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Bloodhound Gang
One Fierce Beer Coaster

Bloodhound Gang hides beneath the First Amendment to flaunt its perilously un-PC odes ("Kiss Me Where It Smells Funny") set to pseudo-rap-rock music. I wouldn't have a problem with a band mounting such an offensive--the Meatmen made it high art--but the Bloodhound Gang is too lame to pull it off. How lame? Let me count the ways: 1) the rhyming ("You'll be all ears like a field of corn/I'll make you Dizzy like Gillespie when I toot my own horn"); 2) the copying (biting the Alkaholiks' "hooked on Gin and tonics/hooked on phonics" rhyme); 3) the turntable guy, "DJ" Q-Ball, is just a prop; 4) Rob Van Winkle, Mr. Vanilla Ice himself, appears on "Boom" and 5) the group actually thinks it's clever. How this album ended up on a major label mystifies me--no wait, I take that back. (Todd S. Inoue)

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David Shea & DJ Grazhoppa
Down River Up Stream!

The first cut is eight seconds long, so you know right away that Down River Up Stream! aims to be avant-garde. The next track consists of footsteps clacking toward you, then away, followed by blurry voices, the clatter of dishes and the crash of shattered glass. The turntable fetishisms of New York art-beat sampler David Shea and DJ Grazhoppa are to hip-hop what the "third stream" was to jazz. Down River is very smart and often cinematic--looping movies, found sounds and using un-hip(-hop) instrumentation such as swooping violins and sad-sack harmonica. Shea and Grazhoppa fashion a weird, inverted world. One of the album's more interesting "pieces" is "Tasty Cake," wherein a couple of bars of gorgeous violin and guitar melody are stretched like taffy into a warped permutation of themselves until the melody resurfaces to haunt the tune. Beneath the weirdness are a compellingly slinky bass and solid drumming. (Nicky Baxter)

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Robert Pollard
Not in My Airforce

Twenty-two tracks are listed on the CD jacket cover, but Robert Pollard's Not In My Airforce is really one long (38 minutes) pop-music experiment. Pollard's music morphs in a Jekyll and Hyde fashion throughout the album, from radio-friendly ditties to obscure sound explorations. Not much depth can be expected from the brief "songs," but the simple guitar playing and Pollard's distinctive pipes give the album coherence. Off-key singing makes "Quicksilver" reminiscent of gathering 'round the campfire, while "Girl Named Captain" is eerie industrial pop of the Catherine Wheel variety. "John Strange School" is full of echo tricks and warbled electric guitar; "One Clear Minute" sounds like a garage-band jam; and "Psychic Pilot Clocks Out" is just plain good rock & roll. (Bernice Yeung)

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Sweet Baby
It's a Girl!

Sweet Baby is like a cereal jumbo-pack of some favorites: hard MC5 guitar, early Undertones pop, some melodic vocal tricks of the Mr. T. Experience. The album sounds like a punk-rock dream come true, except It's a Girl doesn't achieve the greatness of its influences. The vintage guitars build a sonic wall that's hard to see over, let alone hear through. Thus, the beer-marinated vocals take over, sometimes stumbling on their own intricate lines ("Gotta Get a Girl," "Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby (I Love You)." "Prove My Love" is a dashing standout just for its acoustic simplicity. Sweet Baby can also write a humdinger of a ditty, the best example being "The Way She Gets Around," which is about falling for a girl in traction. The eventual south county classic, "She's From Salinas," should be the town's official anthem. "She's from Salinas/Wow she looks like Venus." Hoo-ahh! (TSI)

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