February 18, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 77  

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Michael Kaeshammer
ALMA Records

Worried that Swing and Boogie Woogie have gone out of style, only to be replaced by 50 Cent and Britney Spears? Worried that after a saddle blazin’ shootout in the Old West, you won’t be able to walk into your favourite saloon and find some decent piano fingers at work?

If these things worry you on a day-to-day basis, perhaps you should turn off Rick Dees weekly Top 40 and pick up Michael Kaeshammer’s new CD, Strut.

Kaeshammer’s sound is so individual and emotionally driven that it is an excellent escape from today’s mainstream. Unlike the majority of today’s stars, he doesn’t use words (that’s right, only two songs on the 13-track CD actually have words) to interfere with his raw musical talent. As well, Kaeshammer does not try to “hammer” his music into your head the way some hip-hoppers or rockers do with loud, abrasive sounds. In fact, quite the contrary: every song on Strut flows together in a very harsh yet melodic tone.

Kaeshammer is a real talent and would surely be one of the most talked-about names if Boogie Woogie carried a little more weight.

—Ben Mann

Kylie Minogue

Body Language

On one hand, Kylie Minogue has always been stuck in the past — she’s the classy, leggy pin-up with the cute butt, and a catalogue of ’80s mall-pop and disco-dance numbers; on the other hand, Minogue is ahead of her time — the sounds of the ’70s and ’80s are back in vogue.

Whereas retro-rockers The Strokes praise Lou Reed, campy metalheads The Darkness stand at the alter of Queen, and dance-punkers The Rapture rave on to Gang of Four, Minogue looks to the new ghost of music’s past currently re-haunting us: Prince. Beyoncé recently performed with him and Janet’s latest single bares his peppy brand of light-funk, but it’s Minogue who has beaten them both to the punch with her new record.

Much of Body Language is inspired by the symbolic one — porno-riffic guitar licks, falsetto vocals and the occasional sensual yelp are rampant — but the mix is most potent when modern elements are added. Electro-beats fire up synth-jams like “Sweet Music” and the devilish “Secret (Take You Home),” where Minogue even takes on a coy rap verse.

Body Language also bears an R&B mid-section with vivid song titles like “Red Blooded Woman” (a fantastic “Cry Me a River” clone) and “Chocolate,” a sweet, slow-groove meltdown. It’s this delicious imagery — of shiny cars and confections, burning hearts and obsession, and dark dance floors and neon-lit nights — that makes Minogue, at 35, pop’s most sultry, urban princess.

—Brian Wong

The Locust

Plague Soundscapes
(Anti)-John Chiaverina

If you’re looking for melody, harmony or any sort of cohesive song structure, you won’t find it here. The Locust keeps it short, fast and weird, with most songs lasting until the one-minute-or-less mark. Plague Soundscapes makes it incredibly clear what The Locust’s stance on modern

America is: “Messed-up music for messed-up times.”

The average music listener will probably have had enough of The Locust after 30 seconds, let alone 21 minutes of this musical insanity. The album is for those interested in music that pushes the boundaries of both abrasiveness and absurdity. So what if the tracks start to melt into each other after awhile, and so what if you might be left with a headache after listening to the entire album?

—Arlee Rosenberg

Courtney Love

America’s Sweetheart

The train wreck that is Courtney Love sets off on her virgin voyage as a solo artist, and though her reputation as a crazed, pill-popping troublemaker precedes her, the tongue-in-cheek titled America’s Sweetheart surprisingly delivers the goods — emotional baggage in tow.

Here, Love takes the hook-filled rock balladry of Hole’s Celebrity Skin, sucks out the sunny-ness from it, and injects her raw, visceral, howl-of-a-voice that was most prominent on 1994’s lauded Live Through This.

The reference that will get most people up in arms is the uncredited stealing of the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” riff for the sex-obsessed rocker “I’ll Do Anything.” The steal (which she legally owns the rights to) becomes delightfully devilish since Love knows full-well her detractors are easily outraged by her every move.

And they’ll be outraged that Sweetheart isn’t the washed up album they hoped it would be. On rousing anthems like “Mono” and power ballads like the cheekily titled “Uncool” (co-written by Linda Perry and Elton John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin), Love sounds re-energized, ready to take on rock’s boy’s club — and she’ll do it with her usual mad and reckless abandon.

—Brian Wong


A Crow Left of the Murder

Sweet, but with an edge — that’s probably the simplest way to sum up Incubus in a few words. The majority of Crow consists of mellow, laid-back grooves that transport listeners to a lazy beach in Southern California, but the edgier tracks are what make this disc worth its salt. From the raw opener “Megalomaniac,” which presents an open attack on the American political system, to the tragic “Sick Sad Little World,” Incubus’ latest offering is an updated Make Yourself: it delivers the same “stellar” beauty, but offers a more relevant message.

—Megan O’Toole



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