Louis XIV, with Morgue City

"Derivative" is such a harsh word. You don't hear amusement-park critics running around every day accusing the new roller coaster of lacking originality. Okay, as far as I know there's no such thing as an amusement-park critic, but still, when it comes to thrill rides, as long as your stomach jumps into your mouth, mission accomplished.

I submit that the same goes for rock and roll. Take the new CD by Louis XIV. There's not a chord, a squeal or a 'tude here that hasn't been strummed, voiced or copped somewhere before -- but really, so what, as long as the shit rocks? Vocalist-guitarist Jason Hill manages to sound like he's trying to front T. Rex and the Fall simultaneously, a regular Mark E. Bolan, yeah. The band as a whole shows slicked-up skill and an admirable fidgetiness throughout the disc, shifting gears from the crunchy "Louis XIV" (gotta love a band with a theme song!), to the bubblegum "A Letter to Dominique" to the dirgelike "All the Little Pieces."

"Tasteless" is another favorite blow-off word among critics. Since offhand lyrical spew on Best Little Secrets includes "I'm a weapon of mass destruction" and "I'll tease you with a knife until you're screaming for your life," Louis XIV place itself right in those crosshairs as well. But name, if you please, a "tasteful" recording that made your parents call the school psychologist, the neighbors bang angrily on the ceiling, or any of the other basic functions of rock? Anyone?

So granted, Louis XIV is derivative and tasteless. As demonstrated by lyrics like "I know I'm not correct / But politics is always better when there's sex" and "God save the Kinks / And all the Music From Big Pinks," it's plain that they're even aware of it, perhaps even proud. (Self-consciously and unashamedly derivative and tasteless! Horrors!) This is obviously not music of any real significance, nor is it intended to be. Whether you find it offensive, stupid and worthless or just a bouncy, catchy little shot in the arm is between you and your pastor.

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Scott Faingold