Brothers, the Kingz, an ‘Idol’ and Hornsby
The Chemical Brothers”We Are the Night,” AstralwerksThe point at which it becomes unfair to expect continued innovation from formerly groundbreaking musicians is poorly defined. But wherever it lies, it seems clear that Britain’s Chemical Brothers – along with virtually all their turn-of-the-century electronica peers – have long since passed it. The block-rockin’ beats, retro synth squiggles and other signifiers of club culture have all entered common currency, and mostly departed it, as well.The only fair way, then, to judge “We Are the Night” is in a different context. And as an expression of simple craftsmanship, the disc is a success, fulfilling the requirements of an entertaining summer listen. The title track powerfully recaps what the duo always has done best, a monstrous dance-rock groove built on Neu!-style repetition. At the same time, there’s a melodiousness in the blissful synth-pop of ‘Das Spiegel” and the ersatz Italian disco of ‘A Modern Midnight Conversation” that bodes well for the Brothers’ future.There is a hit-or-miss aspect to this approach, of course, and a few songs – including “The Salmon Dance,” a vehicle for rapper Fatlip that sounds like a Cartoon Network reject – represent the latter reality. Adjust your expectations, program judiciously and enjoy.-Dan LeRoy, L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service Bruce Hornsby
“Camp Meeting,” Sony LegacyBruce Hornsby has juggled musical sensibilities as skillfully as anyone over the past 20 years, due in large part to a highly adaptable piano method that’s as suitable for mainstream pop tunes as for long-form improvisational performances with the Grateful Dead. He takes a logical sonic step with his first album of instrumental jazz on “Camp Meeting,” expanding his repertoire by exploring a fresh idiom on its termseven as he imports some of his own.Hornsby’s technique is fluid, but the jazz his trio offers is not always smooth. They readily embrace complexity, and an almost disjointed energy flows from the confluence of restless piano figures and Jack DeJohnette’s pesky drum pulse on “Questions and Answers,” and Hornsby’s percussive playing provides sharp definition and counterpoint when set against the crisp, rattling drums of “Straight, no Chaser.”His signature sound decorates the shifting melodic stream of “Celia” and adorns the supple flow of “Solar” alongside Christian McBride’s bass, but he also frequently forges into unfamiliar territory as tunes extend and shift focus. His playing jabs at the jaunty gait of “Charlie, Woody ‘n’ You” and nimbly defines the propulsive undercurrent of the lively “Stacked Marcy Possum,” bringing Hornsby’s instrumental voice to bear within tunes that also illustrate his considerable capacity for diversity and range.- Thomas Kintner, L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service UGK”Underground Kingz” Jive Records
Many point to Jay-Z’s 2000 single “Big Pimpin'” as UGK’s coming-out party, but the Texas duo’s discography charts back some 15 years. Pimp C and Bun B should be bigger stars, if not for a career-stalling stint in prison. (Pimp C was locked up in 2002 for three years on gun charges.)These days, the South rules hip-hop and Pimp C is free, so the timing seems right to drop “Underground Kingz,” a double-disc of thick funk grooves and heavily drawled rhymes. At 26 tracks and three bonus cuts, it’s a daunting but enjoyable listen. The CD’s first highlight is “Int’l Player’s Anthem (I Choose You),” a song pinned on a Willie Hutch sample that features Andre 3000 of OutKast musing about taking the married-life plunge. Elsewhere, UGK promote Southern culture such as customized cars (“Chrome Plated Woman,” “Candy”) and pole dancing women (“Like That”), and salute their stylistic forebears, Too Short (“Life Is 2009”) and Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap (“Next Up”).But the guests don’t overshadow their hosts. On “Quit Hatin’ the South” – a challenge to rap’s now obsolete regional biases – it’s quite apparent who’s helming this effort. Bun B rhymes, “Now it’s our time to shine and the tables is turned/and (expletive) aggravated cause we’re getting some burn.” Indeed, “Underground Kingz” should garner the attention UGK deserve.- Brett Johnson, Associated PressConstantine Maroulis”Constantine,”Sixth Place RecordsThe fourth season of “American Idol” had two standouts: country singer Carrie Underwood, who went on to win a Grammy and sell millions of CDs, and rocker Bo Bice, who has faded into oblivion.
Then there was Constantine Maroulis – remember him? Mom and Paula Abdul were fans. Maroulis, who would stare dreamily into the “Idol” cameras, had the girls phoning in votes on the strength of his smoldering looks and raspy tenor. He later parlayed his 15 minutes into stints on the CBS soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” and on Broadway in “The Wedding Singer.”Broadway is where he clearly belongs.His self-titled debut disc – an odd and unbalanced mix of 12 pop-rock songs – showcases his impressive pipes, which are pitch-perfect for, say, the male lead in “Rent.”Maroulis sounds like the lead singer of the roots-rock band Train on “Everybody Loves,” featuring a bland chorus of na na na na’s and an earnest wish that “everybody love someone tonight.”He does a dead-on impression of the Strokes in the angsty track “I Thought it Was Something,” an obvious homage to the New York City garage band. He flirts with a Latin groove on “Girl Like You.” He takes a rock-lite approach when informing an ex-girlfriend that he’s taking back his “Favorite T-Shirt” – and his Prince record, too.The final track, “Midnight Radio,” is unintentionally hilarious. Maroulis gives shout-outs to Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Yoko Ono and himself – yes, himself – as he extols all “the strange rock ‘n’ rollers” and “the misfits and the losers.”Somehow, Maroulis manages to get away with such dreck thanks to his appealing voice. As a solo artist, though, he needs to find a style all his own.- Erin Carlson, Associated Press