But both men have one thing in common: They're defined by their passion for history -- Brown's desire to preserve it (he thinks rock ended with Hendrix) and Burnside's desire to burn it to the ground (he thinks rock started with Jon Spencer). In the end, the only difference between them is that Junior plays for the Lord, while R.L. shares a stage with the devil.

Long Walk Back is Brown's fourth album, and it sounds not so different from its predecessors -- it's another waltz across Texas, or, in this case, a "Long Walk Back to San Antone" with a side trip to Memphis via Hawaii. The man hates to be known as a novelty, but Brown's just this side of it without turning into a party favor: He turns Elvis's old hit "Rock-A-Hula Baby" into a clambake throwdown, and spends a good hunk of the album doing that honky-tonk rave-up shtick that made him a hero to purists and gearheads.

Perhaps it's better if he not stray too far from the surf-and-turf buffet. The hokey ballad "Read 'Em and Weep" is like finding a fingernail in a chocolate sundae, and the Hendrix rip (complete with former Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell) "Keepin' Up with You" can't hold its own with the original. Plus, the extended closer, "Stupid Blues," is more silly pastiche than serious passion. Junior's one hell of a player, but too often he lets his technique do all the work.

Brown plays it straight compared to Burnside, who wreaks havoc on history, hooking up with the likes of Jon Spencer (on 1996's A Ass Pocket of Whiskey). Now, he's paired up with Beck producer Tom Rothrock on Come On In to create a mostly wacked-out punk/blues/ dance/dub hybrid that's either the future of the blues or the death of tradition. Rothrock picks up where Spencer left off, reducing Burnside to scenery while the white boy messes with all manner of keyboards and programmed drums. Rothrock might as well have sampled Burnside rather than waste the real thing's time. The result is inspiring enough in spots -- "Let My Baby Ride" roars, then explodes -- but the album could use more of Burnside's howl-and-holler and less of Rothrock's synthetic stomp.

By the time it gets to the jittery Alec English remix that closes the release -- which has Burnside muttering something about how "my dick used to get so hard ... I used to have to hold it down to keep from sticking it in my nose" -- you'll wonder whether the whole thing's a sick joke, or just sickening. (Long Walk Back, ** 1/2; Come On In, *** 1/2) -- Robert Wilonsky

Josh Wink

The underground's electronically entitled argue that it takes a certain mindset to adequately savor and digest the robo-aesthetic enigma that is the modern DJ revolution (err, evolution). If that's so, then HEREHEAR is the tech-head equivalent of a junk-food binge.

This major-label debut from Philadelphia-based square peg Josh Wink is a cold, calculated, impenetrable melange of electro-exotic peaks and valleys, rapid-fire beats and loopty-dopey sampled esoterica. Elements of house music, techno, jungle, drum 'n' bass and noise collide abruptly and with little memorable consequence, let alone any emotional resonance. Even cameos from Trent Reznor and Philly compadres the Interpreters can't sensitize this mechanized mottle.

If Wink's idea was to capture the bloodless, detached essence of our digitized global community, he succeeds uniformly on HEREHEAR. Take away the chilling cover graphics and all the pre-release hype, and most of the album is as uninspiring as modem static. (*)

-- Hobart Rowland

Press Ratings
***** Historic
**** Great
*** Worthy
** So-so
* Lame

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