Volume 95, Issue 78

Wednesday, February 20, 2002
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Exotic and tasty eats at the Village Cafe

Plethora of influences creates distinct Blend

An ode to metal-heads

Willie one lonely Manchu at the Forever Cafe

Musicians against suicide

Willie one lonely Manchu at the Forever Cafe

California Crossing
Mammoth Records

Two stars (out of five)

Take half a cup of power chords, stir in a tablespoon of unimaginative lyrics, a sprinkle of women in skimpy bikinis and bake at 350 degrees. About 40 minutes later, your California Crossing should be ready.

On their latest album, Southern California-based power punk rockers Fu-Manchu stick to their roots as hardcore rockers with a touch of punk. Formed in the early 90s, the foursome underwent a transformation in 1997 with the addition of Bob Balch on lead guitar and Brant Bjork on drums.

The majority of tracks on California Crossing follow the same generic formula – loud guitars and drum solos coupled with "singing," which could be better described as abrasive shouting.

The lyrics are extremely repetitive, as the songs usually contain one catch phrase, (often the title) that is simply repeated throughout the song. The low point occurs on "Mongoose," with lead vocalist Scott Hill screaming "the mongoose flies on by" over and over again.

The album's title track, yet again, lacks creativity and is reminiscent of Sum 41's "Pain for Pleasure."

The album ends on a high note, however, with "The Wastoid," an instrumental track with a stellar drum solo by Bjork. Although primarily instrumental, the song has a computerized, electronic feel. Perhaps the absence of terrible lyrics is the reason this track stands out on California Crossing.

Fu-Manchu has no depth lyrically, but, if you're searching for an 80s hair metal sound, they just might satisfy your appetite.

–Jaclyn Howe


Derek Lathrop
Forever Cafe

Tin House Records

Three 1/2 stars (out of five)

Musician Derek Lathrop has managed to find the right formula for his new album – a combination of back-beat country stylings, contemporary folk-funk and a yearning to be heard that is unmistakable from his vocal arrangements.

Claiming to be under a poltergeist's trance while recording the tracks, Lathrop has embraced the best aspects of Canadiana, drawing on many inspirations to churn out a sound that is unique in many ways.

The key to Forever Café is its seemingly effortless efficiency in delivering music with soul. Simplicity in the instruments – a saxophone, violin and guitar – along with Lathrop's clean, impressionistic voice combine to put the listener on a natural high.

"Jasper" and "Kaleidoscope" are light-hearted tunes about the squabbles that encapsulate bad relationships, while "We'd Be Together" is a somewhat pathetic and forlorn attempt to reach out for the one that got away. The subject matter is not one of Lathrop's strong suits, but the smooth and melodic flow of the songs more than make up for this oversight.

Although the track "She Talks" is a clear and blatant rip-off of "Crash" by The Dave Matthews Band, it is a testament to Lathrop's ingenuity, as he manages to take a classic song and add a new twist to it.

Forever Café may be the closest any of us will come to experiencing a revelation, even if it lasts for only 57 minutes.

–Robert Wong


Willie Nelson
The Great Divide

Lost Highway Records

One 1/2 stars (out of five)

Willie Nelson is back, armed with his acoustic guitar and country-tinged vocals.

Throughout the years, many artists have conformed to new trends but Nelson has always remained true to his roots. The Great Divide features numerous collaborations with artists such as Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, but these talented musicians can't help dig this album out of its grave.

Each song is a mixture of soft rock and country, making it difficult to decipher the difference between songs. Nelson's voice is dry and bland and lacks variation.

The most disappointing track on the album is his remix of Cyndi Lauper's hit "Time After Time." There are no words in the English language that can begin to fully describe this song. Nelson transforms the song into a country blunder that begs the question – what was he thinking?

However, to balance this failure, songs like "This Face" and "You Remain" are sung and expressed beautifully by Nelson. Ironically, these songs are the most depressing on the album because they explore the notion of aging, acceptance and fading away.

On a brighter note, there are a couple of good songs on the album like "Maria (Shut Up And Kiss Me)," written by Matchbox 20's frontman Rob Thomas. This is one of the only tracks that has a beat, good lyrics and a catchy chorus.

Although Willie Nelson may be a legend in the music industry, fans may wonder when he's going to get back on the road again and not return.

–Rana Issa

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