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February 12, 2002

Shortcuts: Quick Reviews of 3 Albums

Sleeping on Roads

Neil Halstead

4AD

The debut solo effort from the lead singer of Mojave 3. Mean anything to you? Well, nobody blames you. Mojave 3 has carved for itself a quiet pothole in the scorched road on which Nick Drake spent his golden years. While remaining low-key, credit must be given where it's due: though they owe more than a bit, stylistically and thematically, to Mr. Drake, Mojave 3 has a good ear for a tune. Sleeping on Roads reflects this too. All the trappings of the Mojave 3 sound — lush, gentle acoustic guitars and Halstead's well-tuned and husky voice — spill out songs about falling out of love, and falling hard, set against the backdrop of some vast cactus-lined interstate. It's all stuff you've heard before, but more than a few solid tunes make the album a worthwhile listen. Notably too, Halstead has taken a slight departure from the great -American-road-album style that he's been so fond of, in favor of a more British approach, "a more Spiritualized sort of way," Halstead claims. Whether this shows or not, or even if it is successful in its aim, remains for the listener to decide, Sleeping on Roads is, however, the album of choice for when you find yourself broken-hearted and curled up by the side of a freeway.

—Chris Seet


Your New Favorite Band

The Hives

Poptones

Forgive Voices for missing the boat on this band, but we had good reason to suspect they sucked ass. After all, can you name a single good band currently on the Epitaph roster? Didn't think so. Fortunately for these black-clad, white tie-wearing Swedes, a respectable label — in England no less — took notice and has been shouting their praises from the rooftops of late. And that label is Poptones, otherwise known as the first post-Creation Records project for Alan McGee. You may have heard of him: the talent scout who recognized the genius of My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Super Furry Animals. If nothing else, The Hives prove that the old geezer still has an ear for the good stuff. They aren't revolutionary like any of the previous bands mentioned, but, man, do they know their punk rock handbook. If preposterous song titles like "Die, All Right!" and "The Hives are Law, You Are Crime" aren't enough, their infectious blend of back-to-basics punk and strange electronic squiggles should win you over. By the end of this raucous romp, you should have already hurled all your furniture out the window and stabbed several of your neighbors. If not, you might want to check your toes for the morgue tag. (Note to readers: This album is an import-only title, but we just as enthusiastically recommend the Epitaph release Veni Vidi Vicious.)

— Jon Garrett


The Revolt Against Tired Noises

The Stratford 4

Jetset

Not exactly. Wish I could say the album lived up to its title, because, well, the Stratford 4 seem like a nice group of people and, admittedly, they're trying hard enough. But to be honest, the album is about as dynamic as a sanded workbench. The Stratford 4 hail from the San Fransisco area and played on the same local circuit as their friends in BRMC. (One of the members was even in an earlier incarnation of that band.) But BRMC and The Revolt are on opposite ends of the noise-rock spectrum. Where BRMC choose to balance their dream pop flourishes with plenty of meaty rock, The Stratford 4 are perfectly content to drift off into their own sonic netherworld. The results are predictably unengaging and sorely lacking in the "song" department. The Stratford 4 are closer in spirit to the legions of college-circuit jam bands than the fuzz-rock revivalists they're attempting to align themselves with. "All Mistakes Are Mine" is about the nearest the Stratford 4 come to writing a genuine pop song, but, in the context of the rest of the album, it feels like the odd man out. By the time the epic closer grinds to a halt, you'll need about 4 shots of espresso and three lines of cocaine just to snap you out of your coma.

— Jon Garrett