URSULA RUCKER / Supa
Drum' fans may have wondered who was behind the beguiling voice of
4Hero's superb 1998 album Two Pages. Now Philadelphia-based singer Ursula Rucker,
who has also worked with the Roots, the Silent Poets and Josh Wink, serves up her debut
solo album in the form of Supa Sista. Striking a balance between nu jazz, hip hop
and old skool beat poetry, Rucker presents an unflinching vision of the realities of
subjects as diverse as womanhood, the state of black music, love lost and child abuse.
Beguiling but at the same time brutally frank, Rucker paints a picture of life on the
streets that is as melodically and rhythmically rich as it is profound in content. Working
with producers from Britain's 4Hero to Philly's King Britt, Rucker has produced a work of
sophistication that transcends any one genre. THE
REMBRANTS / L.P.
Although I missed out on the success of their theme song "I'll Be There
For You" for the hit sitcom "Friends," which put this Los Angeles-based
pop-rock duo on the map, it's inclusion in updated format at the end of this album isn't
the only reason to buy their third and latest CD. On the contrary, Danny Wilde and Phil
Solem put together some of most unabashedly traditional pop songs - which rely on the
unfashionable elements of quality songwriting and tuneful hooks and harmonies - that this
reviewer has heard in a long while. If you're starved for a good sing-along, check out the
la di da chorus of "Drowning In Your Tears" or the irrepressibly catchy guitar
riffs of "Comin' Home." Verdict: The Rembrandts may not push the musical
envelope, but they certainly dish up a nice slice of pop. PERRY
FARRELL / Song Yet To Be Sung
There's something to be said for not standing still, and the greatest artists -
think Miles Davis and Picasso - restlessly move on in search of new forms of expression.
So you've got to give Perry Farrell credit for not resting on his Jane's Addiction laurels
and pushing himself with the techno experiments of his new album. But artistic exploration
does not necessarily make for good listening, and for the most part Farrell's attempts to
turn techno, "a non-vocal form," into vocal driven music are uncomfortable.
Distorted guitars kick in for the title track and "Nua Nua," but they had me
wishing for a live rhythm section rather than programmed drum'n'bass and trance beats.
Farrell remains a visionary, but with Song Yet To Be Sung his vision seems to
have gone astray.
POP / Beat 'em Up
"I eat the blood of slaughtered animals," Iggy Pop told The Times
recently, indicating that he remains, at 54, an unreconstructed rocker and meat eater. And
in a storming set at Fuji Rock '98, Iggy proved that he's still one of the most
charismatic, spellbinding performers around. But translating that charisma onto a record
is a different matter, and not something he has always been able to do successfully. His
last effort, Avenue B, was praised for its smoldering intensity, but on Beat
'em Up, Iggy goes for the jugular, with songs like the crunchy, metal-influenced
"Howl," "Football," which takes the piss out of America's sport, and
other cheerful numbers like "Death Is Certain" and "It's All Shit."
Bottom line: Iggy still boils with rage, but to comprehend his full fury he must be
Few CDs have been as long awaited as 9 Songs, the debut full length by
great Japanese indie-rock hopefuls Feed. Recorded in New York in early 2000, the album
didn't find a home until Feed signed with Polystar's Tripmaster sub-label, after troubles
at their original home, Zone/Sony. Happily, the wait was worth it. The promise indicated
by their being chosen to open for the Smashing Pumpkins is fully evident in Feed's mastery
of the indie-rock vocabulary of bands like Veruca Salt, while at the same time possessing
an entirely original voice in the form of lead singer Maya Saito. Saito's flute-like
vocals invite you to an intimate, vulnerable world - convincing in both English and
Japanese - colored by the off-kilter guitars of Shinsuke Komiyama and a tough rhythm
section in the form of bassist Akifumi Ikeda and drummer Taro Dai. Without a doubt one of
the best releases to come out of Japan this year.