Thieves Like Us 

Stalking classic rock with the Charlatans UK

Wednesday, Dec 22 1999

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It was tempting to dismiss the sultry trumpets and hot tenor sax on ‘95’s Surrealistic Madness as simply trying too hard, and unfortunately Candiria still seem like dabblers on Process, attempting to be all things to all people. While freeform jazz interludes like ”Work in Progress“ stand on their own outside the context of the band‘s choppy metallic crunch, the horn players are guest musicians, not anyone in Candiria. The comprehensive list of name-brand blowers and legends on the insert is suspect, too -- are they saying, ”We’re not just hard-rock morons, we appreciate serious music like jazz, too“? They also make a big to-do about how no samples are used on the hip-hop track ”Method of Expression,“ but so what? The tune is boring. Too spastic for anything as humdrum as verse-chorus-verse structures, the songs‘ nonrepeating lyrics are divided into multiple chapters, but these are really just arbitrary pauses where Carley Coma can draw another lungful and continue his paranoid, apoplectic rants on everything from germ warfare (”Mathematics“), to political corruption (”Three Times Again“), to general malaise and putrefaction (”Temple of Sickness“). The lyric sheet is cryptic enough, while aurally it’s so much word salad, but Coma‘s warm, growly voice is music all by itself.

Candiria is unprolific by industry standards, creates unformattable songs, and has a lackadaisical approach to touring and an altogether too-protean aesthetic, all of which seems like self-sabotage. Yes, they are extreme, but it doesn’t translate into murderous pagan recidivism, ear-bleeding volume or even shock theater. Even so, this is some basically dope hardcore with accomplished jazz snippets to help lessen the riff-intensive monotony. That in itself is worthy. (Andrew Lentz)

Q-TipAmplified (Arista)

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In transforming from beatnik to beefcake, Q-Tip‘s risking a path that’s doomed many an MC before him. Big Daddy Kane never recovered from his silk-and-satin days as the Prince of Darkness, and while the ladies adore Cool James, LL Cool J‘s ruffneck audience has shown little patience for his butter-soft rap ballads ever since his insipid ”I Need Love.“ But unlike Kane or LL, Q-Tip never sought to be larger than life as the leader of A Tribe Called Quest. A slick hepcat among vainglorious superstars, Tip generated (sex) appeal by being both meditative and accessible, offering the mind of a poet with the baby-faced charm of a high school crush. Now that he’s dumped his boho past for a future directed by Hype Williams, it‘s tempting to dismiss Q-Tip as another stargazing hopeful, but with Amplified his talents smooth the transition from everyman’s intellectual to thinking man‘s pop icon.

Have no illusions -- forlorn Tribe fans waiting for the return of the Abstract Poet are urged to abandon their hopes now. However, for a pop album, Amplified is a damn smart one, expertly efficient at only 12 songs long, and boasting much of the infectious energy shown on the hit single ”Vivrant Thing.“ Q-Tip and Ummah partner Jay Dee lace the album with floating bubbles of rhythm and melody that burst open in a stuttering shower of soapy funk. It’s far more mechanical than Tribe‘s organic vibe, but the Ummah still know how to milk a sample -- witness the honeyed guitar loop on ”Let’s Ride“ and the slamming key chords on ”Higher.“ As for Tip himself, his key rhyme sensibilities -- clever phrasings, a slippery, soothing flow -- are still in effect, though he‘s traded in his abstract poetics for simpler fare: braggadocio (”Wait Up“), party joints (”Breathe and Stop“), songs for your girl (”Things U Do“), etc. He’s also not above some duds -- ”Go Hard“ and the rock-rap mishmash ”End of Time“ (a collaboration with Korn) conform to all the worst hip-pop cliches of dull studio beats and lazy lyrics.

Moments like this make it difficult to wholeheartedly embrace Tip‘s rebirth, but as a solo debut, Amplified is more auspicious than uneven. Q-Tip’s new path of rhythm earns its share of both skepticism and admiration as he tries to find a groove in the post-Tribe era. (Oliver Wang)

DEBORAH HOLLANDBook of Survival (Gadfly)

In 1994, L.A. singer-songwriter Deborah Holland released a remarkable album called Freudian Slip with the help of Sting manager and music mogul Miles Copeland. The mainstream had already gotten a glimpse of Holland as the vocalist with Animal Logic, drummer Stewart Copeland‘s ill-fated attempt to create another Police with bassist Stanley Clarke. When Freudian Slip was released, it went nowhere fast, and the fact that the cover depicted a very pregnant Holland lounging around smoking a cigar met with resistance from the label, which was probably planning to take the femme fatale approach in trying to sell the album. But the record showcased Holland’s knack for composing a seemingly endless number of mesmerizing hooks.

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