Apple O'
(5RC/Kill Rock Stars)
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Memo to everyone considering meds or murder: try Deerhoof first. No other band on earth makes me as happy as they do, with their simple blocky guitars, chirping vocals, spasmodic drum explosions, and amazing melodic humor. Their songs are like a series of giggles, packaged in pink inflatable peanuts and shot into outer space. Their follow-up to the brilliant Reveille, Apple O', is even more joyous, with a stronger emphasis on wacky pop melodies, as opposed to a voracious distortion. At the same time, songs such as "The Forbidden Fruits" apply vaguely jazzy, atonal chords, recalling some of the members' work in Curtains. Similar to Reveille in approach, it's just more and better, and more mysterious. Fill up your tummy. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

La Bella Mafia
As one Mercury reader pointed out recently, it is currently in vogue to be a chauvinistic dipshit. I thought of this while discussing the new Lil' Kim record with a group of four male music critics; their general sentiment was that it didn't matter whether it was good or not, as long as Kim kept showing her titties. But that's wrong; she can only get away with showing her titties if her rhymes stand up. On La Bella Mafia, Kim's skeezy shtick is officially over. As usual, every song is about how rich and slutty she is, but while the dicks may be hard, the raps are limp. Case in point: Kim rhymes the word FAMOUS with ANUS. Jigga WHA? Worse-than-usual skits, a Teletubbies sample, and a cringe-inducing stab at singing don't help matters. Two tracks stand out: "Hold it Now," which it steals the woofer-slamming bass from "Paul Revere," and "Can You Hear Me Now?," because she cops the brilliant clipped style of Missy, who guests on the song. But even a spot by 50 Cent can't put the Botox in Kim's sagging persona. JS

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Voivod--the Sonic Youth of progressive metal--has continually amazed and rarely been rewarded. Original vocalist Snake rejoins the most unified Voivod lineup for a self-titled 13th album that tastefully plays on some of the band's strengths (songwriting, musicianship, integrity) while wholly ignoring others (progrock virtuosity, sci-fi concepts, psychedelia). They've been singing about nuclear war since 1984, but this disc also covers apathy, atheism, selling out, and the will to persevere in a refreshingly direct political and emotional way. Many listeners will still wrestle with the alien enunciation that comes from Quebec, or opine that bass player Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica) has come to ruin the band. It seems obvious that quitting the biggest metal band in the world to join the best is nothing short of a triumph of altruism over greed. NATHAN CARSON

* * * * Faygo Honeydew Mist
* * * Shasta Grapefruit Zazz
* * Mt. Dew Code Red
* Pepsi Blue