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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Incubus, Clipse And More

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2006

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Incubus, “Light Grenades” (Epic) ***

Though each has shown some degree of growth from one to another, Incubus’ albums have been somewhat interchangeable, united by the group’s dynamic sensibility and frontman Brandon Boyd’s vocal cadences. “Light Grenades,” Incubus’ sixth full-length studio outing, follows suit, but because of a lengthy (two years — long for the group) break between albums, it sounds richer and even more carefully crafted — more than just the next logical step forward, in other words. The best case in point is “Dig,” whose ringing guitar start and gentle verses swell into a soaring, anthemic chorus in which Boyd pays tribute to the group’s continuing relationship. That one’ll get the lighters up during concerts; raging tracks such as “A Kiss to Send Us Off,” “Anna Molly,” the jagged rogues and the title song will make sure the heads are still banging. There’s plenty between those extremes, however: the soft-to-loud constructs of “Earth to Bella, Part 1” and “Oil and Water”; the metalized reggae of “Pendulous Threads”; the smooth pop groove of “Diamonds and Coal”; and the trippy arrangement of “Paper Shoes,” which is accented by a martial drum pattern and a subtle keyboard line. Guitarist Mike Einziger remains Incubus’ instrumental hero and master of moods, but that shouldn’t unduly eclipse the rest of the band’s input on what is, if nothing else, another exemplary and ambitious display from this southern California quintet.


Clipse, “Hell Hath No Fury” (Re-Up Gang/Jive) **1/2

So what are Virginia MCs (and brothers) Malice and Pusha T so angry about? Plenty — and particularly label mergers and politics that held up their sophomore and stalled the momentum of their platinum 2002 debut “Lord Willin’.” So, they declare at the start of “Hell ...,” “The pressure’s on” and “reparations are overdue.” At the very least, “Hell ...” is an interesting listen in 2006. Its production, by fellow Virginians the Nep tunes (who also helmed “Lord Willin’ ”) is disarmingly spare and low-fi , marked by carefully deployed keyboards and stiff machine beats. That puts the onus on Malice and Pusha T to carry the flow on these 12 tracks, and they’re mostly up to the task, their intertwined rhymes shining particularly on “Chinese New Year,” “Mama I’m So Sorry” and the albumclosing “Nightmares,” which features guest shots by Bilal and the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams. Their subject matter is a bit broader — less drugs and more women, bling and bits of consciousness — than on “Lord Willin’,” but Clipse still lost some context by having to wait so long between albums.

New and noteworthy:

• Mickey Avalon, “Mickey Avalon” (Shoot to Kill/Interscope) — White boy rap about sex, more sex and genital size. Mind your parental advisory sticker, kiddies. ...

• Paul Brandt, “A Gift”

(Brand-T) — The country singer’s second Christmas album was recorded in the United States, England and his native Canada.

• The Figgs, “Follow the Jean Through the Sea”

(Gern Blandsten) — The 10th album from the New York power pop trio who have toured with Graham Parker and the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson.

• Foo Fighters, “Skin and Bones” (Roswell/RCA) — The DVD edition of the Foos’ new acoustic live album features five additional selections not found on its CD counterpart.

• David Gilmour, “On an Island” (Columbia) — The Pink Floyd guitarist adds a live DVD to his latest solo album.

• Jamiroquai, “High Times: Singles 1992-2006”

(Epic) — Nineteen tracks, including two new ones, form a collection that will indeed “Blow Your Mind” and defi - nitely “Feels Just Like It Should.”

• Our Lady Peace, “Decade” (Columbia) — An overview of the Canadian rockers’ first 10 years, whose greatest success has been north of the border.

• Rachid Taha, “Diwan 2” (Wrasse) — The Algerianborn, French-based singer returns to the North African roots focus of his 1998 “Diwan.”

• Too $hort, “Mack of the Century ... Too $hort’s Greatest Hits” (Jive) — The West Coast rap pioneer’s third release of the year reprises his past glories.

• Ying Yang Twins, “Chemically Imbalanced”

(Collipark/TVT) — The Atlanta siblings’ sixth album was originally to be called “2 Live Crew” — until, we surmise, the duo heard one of their albums.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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