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Scud Mountain Boys
Sub Pop

On first hearing, Scud Mountain Boys sounded like those clear, clean Reagan-country lightweights the Cowboy Junkies, circa 1988; but after enduring two more disappointing administrations, I'm more receptive to the sound of tranquil sadness. That is, if Massachusetts is too quiet, you're too young. Lead vocalist and songwriter Joe Pernice expresses his regret prettily with simple imagery and aching melodies that owe as much to '70s Bread as to the Velvet Underground's third album. The Boys' sweet acoustic instrumentals are introspective cousins to the more political Bottle Rockets and the more anthemic Son Volt. These songs are small, good things--losing a scratcher lottery ticket is as poignant as losing a chunk of fool's gold. (Don Hines)

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Guy Aroch

De La Soul
Stakes & Potatoes
Tommy Boy

Yet another teaser from the upcoming album Stakes Iz High, De La Soul's sampler Stakes & Potatoes is much more satisfying than "The Bizness," the album's lead single. And now, hearing "Bizness" a second time around, it's not so bad, either--just not extraordinary. Stakes & Potatoes offers snippets of five songs and the full-length title track. "Stakes Iz High" is strong, very strong, bumpin' blackalicious lyrics and a chill instrumental back. But maybe the threesome's not so sure Stakez Iz High the album will succeed, because De La has invited a gang of guests to go on record, literally, on their behalf. There are even tape-recorded phone conversations via Busta Rhymes and Zhane's Renee ("Yo, this joint is stoopid"), Mos Def and A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed ("Yo, man have you heard the new De La Soul joint? It's sick, man! It's so fuckin' sick"). But the rapper's big-ups come off as shucksterism. The music speaks for itself. (Nicky Baxter)

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Groovie Ghoulies
World Contact Day

Luckily, Groovie Ghoulies aren't as lame as the intro and outro of World Contact Day. Eleven hard-edged pop tunes are sandwiched between an alien's threat to destroy Earth for bombarding its planet with "annoying, crappy rock & roll" radio transmissions. Groovie Ghoulies to the rescue. There are surfy moments on "When the Kids Go Go Go Crazy" and "Bring Her Back." The band even experiments with blues in "Lonely Heart Blues" and "Singing the Blues." The lyrics are tragic ("There's nothing left for me to do but cry over you" from "Singing the Blues"), but the vocals are more sneering Billy Corgan than soulful John Lee Hooker. Meanwhile, Wendy provides a syncopated beat, and Roach revs up her guitar like a Texas chain saw. (Bernice Yeung)

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Stickin' to the Script
Black Power

On the inside flap jacket, four young Africans stare straight at you with raised fists: the black powah sign. Cool. So then you slip the disc on and expect something/anything related to "the cause," right? Not quite. Aside from the gnarly "Africans Unite" send-off by Black Power label owner Herm Lewis, these mackadacious gangstas make like the poster boyz you see in your local post office. Primo steps to the mic charged with hard-headed confidence. He's not Nas, but he's not bad. Musically, the record is straight-up Bay Area--with some tic-tocky drums and cryptic keyboards here, a limited version of Barry White's creamy thing (with synths subbing for strings) there. Lyrically, Primo and guests T-Lowe, 11/5 and Cellski are off on mostly mo'moneymo'moneymo'money. Surely Tony Brown and company are beaming their approval of this black bidness venture. (NB)

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From the July 3-10, 1996 issue of Metro

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