADE

Courtney Taylor-Taylor
Rip Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor
Jonathan Taylor Thomas