By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Take Norway's Kwyet Kings, for example. Featuring former members of such popular '60s-influenced garage rockers as the Cutbacks and the Lust-O-Rama, Kwyet Kings began life in 1993 as a sort of garage-rock supergroup, and went on to rule the international garage scene for a couple of years. But when 1995 saw them ditch their organ player and fuzz pedals in favor of a twin-guitar power-pop approach, Western Europe positively trembled with the sound of pissed-off garage fascists stomping their Beatle boots in disapproval.
If anything, such small-minded resistance has only made the Kwyet Kings stronger. Their second full-length release in the power-pop vein, Been Where? Done What?, is an action-packed masterpiece along the lines of the Flamin' Groovies' Shake Some Action or the Real Kids' first album. The '60s influence is obvious in the ringing six- and 12-string guitars and the watertight songcraft, but the band's brash, pull-no-punches attitude is more reminiscent of the cream of the '70s CBGB crop. "You Say" explodes like an early Ramones track, with stuttering Rickenbackers replacing the Ramones' Mosrite roar. The verse of "Lonely Boy" lurches forward with a menacing, peg-legged gait that recalls vintage Lyres, before blossoming into the sort of soaring jingle-jangle chorus that Stiv Bators might've killed for during his postDead Boys, pre-Lords season in the California sun. And then there's the stirring "It's Easy" (a previously unrecorded number given to the band by Barracudas leader Robin Wills), which showcases both Arne Thelin's choked-up singing and the band's ragged surf-style harmonies to great effect.
Out of time? Certainly. Influenced by more than one specific era? It would seem so. Addictive as hell? You betcha. If you're craving power-pop with real power, and you're comfortable with the fact that true rock & roll spirit knows no national or stylistic boundaries, Been Where? Done What? will most definitely cure what ails ya. (Dan Epstein)
SNOOP DOGG No Limit Top Dogg (No Limit)
Listening to "Don't Tell" on Snoop Dogg's latest, one can't help but think about all the trouble ol' Billy Clinton might've saved himself had he just politely asked Monica beforehand, "If I hit this pussy you gon' tell on me? When I get that pussy you gon' tell on me?," as fellow married man Snoop Dogg inquires of his intended object of infidelity throughout this wicked track. But alas, no such luck. While Clinton got shamed before the entire world, Snoop in true gangsta-rap fashion gets even with Miss Blabbermouth and her chatty-ass friends. Aside from a few other female troubles, like "In Love With a Thug," where Snoop chronicles the downslide of a good girl gone to the dogs on account of her yen for rough trade, when it comes right down to it, No Limit Top Dogg ain't nothin' but a gangsta party.
Overall, Snoop's back. After an acrimonious falling-out with his old label boss, the imprisoned Suge Knight of Death Row Records, following his '93 debut, Doggystyle, and the murder of close friend Tupac Shakur, Snoop more or less limped through his subsequent releases, 1996's Tha Dogg-father and '98's Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told. The absence ofDoggystyle producer Dr. Dre on both of those projects didn't help matters. But on this second outing for No Limit Records, with exec producer Master P uncharacteristically quiet at the helm, the Long Beach Crew kingpin rarely skips a beat, and it all picks up where Doggystyle left off. The album features a phat production posse of Snoop's homies in and outside of the LBC, including Dre's stepbrother Warren G., Ant Banks, DJ Quik, Raphael Saadiq, G-1 Jelly Roll and Goldie Loc, all of whom do the job, all right, but it's the welcome return of Dre to Snoop's camp that makes this dog-pound party stand on its hind legs. The Dre-produced "B Please," steeped in classic pipe-organ funk and featuring whiskey-throated Xzibit swappin' licks with Snoop's cool, lazy drawl, is pure urban-rap bliss. Dre also contributes the 40-ounce whack track "Buck 'Em," with Sticky Fingers on the hooks, plus the equally hood-hangin' "Just Dippin'," backed up by the soulful crooning of R&B's Jewell. The foul-mouthed street-corner preacha-man antics of the legendary comedian Dolomite drop-kick the record's opening.
While Top Dogg doesn't yield anything like the sly, laid-back funkiness of "Gin and Juice" from Doggystyle, Snoop delivers a rowdy collection of bass-driven G-funk tracks guaranteed to prick up the ears of any late-night LAPD cruiser. Yet some of these 21 cuts should have never left the recording studio. There are a couple of great tributes to Slick Rick -- "Snoopafella," a Cinderella story in which Snoop copies Rick's flow, and "G Bedtime Stories," which opens with a kid asking "Uncle Snoop" to read him a bedtime story -- but "Down 4 My N's" sounds dated, as does "My Heat Goes Boom," reminiscent of "Still a G Thang." Though Snoop throws a couple of great shout-outs to R&B with smooth slow jams like "Somethin' Bout Yo Bidness" (featuring Raphael Saadiq) and "Doin' Too Much," he falls short with rapper Silkk The Shocker on the empty blandness of "Gangsta Ride."
Snoop quotes Dre on "B Please": "Ain't no limit to this, as long as we drop gangsta shit." How 'bout rephrasing that to "good gangsta shit." Ah, that okay with you, Snoop? (Derrick Mathis)