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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Black Eyed Peas, Chickenfoot and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, June 7, 2009

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Black Eyed Peas, “The E.N.D.” (Interscope) **1/2

Funny as it seems to say, the Black Eyed Peas have made a new album you can dance to. True, there was plenty of dance floor material on the group’s previous four releases, but “The E.N.D.” — it stands for “The Energy Never Dies,” so don’t read anything cataclysmic into the title — is more fully informed by club music and is filled with techno and electro beats that wouldn’t sound out of place at Detroit’s Movement festival. The 15 tracks on the Peas’ first new album in four years even flow into each other like a smoothly mixed DJ set. But the quartet hasn’t given up its hiphop and pop roots, either, which makes “The E.N.D.” enormously energetic but also occasionally messy and over-reaching within its array of patchwork arrangements and tempo shifts. What will.i.am and company do well, however, is throw so much at you that you barely remember anything that doesn’t work because the next song throws you into an entirely different trip. And though Fergie boasts about “that future boom boom pow” the Peas are channeling in the album’s first single, “The E.N.D.’s” electronic sounds and beats will certainly sound familiar and even old school to dance music aficionados, which means the set is more about disco discovery than finding a new cutting edge. It’s also more fun than not, with “Boom Boom Pow” striding into the sampleladen “Rock That Body” and gang vocals (and a hearty “mazel tov!” on the former) lending “I Gotta Feeling” and “Party All the Time” an infectious, buoyant joy. Fergie and the fellas mix it up about breaking up on “Alive” and “Missing You,” while “Electric City” lets her play with some Indian-style vocals. “One Tribe” pushes social commentary, “Showdown” strikes an anthemic energy and “Out of My Head” brings a truly phat bass line and horns into the mix for some organic urgency. But the songs that don’t work, such as “Imma Be, “Ring-A-Ling” and the rock-styled “Now Generation,” are genuine speed bumps, and there are few tracks that wouldn’t benefit from more judicious editing. But those are flaws detected by close listening; they’ll likely float by those who are dancing, which is what the Peas really want us to do to these songs.


Chickenfoot, “Chickenfoot” (Redline) ***

The hit-and-miss world of supergroups has a winner in this ensemble, a hard-rocking quartet in which Sammy Hagar’s Montrose and Van Halen roots are filtered through Joe Satriani’s carefully toned (but not dumbed) down guitar pyrotechnics and the muscular rhythm section of Van Halen bandmate Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer (and Detroit native) Chad Smith. It’s not all four-on-the-floor, though, as Chickenfoot alternates grooving grinders such as “Soap on a Rope,” “Oh Yeah” and “Turning Left” with the chunky thump of “Runnin’ Out” and the mellower roll of “Learning to Fall” and the epic “Future in the Past.” It sounds like seasoned band rather than a one-off project, and this 11-song set is good enough to make us crave more.

New & Noteworthy:

The Aggrolites, “IV” (Epitaph): The Los Angeles quartet keeps its self-described “dirty reggae” on high boil through these prodigious 21 tracks.

Anti-Flag, “The People or the Gun” (SideOneDummy):

The Pittsburgh punk rockers flee the major label world but stay the charged political course on their seventh full-length album.

The Clarks, “Restless Days” (High Wire/Fontana): The melodic Pittsburgh rock troupe makes another stab at building its regional success into a national following on its first studio album in five years.

Crown of Thorns, “Faith” (Lost Cathedral): The first new album in seven years from the heavy rockers led by Jean Beauvoir (Plastmatics, Disciples of Soul) includes a bonus cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”

Joey DeGraw, “Say Something Strong” (selfreleased): The second album — and first in four years — by Gavin DeGraw’s older brother features guest appearances by Mountain’s Leslie West, Joss Stone and Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron.

Dredg, “The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion” (Ohlone): The San Francisco Bay Area modern rockers roll out their fourth album — and first since 2005.

Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, “hERE aND nOW” (Bar/None): The former dB’s bandmates hook up again, bringing in saxophonist Branford Marsalis as well as the regular dB’s rhythm section.

Richard Jaymes, “Dollar and a Dream” (Shotgun Entertainment): The rookie country singer is making waves with his debut album’s title track, a well-timed rumination on the state of the economy.

J. Dilla, “Jay Stay Paid” (Nature Sounds): The late Detroit hip-hop producer lives on via this 28-song set helmed by his mother and Pete Rock and featuring vocals by the Roots’ Black Thought, Mobb Deep’s Havoc, M.O.P. and Raekwon.

Kasabian, “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum” (RCA): The single “Vlad the Impaler” is already piquing interest in the British rock group’s third album.

Tracy Lawrence, “The Rock” (Rocky Comfort): The country veteran takes an inspirational and spiritual path on his latest project.

Teena Marie, “Congo Square” (Stax): The one-time Motown diva and Rick James protege switches to the other great soul label to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her recording career.

Charlie Mars, “Like a Bird, Like a Plain” (Rockingham/ Thirty Tigers): The singersongwriter from Oxford, Miss. ends a five-year drought between albums and pursues a sexier kind of groove on his fifth fulllengthed album.

Rhett Miller, “Rhett Miller” (Shout! Factory): The Old 97’s frontman formed a band of producer/friends to help him record his fourth solo album.

Mos Def, “The Ecstatic” (Downtown): Kanye West and Madlib are among the producers the Brooklyn MC taps for help on his latest joint.

Placebo, “Battle For the Sun” (Vagrant): The British trio enlisted Tool producer Dave Bottrill to keep things heavy on its sixth album.

Stardeath & White Dwarfs, “The Birth” (Warner Bros.):

Ten tracks of psychedelic-flavored rock make up the debut set from this troupe that formed while crewing for fellow Oklahomans the Flaming Lips.

Steel Panther, “Feel the Steel” (Universal Republic):

The Los Angeles throwback glam metal band gets help from members of Slipknot, Anthrax, the Donnas and the Darkness on its debut outing.

311, “Uplifter” (Volcano/ Jive): The reggae/punk rockers turned to legendary producer Bob Rock for their first album in three years.

Trailer Choir, “Off the Hillbilly Hook” (Show Dog Nashville): The good-humored country trio is already rolling Nashville’s world with its single “Rockin’ the Beer Gut.”

From the Vaults: Paul Van Dyk, “Volume” (Ultra)

New Music DVDs: The Turtles, “My Dinner With Jimi” (Micro Werks); “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music The Director’s Cut” (Warner Home Video)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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