by Scott Thill

Now that the year-end lists have all been read and filed away, we can get back to straight-up music appreciation. Not that there is a major influx of works to appreciate -- it's wartime, so the offerings are lean and mean -- but you take what you can get, right? Right. So make way for three releases that don't suck.

Viggo + Buckethead, Pandemoniumfromamerica

For those who don't know -- which is a daily shrinking contingency -- Viggo Mortensen is currently said king in Peter Jackson's version of J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King, now playing at every mall and theater near you. He's a serious renaissance man -- he acts, writes poetry, takes photographs, paints and now sings and plays alongside a wonderful foil, guitar genius Buckethead. The result is a collection of bizarre but rewarding soundscapes featuring Mortensen's seductive vocals and spoken word theatrics, which bite everyone from Noam Chomsky to William Blake.

Think Dead Man soundtrack and you're there, although nothing will prepare you for the hilarity of "Half Fling," a gibberish fest featuring cameos from neo-hobbits Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd. If you like your poetry skilled and your guitar wizardry potent, then this release is right up your alley. And, to tell the truth, you'll have to visit an alley to buy the disc. It's cheaply available online only from Viggo's indie Perceval Press (; that is, unless you want to get it from eBay at five times the price. Suckers.

Maceo Parker, Made By Maceo

Maceo Parker has a music resume longer than Saddam Hussein's rap sheet. The driving horns found on the finest work from James Brown? Those were Maceo's, although you probably could tell that by the fact that Brown shouts his name around five times a song. The silky horn on Parliament's essential Mothership Connection, Motor Booty Affair, and more? Yup, Maceo's. It would be impossible to count how many albums the guy's been on (it's in the 100s), but he's also had a solo career longer than anyone on MTV today. His latest joint is another powerful trip down funk lane, featuring some experienced help from P-Funkers "Skeet" Curtis and Greg Boyer and James Brown's former trumpeter Ron Tooley. From the slamming "Off the Hook" to the Chaka Khan cover "Once You Get Started," Made By Maceo is a refreshing reminder that yesterday's funketeers can still bring the pain and the heat.

TV On the Radio, Desperate Youth Blood Thirsty Babes

And now from the "Hard to Classify" section of the music industry comes TV On the Radio, a Brooklyn-based experimental, avant-garde, mood rock, dub whatever collective intent on putting out challenging tuneage. They're already darlings of the incestuous NYC rock circuit -- cats from The Liars and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs contributed to their
Young Liars EP -- but they're quickly making a name for themselves. Filled with sonic experimentation, downtempo rumination, and some seriously inspired vocals, TV On the Radio take over where trip-hop and Peter Gabriel left off. You gotta sample this one to be sure about it. So sample it already.

For more "Must Have CD's" click here to view back issues.


© Melt Magazine 2004