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
Instead, fame’s given Eminem more to worry about than his fellow playground snot-noses: Now he’s a scapegoat for the ills of American society. At least that’s how he sees it on The Marshall Mathers LP, and in song after song he refuses, commendably if disingenuously, to take the fall (“Don’t blame me if little Eric jumps off the terrace/You should’ve been watching him/Apparently you ain’t parents” he scolds on “Who Knew”). The rapper belittles hostile media and demanding fans with his best Mystikal growl on “The Way I Am.” But before you can enjoy his smart-ass reality checks too much, he’s gotta kick the harrowing shit. He invites his protégés in the Dirty Dozen to impersonate a psycho (“Amityville”) and rhapsodize over their drugs of choice (on the clunker “Under the Influence,” which serves as a handy A.A. commercial). Eminem may be on a mission from God to piss people off, but he also wants to have it both ways: There’s one word he won’t use (hint: It starts with an n); meanwhile, the vicious threats of “Kill You” end with the equivalent of “and then I woke up.” Things don’t turn really ugly, though, until he starts impersonating a man murdering his unfaithful wife — punctuated by the victim’s pitiful pleading and terror-filled screams. “Kim” (named after his wife) forms a sort of prequel to the Slim Shady cut “’97 Bonnie & Clyde.” But while that song was darkly comic and inventive, “Kim” is just plain unlistenable. The issue of violence against women is moot: If it were Missy Elliott wreaking revenge-fantasy havoc on an unfaithful boyfriend, it’d still be reprehensible.
Not that Eminem’s lost his touch — one listen to the ubiquitous anthem “The Real Slim Shady” should convince you of that, as will the ironic “Criminal” and the bluntly sentimental, 45 King–produced “Stan.” It just isn’t as much fun this time around, no matter how fresh Dre’s beats are or how many worthy targets get shot down along with the innocent. (Jackie McCarthy)
DOLLY VARDEN The Dumbest Magnets (Evil Teen)
Loath as I am to admit liking anything that emanates from Nashville (a dreadful place that brings out the worst in almost everyone), Chicago’s Dolly Varden has beaten the odds and fashioned a first-rate disc that skillfully avoids the usual “alt-country” pitfalls by having substantial songs and people to sing them (the husband-wife team of Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen, formerly of regional alt-country faves Stump the Host). Beginning with “Apple Doll,” a gorgeous tune that revels in understated simplicity — beautifully arranged guitars, glockenspiel and marimba, and close spousal harmonies — The Dumbest Magnets is a delicately produced gem that has nothing to do with any of the current alt-country rubbish. “The Thing You Love Is Killing You” offers a sweet Gram Parsons–Emmylou Harris blend and seems to reflect the band’s sentiments about the business of music (i.e., years of failed negotiations with a number of major labels). Still, it’s reassuring that anyone can turn such a miserable experience into such an unassuming and guileless tune. Elsewhere, the title track adds ethereal Mellotron string parts, “Some Sequined Angel” recalls the spirit (and guitar work) of Richard and Linda Thompson, and the buoyant rocker “I Come to You” has a Hollies lilt. In particular, special kudos to Mark Balletto for stellar and inventive guitar playing throughout.
The third release from Dolly Varden (the name refers to a spotted Northwest trout, a character from Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge or a bad play on one of our favorite country singers) shows another major step forward. Who knows, maybe all the major-label snafus were for the best. (Michael Lipton)KOTTONMOUTH KINGS High Society (Capitol)As the band name implies, Kottonmouth Kings are the most cannabis-worshiping band of all time, and 20 tracks singing the praises of THC sounds like it might hassle even Bob Marley’s buzz. The good news is that while High Society may have a few stems and seeds, that’s still no reason to dismiss Orange County’s illest.
Like a cross between Insane Clown Posse and Kid Rock, High Society almost never varies from that heady morass of bass, synth and guitar lazily mushed together. Thudding kick drum and crispy snare are usually a good thing, but Kottonmouth need to bring in a few embellishments besides those ’80s synth squiggles. “Face Facts” changes up the mix some, but those two-tone reggae keyboards and steel-drum ricochets are as irie as the Kings be gettin’. The only time these Fubu-wearing snowballs lose their sense of humor is on “Anarchy Through Capitolism,” a rather ass-kissy nod to their label, Capitol Records (marketable rebellion is one of those ideas that makes beautiful sense when you’re baked). “King’s Blend” would be cool if it weren’t such a public-service announcement: “King’s blend, taster’s choice/I know you’re real high when you hear my voice.” We know, it’s not dope you put in a pipe, it’s dope for your eardrums blah, blah, blah. Rounding out these weed-friendly anthems is “Coffee Shop,” a colorful ode to Amsterdam, the stoner’s paradise and K.K.’s second home.
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