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Current Music Releases

HH1/2 Better than Ezra: Friction, Baby

Better than Ezra, a Boston band at heart, releases a disappointing follow-up to their hit album Deluxe. They explore more mellow songs in this album, making it excellent background music, but it doesn't have any songs with the power of "Good." There are some quality songs on the album - like the radio hit "King of New Orleans" and "Normal Town," (the latter is a song referring to Boston in several parts) - show more funk than Better Than Ezra displayed in their previous album. Coming off their very strong first album, Better than Ezra couldn't repeat. -John J. Rae and Roy Emanuel.

HHHCake: Fashion Nugget

These guys have been getting a lot of press lately. Word of mouth has helped get this band known quickly, and they are already opening for Counting Crows (tonight at the Orpheum, as a matter of fact, 423-NEXT if there are any tickets left). They've got an intense sound, but the words don't reflect that. They define it as "a juggernaut of musical enjoyment, stridently hailing from California's fertile Central Valley, playing high-impact, easy-listening music." I'm not so sure about easy listening, although their cover of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" is definitely not difficult to enjoy. They blame the boredom of the Central Valley for why their lyrics are about "the land where large fuzzy dice still hang proudly like testicles from rear-view mirrors" (from "Race Car Ya Yas"). Their range is pretty good, with some songs hip-hop sounding, some Soul Coughing-ish, and even an upbeat kind of country song ("Stickshifts and Safetybelts"). They prove you can have your Cake and listen to it too. -Joel M. Rosenberg.

HHHH Counting Crows: Recovering the Satellites

Counting Crows returns strong with their follow up to their hit first album August and Everything After. Adam Duritz (lead vocals and songwriter) expands on the mellow sound of the first album with several more up-tempo songs like "Angels of the Silence." It becomes obvious early on in the album that the Counting Crows haven't lost their stuff, with moving songs like "Catapult" and "Miller's Angels." This album is strong all the way through and concludes with probably the Counting Crows best song to date, "A Long December." -J.J.R. and R.E.

HHHH God Lives Underwater: Empty

GLU is very similar stylistically to Gravity Kills but makes more use of keyboards, giving them a strong techno feel. Empty contains re-released tracks from their self-titled debut EP. The best songs are "No More Love" and "Empty," but the other songs lack the same marketability. But if the listener can appreciate the genre, the entire album is satisfying. -J.J.R. and R.E.

HHH Gravity Kills: Gravity Kills

This St. Louis band has an energetic Nine Inch Nails sound. The songs are filled with solid guitars and bass performances, but the keyboards dominate throughout. The vocalist doesn't have a particularly noteworthy voice, but it complements the techno synthesizer riffs well. The band really thrashes on "Blame," "Guilty," and "Enough," but it soon gets repetitive. They successfully slow down on the cut "Here." Overall, it's a very solid performance. -J.J.R. and R.E.

HHH Pearl Jam: WBCN Live Bootleg from San Jose, California 11/4/95

Pearl Jam again displays why it is one of the greatest live bands today. They are as incredible as ever on this two-CD set available only from WBCN as a prize. The two-CD set contains the big hits of Ten and Vs., like "Alive," "Black," "Jeremy," "Animal," "Daughter," and "Dissident," to name a few. The rest of the album contains songs off Vitalogy and No Code. However, as good a live band as Pearl Jam is, this album is a let-down compared to the first Pearl Jam Bootleg released a couple years ago by WBCN. It is composed mostly of the same songs, played with very little originality - even the song changes they employed in the last album are the same. Also disappointing was the absence of "Yellow Ledbetter," one of the best songs of the 1990s. -J.J.R. and R.E.

HHHH The Refreshments: Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big, and Buzzy

The Refreshments are excellent in this album. They have a south of the border pop style that might be called "salsa pop." The songs are funny in their meanings but have an extremely catchy beat. This album contains radio pop songs like "Banditos," humorous songs like "Blue Collar Suicide" and "European Swallow," and overpowering songs like "Mekong." This is a must for any alternative junkie or anyone else who is a sucker for catchy, fun music. The Refreshments are coming to Boston sometime soon, and if their show is half as good as the album, it is definitely a must see. -J.J.R. and R.E.

HHH Weezer: Pinkerton

Weezer is the kind of band you listen to and want to see live. They sound like a garage band who just happen to be on a major label, which is part of their appeal. That and the fact that their tunes are fun, hummable, and pretty rocking. They're best known for their Happy Days cameo from their video "Buddy Holly," off of their self-titled first album (Geffen). The new album has something to please everyone from Richie ("Why Bother?" which is about getting dumped repeatedly) to the Fonz ("Tired of Sex," no explanation needed). The album is worth getting, and if you're going to be here the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (11/26) check them out at Avalon (Ticketmaster, 931-2000). -J.M.R.

HHHH Rusted Root: Remember

It's not often that Eastern music is readily recognizable on Western rock albums. The first track of Rusted Root's new album Remember takes care of that. It's a really nice sound that isn't used much and is complemented well by lead singer Michael Glabicki's full voice, which vibrates and hits falsettos like Dave Matthews', with whom Root has toured. Their music is filled with various percussion instruments, the almost always neglected banjo and mandolin, and complex harmonies. Even at faster tempos they still sound relaxed, and it makes for good music to just put on and hang out to. They'll be coming around Dec. 7 at the Orpheum. Tickets are available from 423-NEXT. -J.M.R.

HH1/2Sublime: Sublime

Sublime makes their major label debut with a self-titled third album. Unfortunately, they won't be putting out any more albums since the lead singer Brad Nowell died of a heroin overdose last May. It's too bad, because this punk/ska band burns through "Wrong Way," "Same in The End," and "What I Got," a PotUSA "Peaches" sound-alike radio favorite as of late. Some of the songs sound like Bob Marley with angst, like "The Ballad of Johnny Butt." "Under My Voodoo" starts with pseudo-Hendrix electric before moving into a pop beat. And the album's closer "Doin' Time" could be off a hip-hop album, quoting Janis Joplin to a vibes background. There is enough variety to keep you interested throughout the entire album and thinking about what their future albums might have been. There's more than just the top-40 hits to hear on this one.-J.M.R.

HH1/2 Various Artists: Safe and Sound

On Dec. 30, 1994, two women were shot and killed while working at health care clinics in Brookline. In response, there was a week-long series of concerts last February called Safe and Sound. Kay Hanley from Letters To Cleo suggested continuing the cause with an album, and here it is, an impressive bunch of Boston indie bands. Playing previously unreleased material, the bands include Letters, Morphine, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Aimee Mann, Juliana Hatfield, Belly, Tracy Bonham, Deluxx Fold Implosion, Jennifer Trynin, Gigolo Aunts, Mary Lou Lord, Scarce, Fuzzy, Kevin Salem, Mung, and Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom. The songs sound heartfelt, like they really are playing for a cause. Regardless of political agendas, the album is a great sampler of local bands. The fact that it is for a good cause should just be another reason to get it. -J.M.R.