Rhythm & Views
DECEMBER 15, 1997:
ORNETTE COLEMAN & JOACHIM KUHN
SOMETHING ABOUT THIS and Coleman's last two albums that made you wonder if he's working himself into a rut. Yeah, his sax playing remains in outer space, but he's gravitating toward one overly familiar spot, it appeared. A number of very familiar riffs resurface in the opening "Faxing" and "House Of Stained Glass," making pianist Kuhn seem far the more adventurous player. Listen close to the simplistic, repetitive phrasing and see if you don't agree that they've continually resurfaced in his playing for decades. The guy's still a contender, and much of what he plays here is more adventurous than what he turned out in his fine Prime Time bands, but it's still hard to get around the clichés. He's certainly done better. And it's hoped he can again.
THE CRYSTAL METHOD
BILLED AS AMERICA'S answer to the England's Chemical Brothers in the pseudo-revolutionary Electronica wars, The Crystal Method fire a few shots of their own. The Method--Los Angelinos Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland-- have been dropping beats and filling floors since 1994, and among the insiders in the electronic field, they have been eagerly anticipated. Vegas boasts their skill--one which doesn't disappoint. Filled with soulful grooves, rock flourishes and dense layers of musical and non-musical ear candy throughout their first full-length effort, the pair make the Chemical Brothers look like a mid-schooler's Chemistry Set. Clearly built for the dance floor, the Method does what other artists must do to make the jump from studio jammers to stars: They fill the music with enough layers and hooks to merit repeated spins. Fans of more funk- and rock-oriented stuff won't be lost in the Method's well articulated structure. More than a one-beat, one-track wonder, The Crystal Method has stepped up from behind the banks of machines to become one of the more visible players in the live music realm. If electronica as a whole is to have an impact on the mainstream listener, it's records like these that will create the bedrock of a legitimate movement.
SHEESH. THESE BRIT anarchists change their sound as often as they change their underwear (let's hope). Former Leeds politi-punks, Chumbawamba have now turned politidance with the rallying cry being the anthematic "Tubthumping" (the "I-get-knocked-down/But-I-get-up-again" FM alterna-rock staple), a juvenile delinquent's melodic wet dream. "Tubthumping" blatantly swipes ideas from every musical genre and exceeds those influences. It shows the bands love for pop: mixing dance beats, boisterous choruses and subversive ideals. Random sound bites from documentary programs and television commercials sprinkled generously throughout this modern rock classic are the glue that holds the song's social commentary together. With Tubthumper, the constant Chumbawamba line-up has abandoned the dirty white-noise hate songs found on a decade's worth of albums dating back to 1986. Instead they now lovingly embrace jungle, trip-hop and electronica, as evident on the memorable shake-yer-body dance grooves of "Amnesia," and focus on the delectable, albeit taboo, pleasures of "I Want More." There's never a dull moment with these blokes.
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