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Ear Candy #1

-by Tom Grozan

Dreamworks Fall 2000 Sampler

One of the perks of working for a newspaper is that we get sent review & promo CD’s. Given that the paper doesn’t do music reviews these hot little items usually end up getting passed down from the editor to interested parties (like me) or end up in the hands of whoever’s quick enough to steal them (like me).  The former, not the latter is how I got the Dreamworks Fall 2000 Music Sampler.

You would think with the industry heavyweights backing Dreamworks records that this would be a record company striving for multi-platinum blockbusters, but given the content on this sampler and ignoring the occasional George Michael signing this doesn’t seem to be the case. This is for the most part an eclectic and adventurous bunch of tunes. Even the more radio ready fare has its own vibe and is not a cookie cutter carbon of what was a hit last month.

With that in mind, let’s get to it. The songs on this disc can be broken down into three categories:

The Rock

Lifehouse “Hanging By A Moment” - This starts off the disc and considering I’ve heard it on the radio it’s the only bona-fide “hit” contained on this CD. It’s an above average rock song, something you wouldn’t tune out if you heard it playing. Nothing special, but a lot more tune-friendly and catchy than your average Creed song.

Ours “I’m A Monster”  - Imagine Morrissey with the vocal pipes of the Cult’s Ian Asbury and you’ve got Ours “I’m A Monster”. This is full on self-loathing the likes of which we haven’t seen (unless you frequent poetry slams) since the Smiths broke up.  This is not necessarily a bad thing ‘cause unless you’re one of the young SoCal Mexican boys that Oni Press’s Jamie Rich told me are the primary audience for Morrissey’s last couple of albums it’s something we have haven’t heard in a while.

Half Cocked “I Lied”  - I don’t know the gender make up of this band, but if what I hear is any indication these are the bastard step-daughters of the Runaways and they’re pissed. They even throw Cherry Bomb into the lyrics. This is full on, in your face punkish metal that would be very welcome in today’s rock radio landscape. In one song Half Cocked perfectly encapsulates the sound L7 aspired to but fell short of actually achieving.

The Apex Theory  “ Shhh…” - Remember the Escape Club? They had a hit in the late eighties called The Wild Wild West, not to be confused with recent Will Smith song of the same name. Take a minute, get the tune firmly established in your brain, now imagine that group violently possessed by Rage Against The Machine and you’ve got The Apex Theory. Interesting, definitely, but not really my bag. If you like your rock rap with a goofy free-styling chorus maybe it’s yours.

Alien Ant Farm “The Movies” -  This is crunchy power pop the likes of which there really isn’t a enough of nowadays. One of my favorites on here, with more hooks than a triple support brassiere. Just a cool little song juxtaposing a relationship with different movie styles until as the chorus goes “…and just like, the movies, we play out the last scene”. 

Stillwater “Fever Dog” - From the soundtrack of “Almost Famous” , my favorite movie of last year. If you haven’t seen it, shame on you, you uncultured cretin. What’s notable here is without the movie imagery defining it, how spookily Zeppelin this is.  The opening drums are soooo John Bonham they could be sampled by the Beastie’s.

Creeper Lagoon “ Big Money Struggle” - Another good power pop tune. Reminds me a LOT of the Fountains of Wayne. So much so that I was almost wondering if this was a side project. Even so,  nobody listens to the Fountains of Wayne anyway so it’ll sound fresh to you. Oh, if you want to join me in the small fraternity of  Fountains of Wayne fans download “Radiation Vibe” off Napster.

The Pop

VP215 “She” - Apparently Dreamworks entry into the Boy Band derby. Catchy without being cloyingly  so, this is the type of song the Backstreet Boys would kill for now. Much more Boys II Men than either Backstreet or N Sync.

Leslie Carter “Like Wow” - If only more songs in the current Teen music boom could be this infectious and fun. So unabashedly old school bubblegum it’s like musical crack and like the title of my column indicates, I’m all about the bubblegum. Really, this could be a lost track off of Hanson’s Middle of Nowhere album and if you’re really honest with yourself, you’d rather have more Hanson than the current TRL crop.

Soluna “Don’t Want To Live My Life (Without You)”  - This is Spice Girls filtered through Gloria Estefan. The type of song you could see Cher recording a couple years down the road when she’s making her 7th comeback. But until that happens (and we’re not really hoping for that) we can safely ignore this.

Nicky Love  “ They Don’t Understand Me”  - Not really Top 40 pop this is one of those songs you’d hear on the Alternative Adult Contemporary stations that have cropped up in the last two or three years. Well crafted but ultimately forgettable.

Daniel Debourg “Tell The World”  - A very unremarkable R&B song whose only energy is derived from the Rodney Jerkins style backing track. You know the kind with the super fast syncopated rhythm a la Destiny’s Child. Which if you’re like me, and that annoys the hell out of you, go ahead and let this fade from your continuousness immediately.

Forest For The Trees “Jellyfish” - The most refreshingly original song in “pop” category. It’s got a trippy, almost ethereal vibe the likes of which hasn’t be heard since the heyday of P.M. Dawn. The lyrics are a little goofy, but in quirky fun way. I really think this could be an out of left field hit if it could get airplay.

The Revelations

Nelly Furtado “On The Radio” - You gotta love a song in which one of the main lyrical hooks is “…you liked me till you heard my shit on the radio”. Nelly Furtado has been getting some great press (Her album Whoa Nelly was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s ten best of 2000) and deservedly so. On this track alone she effectively intermingles modern female hip hop a la TLC with the musical subtlety and introspective lyricism of a Fiona Apple or Aimee Mann. Given that she’s only 21 there’s scary potential here.

The K.G.B. “Captain Max” - An amusing blender concoction with  punk, ska, and acid rock all floating around in it. This one song is more satisfying than the last three Bostones (or insert your favorite ska rock band here) records combined.

Rufus Wainwright “Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk” - This is the type of song you could imagine hearing in a really cool movie. Something that fits perfectly but is vivid enough to grab your attention and make your inner music fan demand more. If you can contemplate Randy Newman’s pop sensibilities infused with Tom Waits lyrical storytelling then you’re on the right track.

Eels “Jeannie’s Dairy” - I had heard the Eels before but they didn’t really grab me. This song will make me give them a second listen. A lament on lost love that’s very Brian Wilsonesque in both form and execution. Intelligent, heartfelt, and worth checking out.

Elliot Smith “A Living Will”  - This is billed as an unreleased track off of Smiths latest album Figure 8. I have to say if this is unreleased then I want to here the rest of the album because this is great. Smith seems, like many other under appreciated post modern singer songwriters, destined for a rabid cult audience. But really, if this stuff was popular would it be so deliciously stimulating?

This is the first of my weekly musical musings and hopefully you enjoyed it. The two things I was striving for with this first column was to not embarrass myself  and be somewhat entertaining. If I succeeded or not on either of those counts please let me know ( I’m an unrepentant whore for feedback. Also please feel free to hip me to new stuff. I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting music. I’ve got a burner and I’m willing to trade. Thanks for reading and make sure you come back.

Copyright©2000 GrayHaven Magazine and contributors