The Roots promote themselves as being at the frontline of hiphop creativity, the saviors and preservers of the b-boy ethic, but all they are is an image (or afterimage) of these qualities that once informed the content of their CDs. Phrenology, which has a great cover, opens brilliantly with the track "Rock You," which is followed by a short and supposedly shocking Bad Brains-like punk track, "!!!!!!!," and then melts into an initially interesting but soon vapid "Sacrifice." The rest of the CD continues to slump, track after track, into rap pop. Those who can make it to the end might find something interesting on the horizon of this wasteland, but I just couldn't get there. I had to stop on the 10th track, "Water," and listen to something else. CHARLES MUDEDE

Butthole Surfers/Live PCPPEP
(Latino Buggerveil Records)

San Antonio's captains of shock, sludge, psychedelics, and sonic nightmares are filling in the voids for their demented/devoted with Butthole Surfers/Live PCPPEP, a collection of the band's first two EPs (previously only available on vinyl). They've also tacked on a few extras--two additional encore songs from the Live EP, and early/previously-unreleased versions of other songs. The result is a collection of lunatic experiments, out-there oddities, and long interludes where the band simply riffs off their own ability to make maniacal noise and sing about stupid shit. Although some of the songs hold together by the tenuous thread of a humorous lyrical tactic, there are too many repeats and too few cohesive tracks on this 18 song disc, making this collection of rarities one for only the truly fanatical. JENNIFER MAERZ

"The Goddess is Here!"
(G.E.R.L) <
** 1/2

Above a mélange of club house beats pulsing with the velocity of a thousand strobes, Wanda Dee lays down mass diva vocals for her first solo record. Also known as the voice of the KLF and hiphop's first female DJ, Wanda has evolved into an oiled and shimmering, hypersexual body builder/gay club icon. For this, she contributes a track entitled "Pride in Your Stride," a high-energy dance number starring a virtual gospel choir of house divas singing about self-esteem and dignity, which will simply gleam from the tweeters of neon-rainbow lowrider Hondas everywhere. Giuseppe D. produces like it's 1992, which is unfortunate, cause Wanda Dee is amazingly sassy and deserves scorching beats. Two songs save the record: the great cover of Prince's "Controversy," bumps with a panting, Fame-style ghetto funk; and the hidden track, in which she sings a cappella while Doug E. Fresh beatboxes. Then they talk about bisexuality, and her husband says, "Read between the lines? Honey, those pants are so tight, I can read between the lips!" Everybody laughs. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

**** Tina Ferrari
*** The Soul Patrol
** Jungle Woman
* Debbie Debutante