Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009

It's Back: Cheap Album Round-Up

By Evan Rytlewski
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Three more finds from the endless piles of $1 CDs at Half Price Books on 8514 W. Brown Deer Rd:

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The Soup Roses - Hotwired
(1992)
Early '90s alt-rockers weren't much interested in dancing, at least not in America. But things were different in the U.K., where club culture crossbred with underground rock a full decade before it did here in the states. Soup Dragons were one of the few of these "Madchester" alt-dance acts to score a hit in the states, infiltrating modern-rock radio with their buoyant "Divine Thing," a song uplifting enough to soundtrack a hundred cola commercials. They were a Stone Roses you could play at a party without pissing off that one guy who hated the Stone Roses.
Worth the buck?
: Yes. Though like so much dance music from the era its beats are static and mechanical, the album's best moments are almost as bright and as catchy as "Divine Thing."

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Hum - Downward is Heavenward
(1997)
Revisionist history paints Downward is Heavenward as Hum's Pinkerton, the masterful but overlooked follow-up to the band's breakthrough album. In truth, nothing on Downward casts the same spell as Hum's 1995 hit album You'd Prefer an Astronaut, let alone reaches the heights of that album's propulsive lone hit, "Stars." For better and for worse, Downward's hookless mix of post-hardcore, sadcore and emo aptly summarizes the state of late-'90s underground rock. An actor the caliber of Sir Ian McKellan himself would have a hard time feigning offense that this didn't get more love from the radio.
Worth the buck?
: Meh. The band was always better riff writers than songwriters, but at least their riffs really, really wow.

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Fatboy Slim - You've Come a Long Way, Baby
(1998)
There's a bizarre scene in She's All That during the movie's climactic high-school prom dance, where Usher cues Fatboy Slim's "The Rockafeller Skank" and the entire floor erupts into an elaborately choreographed dance routine, turning the film for two minutes into a musical. The scene seems absurd now—how, exactly, could all these students have learned the non-existent, "Macarena"-by-way-of-The-Gap-swing-dance-commercial moves to this Fatboy Slim track?—but at the time it seemed strangely plausible. "Rockafeller Skank" was so ubiquitous, there must have been a dance associated with it. Before Moby made electronica the new adult contemporary, Norman Cook argued that electronic music could be hard-hitting, dangerous and even grating as shit yet still popular as hell.
Worth the buck?: Yes. For an album inextricably associated with a specific time, it still sounds mighty fresh.
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