The Man Comes Around
American Recordings)

Like his past three releases with Rick Rubin's American label, Cash's eclectic choices of cover songs are the centerpiece of the album. By avoiding bombast with the starkly spare production on Lennon/McCartney's "In My Life" and his duet with Fiona Apple on "Bridge over Troubled Waters," the songs' sentiments are beautifully accentuated by their plain statements. Most stunning, however, is a surprising rendition of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." Cash sings it with the kind of quiet power that transforms the song's protagonist from the somewhat overdramatic "angry young man" of the original into what, at moments, seems like it could even be God itself singing. The track gains the voice of a person who has gone through enough complicated living to deserve the right to sing a song of such resignation and sorrow. Overall, a powerful and fitting farewell to the Man in Black. BILL BULLOCK

Satan's Kickin' Yr Dick In
Secretly Canadian)

Avant-hardcore act Racebannon race through a multiple-personalitied musical with the fervor of a flesh-eating virus cleaning skin off the bone. The narrative of Satan's Kickin' Yr Dick In centers on the story of Rhonda Delight, a previously media-hungry rocker named Rodney who sells his soul (and his sexuality) to become a starlet named Rhonda, who is in turn consumed by the parasites of reckless divahood: drugs, comas, and the collision of pure evil, pain, and misery. It's a contemptuous tale of a sellout, amplified by the schizophrenic overlaps of bratty storytellers and white noise. Satan's is an explosion of loathing, sending fragments of instruments and hysterical--almost incomprehensible--vocals flying in every direction. If you're into this kind of aural violence, and I definitely am, Racebannon are pure genius. JENNIFER MAERZ

Mind Elevation/The Special Edition (2-CD set)
(Warp Records)

I have yet to determine why Nightmares on Wax is called Nightmares on Wax. The name says nothing about the act's music (which is primarily dubby downbeat) or the lifestyle it promotes (herb/lounge culture). Led by George Evelyn, the group has been around since 1991, when it released A Word of Science. In 1995, Nightmares released the classic downbeat CD Smoker's Delight, which was followed in 1999 by more quality downbeat on Carboot Soul. Nightmare's latest CD, Mind Elevation, again offers a pleasant fusion of dub, hiphop, and soul, particularly the early tracks "Say-Say" and "Thinking of Omara." Like Nightmares' previous CDs, Mind Elevation is not outstanding, it's just satisfying. What is outstanding, however, is the bonus CD, The Journey, which comes with the limited edition of Mind Elevation. The Journey is a 39-minute master mix of Nightmares back catalog. The stream of hiphop and dub beats is flawless and perfect for long autumn walks. CHARLES MUDEDE

**** Fletch F. Fletch
***Elmer Fudd Gantry
**Mr. Poon
*John Singalindindin