album reviews

    Citizen Cope

    Citizen Cope

    MCA

    ***

    The self-titled album by Citizen Cope rides an assortment of themes from protest songs to love songs and from spiritual battles to murder ballads, all combined in a rich narrative style.

    Through character-driven storytelling, Clarence Greenwood (a.k.a. Citizen Cope) explores underground themes, making occasionally startling observations about post-Reagan America, but also rendering the life-affirming power of simple perseverance.

    The one-time DJ for art-rap crew Basehead writes stellar, personal songs that fold in hip-hop, soul, reggae and irresistible pop hooks.

    These hymns are cast in raw and rugged rhythms bound to lasting melodies that suggest a variety of American musical forms. Grooves float atop deep-pocket drum beats. The sonic landscape unfolds in the live instrumentation of piano, organ, guitar, drums and percussion alongside the studio magic of electronic keyboard effects and drum machines. These elements, combined with lush string arrangements and Greenwood’s vivid scene-setting, give Citizen Cope a distinctly cinematic character.

    The music presents contemporary Americana and explores both biblical themes and modern mythology. Greenwood’s protagonists make basic discoveries about the importance of genuine human contact, but they must also face the extremes of society’s neglect.

    The first track, “”Contact,”” addresses the tendency of the judicial system to imprison rather than educate America’s youth. But, on the flip-side, the track “”If There’s Love”” is a celebration and an oasis of tender feeling amid the chaos depicted in much of Citizen Cope.

    By incorporating the storytelling style of classic rap, Citizen Cope effectively fuses the themes of conscious hip-hop in a musical fabric that stretches far beyond the usual thump-thump of the genre.

    — Marisa Gutierrez

    Staff Writer

    Chemical Brothers

    Come With Us

    Virgin Records

    ****

    The Chemical Brothers have been producing techno tracks since 1992. Their style of techno, big beat and breaks has emerged as a unique sound that is distinctly Chemical.

    The Chemical Brothers, who are Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, embraced American popculture with the 1997 release of “”Dig Your Own Hole.”” Their single, “”Block Rockin’ Beats”” was found on the playlists of rock music stations like Los Angeles’ KROQ-FM. The Brothers were hailed as the forerunners of electronic music that was to sweep the nation.

    Since then, they have somewhat disappeared from American music but they remain a force in club music worldwide with their “”Hey Boy Hey Girl”” single from their 1999 album, “”Surrender.””

    The versatility of The Chemical Brothers reflects their talent and their diverse musical backgrounds. Noel Gallagher provided the vocals for “”Setting Sun”” and “”Let Forever Be.”” Beth Orton contributed, too. They have also remixed Primal Scream, Mercury Rev, the Manic Street Preachers and St. Etienne.

    In 2001 they came out with “”It Began in Afrika,”” a tune with many layers of sound and pronounced tribal percussion and hard beats. Last month, they released “”Star Guitar,”” a distinctly contrasting single that sounds more like an Ibiza-sun-soaked tune. Filtered sounds and wispy vocals make this a great uplifting track.

    “”Come With Us”” is a diverse album with tracks that range from slick techno tunes to tripped-out breaks. “”My Elastic Eye”” is a fast-paced tune that almost borders on drum ‘n’ bass, but “”The State We’re In”” is smooth and slow. The album closes with “”The Test,”” which features the somber vocals of former Verve frontman, Richard Ashcroft. “”The Test”” builds layer by layer and slowly fades away.

    If anyone was concerned with the quality of “”Surrender,”” their hopes will be revived with “”Come With Us.””

    — Joseph Lee

    Hiatus Editor

    Shaggy

    Hotshot — Ultramix

    MCA

    ****

    Mr. Lover is back with “”Hotshot,”” an ultramix that, according to Shaggy, shows many different sides of his musical personality.

    He did show many sides on this 12-track record. And although any “”Ultramix”” should be embraced with caution, Shaggy has proven to be great background music while cleaning, even with the song “”It’s Me”” featured twice.

    For the wilder bunch, “”Hotshot”” is a good party mix because every track is different the next. Even with Shaggy’s distinctive voice, it doesn’t get monotonous.

    Reggae, dancehall, pop and R&B are covered in all his mix styles: punch, rough-cut, strip, swingers, early players, cartel and of course dancehall. Shaggy draws on his musical influences from Jamaica, which was his home until he was 18.

    The remixes visit hits from his past, which include an award-winning history: A 1996 Grammy for Best Reggae Album, the memorable 1995 “”Boombastic,”” and a 1993 United Kingdom Success with “”Pure Pleasure.””

    In the dancehall mix of “”Dance and Shout,”” you are asked to “”dance and shout, and shake your body down”” through a disco sort of sound. You can almost imagine a dance floor full of white bell-bottomed dancers in glittery tops. It’s all fun music, although Shaggy does get a bit more serious at certain points.

    Track 11, “”Hope,”” was written as an autobiographical account of his young adult life. It is a portrait of a time when he was relocating, finding his family bonds and his place in music.

    “”Angel,”” the last song on the album, is a live track and done “”Canada style,”” as Shaggy shouts. Though I don’t know exactly what that means, it is amusing and full of the spirit that is in the rest of “”Hotshot.””

    — Jessica Kruskamp

    Staff Writer

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