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Various Artists
How to Start a Fight
Side One

More rowdy than a barroom brawl, this kick-ass compilation definitely gets the blood pumping with punk rock in all forms. Throughout its 18 meaty tracks--including the raw aggression of NOFX ("Reagan Punk"), the pop-punk stylings of 22 Jacks ("So Sorry"), the fuel-injected guitar and bass thrashings of Hagfish ("Red, White & Blue") and the musical merriment of San Jose's prolific purveyors of power-pop, the Odd Numbers ("If I Knew")--How to Start a Fight showcases clean tunes that pulse with youthful energy and capture punk's fading passion. The sweet double vocals of Elyse Rogers and Karina Deniké of ska-punk outfit Dance Hall Crashers are also featured, along with tracks by Youth Brigade, No Use for a Name, the Swingin' Utters and Screw 32. (Judi Blackwell)


Emperor Jones

There are records that can blow listeners right off the block with razzle-dazzle technique, and then there's Pork's Slop. Gloriously ragged three-chord rock knocked off with the kind of spirited amateurism last heard--well, it's been a while. Imagine early Ramones with a slash of lipstick and plenty of grrrl-ish attitude. The guitars are set on medium roar; the rhythm section pounds away like the Furies; and Pork's pouty-mouthed vocals poke fun even as they point fingers at dum-dum boys. All kisses and hisses, "Backstabbin' " at once updates and rips to shreds the '60s girl-group aesthetic. More than just girls against boys, Pork has "issues." Take "Sonic," for instance: a Blondie-rooted whirl of sound circa 1976 suffused with the tough-love melodramatics of the Shangri-Las. The album's production is 1-2-3 basic--appropriate for Pork's DIY flag-waving. (Nicky Baxter)

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Lyrics Born
Balcony Beach

Solesides' reputation is ironclad like Mike Tyson. Each release packs powerful hip-hop music; listeners don't wonder if it's going to be a hit but only how long before the knockout track lands. "Balcony Beach" teases listeners for one side before the sucker punch. Lyrics Born's Southern-tinged rectangular flow leans against a cleansing wave of low-tempo sound. At its best, "Balcony Beach" recalls some of Pharcyde's "Passing Me By" in its introspectiveness. The downside is the song's downcast tone, pushed along by a repetitive chorus breathed out by backing singer Joyo. On the flip, I felt every inch of tape that "Burnt Pride" took up. Lyrics Born assesses a perfect world where pride and wack emcees are extinct. With the inspired full-band backing, I couldn't help thinking all hip-hop music should sound this confident, this self-assured. The decision? The B-side wins again on a split decision. (Todd S. Inoue)

Nnenna Freelon

Nnenna Freelon
Shaking Tree

Nnenna Freelon's 1992 self-titled first recording was lauded by many. People whose opinions counted were willing to stake their last dime on the proposition that Freelon was one of the most singular voices in black creative music. With the release of Shaking Tree, many others have since joined that number. Shaking Tree confirms Freelon's stature as a formidable triple threat. As a vocalist, she is developing into one of music's most attractive figures. She is also an equally gifted arranger. What she does with standards like "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair," "My Shining Hour" and "Out of This World" is something to behold. As the title track proves, Freelon delivers a lyric convincingly, with the imagination of a poet--you don't have to be a friend of Dionne Warwick's to predict that the number of Freelon fanciers will continue to swell as long as she produces little gems like this. (NB)

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From the November 14-20, 1996 issue of Metro

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