Johnny Marr is having an identity crisis, and anyone snapping up his solo debut for a return to the glory of The Smiths will be disappointed. There is no trace of the effeminate, chingle-changle guitar prowess that in its day had many imitators, but no peers. His later guest appearances with Talking Heads, The The, et al were always bright and tasteful. Sadly, Johnny is all heady and macho now. He formed the Healers, then recorded a batch of songs with Oasis' Liam Gallagher. I have a sinking feeling that most of that collaboration ended up as Boomslang. The album's unadorned guitar muscle and everyman lyrical mundaneness are totally Noel-rock. Johnny's singing lead for the first time, and if not for the studio trickery his voice would be a keening wheeze. Sure, there are some decent tunes, but I expect more from the man who could make his guitar sound like a clear spring morning or a ghostly, moaning train. TED THIEMAN

Classics Selection

For those unfamiliar with the planetary dub produced by Portland's Systemwide clan, this scrambled compilation offers a practical introduction. It essentially consists of two EPs released in 1999--the collective's masterpiece, Systemwide Meets Muslimgauze at the City of the Dead, and the dazzling Sound Secretion Dub--and an assortment of "exclusive bonus tracks" and 12-inches released around 2000. Though most of the mixes are dub based, they incorporate or collapse into a variety of other musical forms. For example, the Systemwide Meets Muslimgauze sections of the CD are disturbed, worried, and tripped up by techno/ industrial noise, at times driven by Eastern-sounding rhythms; the Systemwide material blends airy dub with heavy rock; and Sound Secretion's music, which closes the CD, has an early-'80s hiphop sound that recalls electro funk producers like Arthur Baker, Mantronix, and Man Parrish. Systemwide is definitely in the (dub) house. CHARLES MUDEDE


"You know what's really sad?" asked my coworker as we listened to the well-produced, highly calculated ROCK AND ROLL of New Zealand's The D4. "It's really sad when the band someone is ripping off is THE HIVES." The D4 has pegged, practiced, and spent hours preening exactly what it takes to be real rock 'n' rollers--the cocky riffs, the muscley drums, and handclaps to evoke the most lip-curling and denim-jean-thrusting parts of '60s garage rock. But when it comes off like a third-rate Hives, who in turn come off like a third-rate Stones, you just end up sounding kinda like ZZ Top. The D4 plays the riffs and plays the hooks, but I don't believe for a minute they bled a drop over this record. It's all just so recycled, which would be okay if it weren't totally passionless. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

**** Dan Savage
*** Randy "The Macho Man" Savage
** John Savage (Dark Angel)
* Fred Savage