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Atari Teenage Riot
Burn, Berlin, Burn!
Grand Royal

With brain-damaging beats and youthful vigor, Alec Empire's Atari Teenage Riot creates a potent strain of electronica that both Orb and Slayer fans can enjoy. "Start the Riot" forms battle lines, and the speakers spray BPMs like an Uzi. "Delete Yourself" snatches the guitar riff from the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" and morphs it into a separate entity. The effects are so cranked up that novices will check the CD player to see if it's skipping. The vocals are compressed and so far in the red that they sound filtered through plastic wrap. I liked Empire's antifascist statements ("Deutschland Has Gotta Die," "P.R.E.S.S."), but I couldn't get with the empty sentiment of "Destroy 2000 Years of Culture," which is chanted with the precision of a cheer-leading squad (without hip-hop culture, where would ATR be?). Otherwise, Burn, Berlin, Burn! is electronica's Straight Outta Compton. (Todd S. Inoue)

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Robert Frazier
The Chamber

With much respect to Eddie Gale, he is not the sole man with a horn in San Jose. Trumpeter and composer Robert Frazier aims at the new age of orchestral music, a jazzy Tubular Bells sound, complete with billowing clouds of synthesizers, grand-sounding piano and other esoterica. In addition to his multiple musical abilities, Frazier fancies himself a poet; the title track commences with some versifying about the head and the heart--not a good idea. "A Prayer for Ironwood" fares much better. Grandiose in the best sense of the term, Frazier's sweeping aural canvas is impressive. Frazier's laconic lines and pungent tone supply sharp contrast to the diaphanous, digitally created instrumentation. With its airy, spirit-lifting arrangement, "A Prayer" is the perfect stuff for a cathedral. (Nicky Baxter)

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Frank Zappa
Have I Offended Someone?

This is a collection of 15 of the iconoclast's favorite musical crimes. The album lives up to its title. While it's no surprise that such low-brow classics as "Valley Girls" and "Catholic Girls" are included, dirty diamonds in the rough--"Dinah-Moe-Hum" and "Bobby Brown Goes Down"--are accounted for as well. "Bobby Brown" is Zappa at his scatological, zany best, and "Dumb All Over" takes on televangelists and struts away the hands-down winner. Admittedly, Zappa's satire could be and often was no more artful than a jab with a sharp stick. Moreover, he tended to go after easy targets (by the time Zappa got around to valley girls they were already, like, a late-show joke), but Zappa didn't back down from anyone, not the PMRC, not rock jocks, not journalists. Have I Offended Someone? reminds us of a time when rock could get wicked. (NB)

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Various Artists
Sprung Soundtrack

The soundtrack album for Sprung confirms two overlooked beliefs. One is that soundtrack music is supposed to enhance scenes, not overwhelm them; the second is that older artists should insist on a 10-year waiting period before letting new artists steal--excuse me, borrow--their hooks. The first one is defenseless; MTV's influence has eliminated any trace of subtlety in the '90s. As for the second, recycling old songs is getting increasingly tired, and Sprung wallows in the phenomenon. Faceless up-and-comers (Keystone, Canibus, G-Ratz, Noggin Nodders, Bonnie and Clyde) dust off old hooks (Alexander O'Neal, Hall & Oates, Bill Summers all get pillaged) for instant success. The scariest thing is that the time between good hooks is getting shorter and shorter--Next Level's "If It Ain't Love" bites Mobb Deep's 1995 track "Shook Ones." When does it stop? (TSI)

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From the May 29-June 4, 1997 issue of Metro

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