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Cat Power -- Bloodhound Gang -- Rollins Band

Cat Power
The Covers Record
Matador

Cat Power (a.k.a. Chan Marshall) has made one of the best albums of the millennium. Perhaps a far-fetched thing to say so soon, particularly since the new millennium hasn't even officially started yet, but it's too late to throw this CD in with last millennium's best-of compilations. Besides, who knows? The Covers Record might still top the list 1,000 years from now.

These tracks, all covers, must have been steeping in this poor girl's aching soul for a long time, because when she sings, beauty and hurt, longing and pain shoot forth so splendidly it's nearly impossible to withhold tears. Maybe it's her singing of things close to you that strikes a chord, or maybe it's just her voice, paired with these sparse piano arrangements and quiet guitars, that renders you blue. Whatever it is, it comes out of the stereo and just hangs in the room like London fog, and you can't look away.

The Bloodhound Gang's "jerk-off rock" caters to guys who take penis-enlarger ads seriously.
The Bloodhound Gang's "jerk-off rock" caters to guys who take penis-enlarger ads seriously.

Cat Power puts emotional weight behind relatively emotionally bereft tracks by the Rolling Stones, Moby Grape, Lou Reed, Nina Simone and Bob Dylan, discovering feelings you never knew existed, or could exist, for that matter. In her hands, Reed's "I Found a Reason" and the Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Wild Is the Wind" take on new lives.

An emotive album such as this, in which so much comes from so little, is certainly rare. Her voice is obviously a gift from God. (Marshall claims not to care for music or even buy records.) It haunts and, at many times, needs no accompaniment. Instruments just get in the way. -- Tim Murrah


Bloodhound Gang
Hooray for Boobies
Geffen

Rollins Band
Get Some Go Again
DreamWorks

Defining masculinity these days is difficult. If you read Susan Faludi's man-child manifesto Stiffed, watch one episode of Comedy Central's The Man Show or even skim through boobs-and-booze mags like Maxim and Gear, you get the idea that it's every man's God-given right to be a complete horndog, a beer-swigging, babe-ogling, fart-lighting jerk-off who mentally never left the frat house -- and who would rather keep it that way. Pop music isn't helping things. Nearly every male performer indulges his cartoonish masculinity: Kid Rock with his fur-collared, white trash, pimp-playa attitude, Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst with his wigger posing and ex-girlfriend revenge tactics, Eminem with his Oedipal complexes.

The Bloodhound Gang is a quintet of lads that also seems content in its frat-boy state of mind. The band's latest album, Hooray for Boobies, truly defines what can be described only as "jerk-off rock." Mixing and matching crunchy guitar riffs with Euro-style synth-pop with club-hopping techno with white-boy hip-hop, the Gang goes beyond Beckian cut-and-paste to create an extremely nutty party gumbo. The boys are pop-cultural idiots savants, regurgitating in their lyrics everything that transfixed them as horny 14-year-olds. The band nods to '80s new-wave relics Falco and Frankie Goes to Hollywood on "Mope" and even finds a way to toss in the theme from the Pac-Man video game.

The Gang's tunes are good for a laugh, but that's all they're good for. (Sample lyric: "Early bird gets the worm / Spread your legs and spread the word / So what if I'm not the smartest peanut in the turd.") They put their tongues in their cheeks so damn much they can't really say anything that's not in smart-ass-ese. Do you honestly think there's some artistic or comedic vision behind tunes such as "I Hope You Die," "Yummy Down on This" or the soon-to-be-TKE-house-classic "A Lap Dance Is So Much Better When the Stripper Is Crying"? Much like the host of The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, a nightly exercise in narcissistic irony, the boys of the Bloodhound Gang practically drown themselves in testosterone-heavy sarcasm. The Gang has to learn there is more to entertainment than just being a bunch of smirking Craig Still-borns.

As the Gang and their ilk dig themselves into a snide, snarky oblivion, Henry Rollins reminds us that it's good to have real men around -- even if no one understands why. Rollins has always been a curio on the alt scene: He is grunge's gentle giant, the kind of guy who could get a club crowd rowdy enough to riot, then stick around afterward to help clean up. Most of the young folk can't figure out how one man can be both anarchic yet morally and socially responsible. But ole Hank has always found a way to pull it off, and he does again on his new album, Get Some Go Again.

For Rollins, there is only one type of song arrangement: loud and boisterous. With backing by the Los Angeles band Mother Superior, Rollins slips into his hard-driving rock-and-blues mode quite easily.

True, Get Some Go Again might not have the rebellious gusto of his earlier solo work or even his underrated DreamWorks debut, 1997's Come In and Burn, but hey, the man's heading toward middle age. The time for being young and angry for no reason is over. Instead, Rollins now finds plenty of reasons to be rightfully pissed off, ripping on the vapid and the clueless ("Change It Up"), plastic surgery ("Thinking Cap") and even pop stars who, in Rollins's words, are just talentless poseurs (hidden track "LA Money Train"). Sure, Rollins might have the wisdom that comes with being, well, old, but he has never let go of his anger.

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