Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008

Now That's What I Call Cheap Album Round-Up

By Evan Rytlewski
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Another visit to a Half-Price Books store (this one on 8514 W. Brown Deer Rd.), another stack of one-dollar CDs, another rushed edition of Milwaukee Cheap Album Round-Up. Here are some of the discs I picked up for a buck:

Now That's What I Call Music!, Vol. 8

Loathed as they are by some, I have nothing but love for the That's What I Call Music compilations, which package 20 hits (or near hits) into convenient, tri-annual packages. Before these play-by-plays, we had to rely on revisionist, after-the-fact compilations to document the state of the charts.
    Most striking about this November, 2001 installment is how many songs are filled in with canned DJ scratches, from Destiny Child's "Bootylicious" to "*NSYNC's "Pop" to The Wiseguys' Fat Boy Slim knock-off "Start the Commotion." Elsewhere, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore's songs bounce with pre-9/11 cheerfulness; Jennifer Lopez sings yet another reminder that she's just like everyone else ("I'm Real"); the Gorillaz introduce themselves with "Clint Eastwood"; Sum 41 pairs Beastie Boys raps with Blink-182 punk on "Fat Lip," and Blink-182 themselves contribute a fun, minor single, "The Rock Show." Best of all, there's a quick appearance from Mystikal, the foam-mouthed New Orleans rapper whose pop-chart reign was soon to be cut short by a career-killing prison sentence

Now That's What I Call Music!, Vol. 25

This 2007 installment of the series is divided roughly into thirds, with pop chicks like Avril Lavigne, Gwen Stefani, Fergie and P!nk running the first third, R&B-poppers like Ne-Yo, T-Pain, Lloyd, Huey and Bow Wow owning the second, and stock ballads by Kelly Clarkson, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood and Elliott Yamin dominating the third. What's largely missing, then? Rock. Aside from tracks by Fall Out Boy, Boys Like Girls and, arguably Daughtry-the fourth "American Idol" contestant on the disc- there's no rock to be found here. That's less a reflection on the state of rock music than on the focus of these compilations. Over the years, the Now albums phased out all but the biggest rock hits to better mirror Top 40 playlists.

The Pacers - Strictly For Lovers

I spent the mid- '90s searching for an affordable copy of the sole album from this Milwaukee ska band-sorry, Atomic Records: Your one copy was way overpriced at the time-and twelve years later, my wait paid off. Of course the album isn't, uh, as fresh as it was upon its 1994 release, but then again, neither is ska, a genre that's advanced little over the last 15 years. The bands may have access to better recording equipment and may not wear their suits so baggy anymore, but the resulting music is pretty much the same.

Gin Blossoms - Congratulations I'm Sorry

Here's a textbook care of diminishing returns. Where the Gin Blossoms' debut album offered four decent-to-big hits-"Hey Jealousy," "Until I Fall Away," "Found Out About You" and "Allison Road"-the band's sophomore follow-up had just one wimpy one, "Follow You Down." Totally still worth the dollar, though.

On another note, I promise I won't write about the Gin Blossoms again for a while. Actually, I can't make that promise, but I'll try my hardest.
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