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October 28, 2003

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When Brody Dalle screams, you know she means business. Her voice is perfectly pitched over the punk riffs that run rampant through the new Distillers album, Coral Fang. She projects a rawness that rivals Courtney Love's, and her screeches put Babes in Toyland's Kat Bjelland's to shame. But beneath this brawn is the beauty that Brody not only sings but also writes the music and lyrics for the entire album (which she also did for 2002's Sing Sing Death House).

From the low-lying refrain of "I want to bury you" in "Dismantle Me," to the hardcore madness packed in the rapid drumming and screeching guitar of "Death Sex," the songwriting proves to be as developed as it is potent. "Coral Fang," besides being the name of the album, also happens to be the best song. A full blast of in-your-face rock, it begins with Brody and the boys screaming over fast-paced guitar riffs and simple drums. The verses follow the refrain in waves of rock rhythm, turning the two-minute song into a guitar-vocal powerhouse.

The song serves as the perfect segue for the light, acoustic beginning of "The Hunger," which remains quiet for exactly 54 seconds, at which point Brody breaks the silence with one hell of a scream. The acoustic guitar resumes.

In "Hall of Mirrors," the bassist and drummer pitch in their voices to bring the melody to a whole new level. Lyrics such as, "I watched you burn in the eye of my sun/I fucked you in the eye of my sun," may be a bit shy of poignant but are definitely appropriate for the music.

After showing what they're capable of doing with some guitars and punk riffs, I expect the Distillers to have a long career ahead of them—and maybe even a headlining spot on their next tour.

—Mara Stankiewicz

Working out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, indie rap group Atmosphere—Slug and Ant, rhyming and mixing respectively—is widely praised throughout the country. Their new album, Seven's Travels, takes the listener on a journey with Slug, who rhymes about his experience as a white rapper on the road, and on a metaphorical voyage through a world of sex, politics, personality, and emotion.

The album is more musical than any of their previous—evidence of the group's maturity and development throughout the years. Seven's Travels contains some of the group's best sounds and production. Slug fervently and continuously pours out soulful, intelligent rhymes into the microphone. In the very first track, they introduce a new, distinct sound, a short, jazzy piece entitled "History." Clear, acoustic guitar is featured in "Trying to find a Balance" and "Always Coming Back Home to You." The last is an ardent anthem of Slug's seminal roots. He emphatically declares his love of the Midwest, saying, "If you can drink tap water and breathe the air, say shhh…if the playground is clear of stems and syringes, say shhh."

Slug boldly states his political views in "National Disgrace." He mocks Americans, rapping, "Proud and stubborn, loud and arrogant, as American as apple pie and embarrassment. Package the kids' face put it on display, look ma, another national disgrace."

Atmosphere has the intellect that college students appreciate, and Slug the ability to mold his diction to affect the audience. His rhyming talents, use of unique words that stand out more than any other progressive rappers', and dedication to maintaining the emotion and soul behind the group keep Atmosphere's fans coming back for more.

Atmosphere will be playing two shows on their next tour in Chicago at the Metro December 3 and 4.

—Thomas Hauner

Limp Bizkit's new album is entitled Results May Vary and the CD is designed to look like a medicine cap, because this album is about Fred Durst's mental anguish. Granted, there's the song about how Fred wants to make love to a beautiful woman ("Eat You Alive"), and the one that entreats listeners to give Fred the microphone ("Gimme the Mic"), and he uses the word "sheezy" once or twice. But for the most part, this is about Fred's pain.

And, like so many rockers before him, he's chosen to go proggy with his pain. He's name-checked Aenima as an influence in the past, and here Limp Bizquick borrows liberally from Tool, slowing the album down with shifty tempos and sparse instrumentation—the boring parts of songs like "My Way" and "Nookie" writ large. And say what you will about Maynard James Keenan et al, but they're talented musicians, their virtuosity saving them from sucking hard. The Bizkit's turn as proglodytes, however, is a disaster, more tool than Tool. If you could've predicted this, get in line—there might be a VP slot open at Interscope soon.

Fred doesn't sound as whiny as in the past—he apparently got the memo that he sounded like a girl on "My Way"—but his lyrics more than make up the difference. "Build a bridge made of pain/Send my longing down the drain" is among my favorites. This anti-climaxes in a boring cover of the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes." Just be thankful it wasn't "Baba O'Reilly."

Limp Bizkit would have made a fantastic one-hit wonder with just "Nookie," and we'll give them "Faith" as a warm-up. The longer you let these people stick around, though, the more likely it is that they'll drop something like Results May Vary on you. When the Bloodhound Gang shows up to tell us that they want to wait until the second date to do it like they do on the Discovery Channel, you'll be sorry you gave Limp Bizkit a chance.

—Whet Moser

Long championed by the British music press as the best band you've never heard of, the U.K.'s Laika isn't easily categorized. Composed primarily of singer Margaret Fiedler and ex-My Bloody Valentine engineer Guy Fixsen, Laika's music is generally electronic pop, but they often use real guitars and drums. Their first album, 1995's Silver Apples of the Moon, was one of the best of that year and has often been cited as a central influence for Radiohead's masterpiece Kid A. However, since Silver Apples, Laika has not released another album met with similar praise. Have they broken the streak?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Wherever I Am I Am What is Missing contains moments of sheer brilliance but is muddled by lots of mediocrity. The first track,"Girl Without Hands," starts out the album superbly with alien filter sequences, ethereal reverb-drenched vocals, and a 5/4, time staccato drum signature. Then the second track, "Falling Down," rolls around, characterized by a speedy bass line, electronic chirps, and another odd drum signature. It's around this time that one starts thinking, "Isn't this song actually on Kid A?"

"Alphabet Soup" comes up, and we have a funk-inspired bass line and—surprise, surprise—another odd time signature. You get the idea. As far as I can tell, there isn't a single song on Wherever I Am with a normal, run-of-the-mill 4/4 time drum signature. Just like on all their other albums. I mean, it was cool when Dave Brubeck did it back in 1959, and it sounded fresh on Silver Apples of the Moon, but it has gotten pretty played out. Their musicianship is undeniably good, but I just find myself wishing that Laika would realize they need to take some risks and evolve.

—Brad Heffern