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MUSIC REVIEW

State of the Airwaves

McCartney, Metropol, and Mathers

By Dan Katz

Staff writer

Happy new year to all you crazy kids out there in Airwavesland (which was, of course, on the original plans for Walt Disney World, but they put in Frontierland instead to keep the old folks happy). For some people, IAP will be as psychotically busy as the rest of the year ... for others it’s a bit of a sleeper period. Still, others aren’t even on campus, but they’re not particularly important since they’re probably not reading my column. Rest assured, I’ll be here as always with my news and views on the rock music landscape.

We’ll get the concert listings out of the way briefly, as there’s not much going on this week. If your musical tastes are old school, blues legend Bo Diddley appears at the MFA tonight. If, on the other hand, your musical tastes are old school, Van “Brown Eyed Girl” Morrison plays the Orpheum Friday. Finally, if by some chance your musical tastes are old school, Cheap Trick hits the Paradise Monday night.

Since this issue reaches your hands on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday, my job becomes much easier, since there are no new releases today. But I guess you want to know what came out yesterday, so I shall humbly oblige. Drums & Tuba, which is in fact one of the greatest ideas for a band I’ve ever heard, has a new disc out called Vinyl Killer. They will be promoting with Galactic on the Sno-Core tour. Lunatic Calm, former tourmates of BT, put Metropol on the shelves yesterday. There are a couple of new soundtracks of interest: Traffic, which includes tracks by Fat Boy Slim, Morcheeba, and Kruder & Dorfmeister; and Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, headlined by music from Madonna, Oasis, and Massive Attack.

Hope you rang in the new millennium safely and happily. At the last minute I decided to see if First Night Boston is all it’s cracked up to be, and I was quite satisfied by the fireworks, the atmosphere, and of course, the music. The Angry Salad put on a great set as always, showcasing the instrumental skill and innate charisma that’s not always apparent in their studio efforts. The most intriguing band I got to see was a local quartet called the Upper Crust. Musically, the band’s a dead ringer for AC/DC (which is not as easy to do as it seems), but on top of that, the members of the band dress in 18th-century clothing, speak in character, and perform songs along the lines of “Let Them Eat Rock” and “Eureka! I Have Found Love.” It’s the kind of gimmick that could easily come off as amateur, but these guys have the musical chops and the sense of humor to pull it off. I hope I get to see them again soon.

Just when I was worrying about not having enough to write about, out come the Grammy nominations, my annual cue to be bitter and cynical. But in a surprising turn of events, I’m fairly happy with this year’s nods, especially in the “Album Of The Year” category. The biggest news story is the nomination of Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, a brilliant album hindered by extremely distasteful lyrical content. Despite controversy, this album ended up on most critics’ top ten lists this year (including mine), and there was a lot of question as to whether NARAS would be liberal enough to give Eminem a slot. I feel they made the right choice.

The disc has some tough competition, though, in the form of Radiohead’s deep-but-difficult-to-approach Kid A; Steely Dan’s excellent comeback album, Two Against Nature; Paul Simon’s You’re The One; and, in the most pleasant surprise, Beck’s Midnight Vultures. That record came out at the end of 1999, but falls under the release period for the 2000 Grammy Awards. Props to the voters for remembering it and for giving credit where credit is due.

Other Grammy tidbits: U2, whom I expected to see up for “Album Of The Year,” didn’t get any credit for their new CD, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. However, the leading single, “Beautiful Day” is up for the ceremony’s biggest honor, Record Of The Year, against Macy Gray’s “I Try” and assorted formulaic pop from ‘N Sync, Destiny’s Child, and Madonna. The Academy picked a good year to introduce the Pop Instrumental Album category. The honorees include William Orbit and the debut disc from Blue Man Group. In the strangest nomination of all, the Alternative Music Performance category, traditionally dedicated to modern artists like PJ Harvey and BjÖrk, will see competition this year between Radiohead, Beck, Fiona Apple, The Cure -- and Paul McCartney. Um. Yeah. Okay then.

But who cares what a bunch of recording artists think? What really matters is your opinion, loyal reader, and there’s still time to express it in the 2000 Airwaves Reader Awards. Simply list your favorite albums and singles of the year (you can vote for up to three of each, but you don’t have to) and ship ’em off to <airwaves@the-tech.mit.edu>. The winners will be revealed in a column near the end of the month, and you’ll get to see how your feelings match up against mine (which will probably prove, as usual, that nobody gives a damn what I think).

That’s all I’ve got for you this time around ... until next week, get those votes in and keep expanding your horizons.