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[whitespace] Picks by Michelle Goldberg (MG)

The Freestylers

The Freestylers
We Rock Hard

In the past few years, the adjective "old-school" has come to denote a peculiarly speeded-up version of retro, a nostalgia for something that only just ended. And we all know how hard it is to get excited about the resurgence of yet another formerly obsolete style. Nevertheless, the second coming of New York electro on We Rock Hard by the London collective the Freestylers is exhilarating, largely because the group has teamed up with Soul Sonic Force, innovators in the original scene. A cross between Afrika Bambaataa and DJ Punk-Roc, the Freestylers' rambunctiousness is coupled with beats that now sound deliberately lo-tech. The delirious block-party energy is just as infectious with a Cockney accent as with a New York one.

Dr. Frank

Dr. Frank
Show Business Is My Life

The new album by Dr. Frank (formerly of local favorite the Mr. T Experience) is endearing more for the goofy sweetness and melancholy romanticism of the lyrics than for its fairly standard musicianship. Consisting largely of three-chord power-pop, spare, roughly melodic slow songs and campy lounge interludes, Show Business Is My Life is hook-filled and immensely listenable. What makes the album worth owning is Dr. Frank's frank delivery of such sentimental lines as "It's a great big world, but all I want is you." Equally delicious are his deadpan tales of psychotic girlfriends: "This Isn't About You Anymore" contains one of the most scathing put-downs I've ever heard: "Now you're a footnote to somebody else's footnote in a book no one ever wrote." Ouch.

Low Hum Satellite

Low Hum Satellite
Low Hum Satellite

These days, when rock bands add samplers and trip-hop bass, one is tempted to write them off as especially tardy bandwagon-jumpers, but the electronically abetted tracks on the SF band Low Hum Satellite's debut EP are by far the disc's best. The band's organic guitars meld beautifully with the eerie synthesized soundscape, and the lead singer's voice stretches from a creepy, Portishead-style ennui into full-throttle throaty rock passion in the course of a single chorus. The record's last track, a remix of Low Hum Satellite's "Bright," is weary and tender, too earthy to be ethereal, and absolutely stunning.

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From the May 24, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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