People as opiates ... and opiates personified:
THE REISSUE OF GUITARS, CADILLACS ETC. ETC. certainly makes one want to get next to iconic '80s singing cowboy Dwight Yoakam. This Reprise/Rhino release includes Yoakam's 1981 demos, the Guitars, Cadillacs LP, a second disc of music live from LA's Roxy club in 1986 and liner notes by my friend, N.C. native Holly George-Warren. Amongst the many great tracks delivered by the tall drink o' honey tones -- including "I Sang Dixie," "I'll Be Gone" and Maria McKee dueting on "Bury Me" -- is the first demoed tune: "This Drinkin' Will Kill Me." While waiting for him to grace these parts with his tenor again, hustle on down to the Wal-Mart and sample some of Yoakam's apparently tasty Lanky Links in the frozen section.
SHOOTER JENNINGS is of course another retronuevo twang rocker -- who comes by his sound naturally. Waylon's boy may still be working out his niche in the sonic world, but that doesn't make his new Live At Irving Plaza 4.18.06 (Universal South) any less enjoyable. After an intro by Little Steven, Shooter and his .357s hit their stride on "Gone to Carolina" and the uproarious "Busted In Baylor County." Most poignant is "Southern Comfort" -- named not for the Kentucky Bourbon but the Nashville home where Jennings grew up. Outlaw pedigree or not, we all can identify with jonesing for home and simple pleasures -- all the more wistful in such times of uncertainty.
LOVE IS LARGELY THE DRUG on Brothers & Sisters' self-titled disc (Calla Lily) -- although one suspects such self-consciously styled latter-day hippies to partake of assorted sacraments. Texan singer-songwriter Will Courtney delivers slight retreads of country-rock of yore on this uneven disc. Yet it's not without promise -- the proceedings redeemed by the dreamy "Without You" and, above all, closer "Going South." The final song's themes of yearning for the land, identity and cherished memories are universal but gothic drone and twang makes it wonderfully specific. You can provide your own verdict of the Austin group's blend of country and folk-rock when they come to Tremont Music Hall on Nov. 15.
THIS MOMENT IN BLACK HISTORY richly represents the current wave in Cleveland punk rock bands. In the tradition of vintage telly's Ghoulardi and Pere Ubu (as well as the exogamous Bad Brains and Black Flag), TMIBH are hardcore shakin' some shit up. One of the standouts on It Takes A Nation Of Assholes To Hold Us Back (Cold Sweat Records) is "On Tour With Charlie Parker," a vanguard, non-preachy denunciation of drug abuse. The song's a great achievement which simultaneously spotlights the problematic nature of black radical iconicity while giving it dap. And then there's the cover of '80s Clevelander punks Spike In Vain's "God On Drugs."
G-UNIT SOLDIER LLOYD BANKS keeps jonesin' simple and direct on his new Rotten Apple (G Unit/Interscope). "Addicted," on which Musiq Soulchild guests, is the CD's most promising track. And surprisingly -- though boast and bling-ridden -- the addiction Banks refers to is neither sexual nor narcotic but sonic. When Musiq sings in the chorus, "goin' with this kinda music puts me right back on the block," there's an Afrotopian moment in which the damage done by the Crack Wars that begat thug music seems to fleetingly evaporate and Musiq's croon does double-dutch with synth and organ samples, leaping the generation gap to a tempered ideal of black sonic expression.
Bonus track: Depeche Mode have kicked around long enough to release multi-volume Best ofs -- which makes me officially old. These Briton synth-pop pioneers now have junk in their trunk, but the bleak edge of the music collected on The Best of Depeche Mode Vol. 1 (Sire/Reprise/Mute) was a preexisting vibe. To listen to this disc is to be magically transported back to Reagan America/Thatcherite Britain when grunge hadn't made the eyeliner-sporting stars of MTV's 120 Minutes redundant: Rock Hudson was still the putatively straight star of vintage Doris Day celluloid romps, the homeless were just bums and the hardest thing we kinder had ever abused was Coke and Pop Rocks. The darkness DM's Dave Gahan articulated was largely mystifying but accompanied mid-80s teen angst so well. It's stunning (and embarrassing) that I was ever so innocent as to not comprehend what Gahan was singing about on "Master and Servant" (although, with a cult-nat upbringing, the quasi-political allegory rang loud and clear). Hearing these tracks now, that W. Axl Rose should count Depeche Mode amongst his favorites is less shocking than it was to rock geeks of yore.