Must Have CD's

by Scott Thill


When you have time to stop ogling the car-wreck spectacle of Tom Cruise's forays into daytime television, you might want to head to the nearest online outlet -- stay out of the chains, people; there's a reason they call them that -- and pick up some of these arresting releases for your auditory pleasure. And remember, it takes different strokes to rule the world. Which is another way of saying that just because a release comes from a genre you're not exactly used to doesn't mean that you won't enjoy it or even learn something along the way. If diversity is the key to our future, then we best start diversifying our musical portfolios. Here's a good place to start:

Common, Be

The conscientious Common is anything but. He's a compelling artist who skirts the margins of funk, soul, hip-hop, rock and more while keeping the vibe as positive as he possibly can. Which is not to say that he's a stifling bore, but rather a surround-sound philosopher who knows that the way of King is far more productive than the way of X. Although it doesn't take more than a casual listen to Be to understand that truth-to-power poets of the past are as much a part of his new-millennium process as are lifestyle hoppers like Kanye West, who executive produced and helped write almost all of his new album. For the militants, the perennially under-recognized Last Poets drop by to help testify to the power of wordplay on "The Corner," while "Love is..." resurrects Marvin and Anna Gaye's "God is Love" as a sonic spine for Common's stripped-down paean to the energy that knits us all together -- and sometimes tears us apart. There's much to forage for in Be, even if you think hip-hop is for fools. If there was ever a time we needed an optimistic crossover, it is now. So don't think or feel. Just Be.


Amusement Parks on Fire, Amusement Parks on Fire

You gotta hand it to the new millennium's youth: They know how to get the utmost out of their high-tech toys -- and make mind-melting efforts in the process. Take Michael Feerick, barely past his teens, who is otherwise known as Amusement Parks on Fire and has completed a blistering debut of noise rock worthy of the Radiohead faithful packing stadiums across the world. Feerick's taste for mammoth walls of sound is prodigious, but is tempered here and there with somber dirges like "The Ramones Book" and "23 Jewels." However, the item of choice on his ambitious first effort is uncompromising, sometimes destructured rawk, tumbling over itself in scorchers like "Wiper" and "Venus in Cancer." You’ve got to take your mesh hat off to him, and wish him the best. If his debut is any indication of what will happen to him, expect it to be a bloody mess of noise and success.


R.E.M., Fables of the Reconstruction

In the continuing segment of desert-island disc examinations, I'm proud to present one of R.E.M.'s most underrated, multihued classics. Not close to as hip as Murmur nor as mainstream as Document, Fables is nevertheless engorged with moving compositions, some -- like "Feeling Gravity's Pull" and "Old Man Kensey" -- that feature Peter Buck's earliest sonic experimentation. But overall, mellowed but still entranced mind-trippers like "Driver 8," "Good Advices" and "Maps and Legends" are emotional powerhouses, the kind of songs that could rock you to dreamland for years on end. Sure, "Can't Get There From Here" was really the only song that made Fables stand out for late adopters, but if you were there from the beginning -- and there are a few of us left -- then most likely you'll remember that this was the last sedate but challenging effort R.E.M. had in them before they started losing their religion.

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© Melt Magazine 2005