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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    CD Reviews

    Sly Stone rolls back into town

    In the dismal world of pop music, Sly and the Family Stone came and went like a brilliant fireworks display.

    The band exploded onto the hippie scene in the late 1960s and promptly made all their potential American rivals sound dim by comparison. They still do. Try to play a Jefferson Airplane record now and you’ll be lucky to make it five minutes in without gagging. But Sly Stone’s brilliant, seductive and (it has to be said) sly records still sound like nothing else ever recorded.

    Yet in the mid-’70s, the band stumbled offstage. Sly put out a few more records – good ones, for all I know; they’re impossible to find – before disappearing off the face of the Earth. He showed up at last year’s Grammy Awards looking like a Martian, smiled mysteriously, banged out a few chords on a keyboard that looked like it had been unplugged, and promptly vanished again.

    Sly may be gone, but his great albums are finally back where they belong. His band’s first seven albums on Epic Records have at last been given the remaster treatment. The remastering is flawless – and long overdue: There’s a Riot Goin’ On, in particular, suffered for years from an appallingly muddy CD transfer.

    The1969 opus Stand! is far and away and their most accessible; with immortal hits like “”Everyday People,”” “”Sex Machine”” and “”I Want to Take You Higher,”” it stands as one of pop music’s brightest moments. It’s a glorious record that makes you feel more alive every time you play it.

    The jewel of the set is 1971’s Riot, which still ranks as one of the greatest albums ever made. Emerging from nearly two years of protracted experimentation (and, probably, drug-induced messing around) in the studio, Riot sounds something like a James Brown single in Sergio Leone-style slow motion. The beats don’t bounce like the ones on Stand!; instead, they crawl around and moan. It has a nervy, tense undercurrent that’s almost unbearable at times.

    The album opens with a weird, jerky beat, then voices calling out “”Stand … stand … stand…”” Then Sly jumps in and hollers, “”Feel so good! Feel so good! Don’t … wanna … move.”” It doesn’t get any more cheerful from there.

    The album’s hit was the brilliant “”Family Affair,”” a slow-motion anthem that circles around the rest of the album like a vulture, casting a cheerfully jaded eye on the proceedings.

    Then there are songs like “”Spaced Cowboy,”” featuring Sly sending up a demented-sounding yodel and “”Africa Talks to You ‘The Asphalt Jungle,’ “” a ghostly funk jam haunted by a chorus of forlorn voices yelling “”Timber!”” over and over. Finally, there’s the eerie finale, an extended take on Sly’s joyful hit “”Thank You (For Lettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”” that sounds like a funeral march.

    Finally, there is Fresh, the 1973 long-overlooked follow-up to Riot. It doesn’t suffer by comparison; it’s a remarkable album, maybe even the “”masterwork”” the packaging claims. The best-known track is Sly’s slow, oddly seductive cover of “”Que Sera Sera,”” probably best known for its use in “”Heathers.””

    If you only get one of these albums, depending on your personality, go for either Stand! or Riot. But there’s no reason not to pick up all of them. Geniuses come and go, but there’s only one Sly Stone.

    Rating: 10/10

    -Justyn Dillingham

    Arctic Monkeys: Favourite Worst Nightmare

    Arctic Monkeys is one of those bands that indie rock magazines like Spin and New Musical Express hype so much that you’d think the British rockers are the second coming of the Rolling Stones. The result is that people either love or hate them, with not much opinion in between. The band’s debut album, Whatever People Think I Am, That’s What I’m Not is a fun, energetic album full of bouncy guitar riffs and songs about drinking, harassing the police and hitting on women of questionable moral character.

    Unfortunately, it seems the band used up all of its youthful exuberance on that album, because Favourite Worst Nightmare lacks almost all of the elements that made the first record such a blast. The first two songs, “”Brainstorm”” and “”Teddy Picker,”” make it seem like they band’s up to its old tricks, and both songs have memorable hooks and riffs, but it goes downhill from there. The album is almost completely lacking energy, and slower songs are definitely not this band’s strong point. A band’s second album is supposed to show growth and experimentation, but when it eliminates what it’s best at, the record will certainly warrant the label “”sophomore slump.””

    Rating: 5/10

    -Nick Horung

    Bury Your Dead: Beauty and the Breakdown

    The latest collection of noise from thrasher group Bury Your Dead is nothing more than repetitive music with very static screaming. One can’t really expect much more than anger and rage from a genre based on nothing else.

    The same lack of melody and complex vocals prevalent in all bands like Bury are very much present in Beauty and the Breakdown. The only interesting thing about the album is the story it’s trying to tell. I found reading the booklet that came with the CD much more enjoyable than the music itself.

    Breakdown tells the story of a ruthless and notoriously heartless man who is hated by the local villagers, as well as the woman he keeps at his side. The problem is that the band is trying to tell a story that has ups and downs but sounds like utter hatred the entire time. Even in the end.

    The song is told in a fairy tale format. Although the climax comes rather early, and a whole two songs follow this great moment, all the songs sound the same anyway, so it’s hard to even notice. I won’t spoil the ending, though. It’s the only thing the album has going for it.

    Rating: 5/10

    – Alan Hayman

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