With Original Soundtracks 1, a collection of 14 compositions for independent movies (and one performance piece), U2 takes on the new challenge of interpreting the moods, themes and textures of the visual medium into music. Eno, who's done this sort of thing for decades, plays a defining role. Tracks such as "United Colours" and "One Minute Warning," with their electronic pulsations and organic atmospherics, clearly fall onto his ambient/techno terrain. Even tracks more recognizably U2's are enriched by collaboration: the hilarious "Elvis Ate America" is even more absurd with Howie B's scratching and vocal calls, and the touching "Miss Sarajevo" is made infinitely more profound by Luciano Pavarotti's tenor. Passengers is more likely an inspired tangent than an indication of U2's direction, but it adds to the band's impressive -- and constantly progressive -- body of work.

-- Roni Sarig

Ann Magnuson
The Luv Show

Ann Magnuson is a singer, songwriter, performance artist, journalist, and TV and movie actress, and she likes to get naked. She's naked in a drawing on the CD cover, naked in gauze on the back and naked with a guitar on the sleeve foldout. It's part of her shtick -- small-town girl seeks big-time dreams in Hollywood -- and the shtick's screenplay is The Luv Show, a concept album that's also the soundtrack to a movie that's been filmed a thousand times.

Magnuson's been circling this project for years with one-woman shows, spoken word performances and four albums as one-half of Bongwater, and it's a thing of exquisite beauty. Magnuson's plot flits her back and forth between cock rock ("Miss Pussy Pants") and cocktail schmaltz ("Sex with the Devil"), operatic trills ("I Remember You") and spoken monologues ("Man with No Face"), and she handles the curves with the grace of a natural born child of the cabaret. Producer Don Fleming does an extraordinary job maintaining the flow of a big, goofy, bombastic, nudge-and-a-wink sound, and a huge cast of New York and L.A. musicians peg the essence of every episodic tune, whether it's the surf rock of "It's a Great Feeling" or the Zeppelinesque folk of "Dead Moth."

What holds it all together as much as the production, though, is Magnuson's completely screwed-up sensibility. She's a satirist, sure, and a mystic, a careerist bitch, a good person making bad decisions, a swinger and a vengeful ex with a knife. As a storyteller, she's pretty well anyone she feels like being, and if she looks -- from the neck up anyway -- like Shirley MacLaine's spitting image, maybe that makes some sort of multiple personality sense. Hell, she even squeezes in an L7-meets-Quarterflash stomp and calls it "Manipulative Kennedy-esque Celebrity Fucker," which, you may have noticed, not just anyone can convincingly do. Magnuson is an exhibitionist of the first order, and if her charming body makes for an attractive package, the tweaked-out brain of the disc is where the action is.

-- Brad Tyer

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