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Last Punk Standing … And Other Hits!
Wild Billy Childish & CTMF
The ... and Other Hits! part of the title is a joke, of course. None of these 14 songs will ever rule the stream-o-sphere. They’re too raw, too unself-conscious, too alive. The sonics begin and end in mid-to-late-’60s proto-punk. The lyrics sound most whimsical when they’re not. And although you may not care who’ll be the last punk standing yourself, Childish is sure that “when no one’s left / to give you a whiff / of the stolen riff / of Mark E. Smith,” you will.
Robert Randolph & the Family Band
Randolph continues to make his own the influences that his House of God Church upbringing made sure he came to late. There’s Allman Brothers in “Baptise Me.” There’s Sly & the Family Stone in “Don’t Fight It” (with the “it” being “Holy Ghost power”). There’s Stevie Wonder in “Second Hand Man.” There’s even Delbert McClinton in “I’m Living Off the Love You Give.” But, most significant of all, there’s Randolph’s fierce, riff-mongering pedal steel guitar, binding together every potential loose end like a signature writ large (and loud).
I’m Not Chic
If these 10 adorable garage-rock songs don’t finally earn the all-female Japanese trio responsible for them a sizable English-speaking following, nothing will. So what that in Yoko’s approximately phonetic English pronunciation “I don’t want to bother you” sounds like “I don’t want Brazil”? It’s still cute. And if you plug the Japanese lyrics of “Buggy Loop” into Google Translate, you’ll get “In a room with cactuses, / I have the same dream as you, / like noonday moon,” which isn’t bad for accidental haiku if accidental it is.
Titles such as “Rise Up,” “Never Going Back,” and “Victorious” don’t quite say it all, but they come close. These are songs to bolster the weary, particularly those feeling worn down by the daily grind of spiritual warfare. And in typical Skillet fashion, the majority of the sentiments get hammered home by industrial-strength metal. There are, however, changes of pace (relatively speaking), one of which, “Terrify the Dark,” peaks with a line that the weary would do well to ponder: “My doubt will answer to Your scars.”
Approach Jimmy Lee (Columbia), the new album by Raphael Saadiq, as the latest installment in a long and lucrative career devoted to maximizing the elasticity of R&B, and you’ll feel shortchanged. Sure, there’s bounce, flow, and spirited singing at almost every turn, but there’s darkness, anguish, and disjunction too, traits not usually associated with Saadiq’s previous solo work, his résumé as a producer, or his role as the leader of Tony! Toni! Toné!
So be sure to approach it for what it is—an album-long response to the heroin-related death of Saadiq’s older brother, the Jimmy Lee of the title. The abruptly shifting perspectives from which Saadiq and his occasional guests give eloquent voice to pain result in a cubist collage that includes prayers to God for deliverance as well as the possibility that those prayers might be answered. And speaking of possibilities, “This World Is Drunk” suggests that Saadiq may be a closet Wallace Stevens fan. —A.O.