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Random Stabbings 15b

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Elan “Together As One” (Interscope Records)
Even if you detest reggae it’s difficult to wish the worst for Elan – it’s faux-rootsy in ways but not so much that it evokes images of honkies cranking it up solely to cling to memories of Caribbean vay-kays and annoy their punk neighbors. It’s a comforting, lighthearted record whether or not too many of those ubiquitous No Doubters are on board (Gwen Stefani contributes her bee-stung vocalisms to “Allnighter”; Tony Kanal does some producing), and that’s offset anyway by cameos from Assassin and Cutty Ranks. Easiest comparison is Big Mountain’s rasta re-do of “Baby I Love Your Way” a decade or so ago, so fans familiar with that as a touchstone will have a general idea of the contents here. It certainly isn’t straight out of any obscure Marley collection, but as has been demonstrated often, pop sensibilities can work wonders with the genre, particularly for those who don’t get what the fuss is about with rub-a-dubbing and so forth. As beach-drivetime stuff goes, things rarely come better. Order from

MorningSide “Road Less Traveled” (self-released)
Definitively 90s, Philly’s MorningSide park themselves at the intersection of emo-ska and retail-grunge, combining harder shades of Braid with Foo Fighters daredevil-rock. Heavy users of and other explorers will be stoked about their proudly displayed garage-ness and may get quite a kick out of the outstanding, crunch-blast lead work of Pete DiCanto, whose Alice n Chains wah-pedal fetish adds metallic shock and awe to what might otherwise be something you’d swear You’ve Heard Before and Liked and What the Hell Is Their Name Anyway. Sean MacGregor’s bratty Nyquil-medicated baritone rounds out an unhateable package with a loose nick of Billy Corrigan in a let’s-stomp-something mood. Order from MorningSide

Lacrimas Profundere “Filthy Notes for Frozen Hearts” (Napalm Records)
Huge turnaround for Lacrimas Profundere, who with 2004’s Ave End hit the snoozer trifecta with a glum, rainy take on what Bauhaus might sound like if they were trying to get their most un-hooky things a little respect in today’s billions-and-billions-served market. Their targeting of the gothie brigade has been recalibrated with loud guitar, hot-chick background vocals and a little animation, the vocals sufficiently Sisters of Mercy-like but retaining their Eurotrash aura. It’s rather amazing that the band were able to shake more money out of Napalm after such Ave End’s dreadfulness, but it’s been well used on a new and improved post-grunge wall of sound that recalls Stone Temple Pilots, or more accurately German industrialistas Megaherz, leaving the only remaining recommended improvement a willingness to stretch the vocals out of their dishwasher-safe vampire-chatroom routine. Order from

Cecilia Smith “Dark Triumph: The Life of Victoria Lancaster Smith” (CEA Records)
The real-life story of Victoria Smith as told through music and narration has a distinctly PBS feel to it, revealing the high and low points of Victoria’s lifelong journey of self-sacrifice and service, both as a nurse and a Red Cross and Peace Corps volunteer. Through the subject’s autobiographical narration we become privy to not-long-dead taboos and idiosyncratic thinking unique to the black community – she was the darkest child of her family and hence the least-desirable – and watch as she parlays her personal tribulations into positive energy. Cecilia Smith (no relation indicated) is one of the world’s top vibes players, and her work on this record, along with help from an elite unit of musicians and composers that include the Harlem Boys Choir, is lovingly orchestrated, shifting with ultimate panache as both the dark and light times are related with warmth, humor and an adamant lack of regret. Order from

Urkraft “The Inhuman Aberration” (Wea/Earache Records)
Speed up your basic Danzig record, add some Don Airey keyboard lines, drag Mastodon’s vocals into it and you have these Danish thrashers, who rip it up with some Buck-Dharma-like leads for added gravitas. As with most of this sort of product, key changes are a rarity – there’s huge interchangeability between songs 3 through 7 for instance – and quite frankly this has been done so many times it’s jolly ponderous that labels are still cranking them out. Onward we slog, though, seeking grains of wheat in all the chaff; what Urkraft does it does well, exhibiting a militaristic tightness and tunnel-vision enthusiasm. What would break them away from the pack, being that they’ve grudgingly added keys as it stands, would be the addition of some laptop-isms, because there’s a lot of catching up to do with more forward-thinking outfits like In Flames – the quota for Slayer clones is met for the next 60 years by now. Drum machine would be nice too – Ministry rocks, you know. And better haircuts maybe. Or big rubber monster masks. Order from

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