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D:Fuse, Begin (System) Rating: 5
Although he's released half a dozen DJ compilations (many of which I actually own), the only reason I remember D:Fuse at all is because he always wears a cowboy hat on his record covers. Which should probably tell you something about how distinctive and memorable I find his brand of progressive house. But in any event, the cowboy hat is gone for Begin, replaced by a newfound sense of eclecticism. Unlike many house DJs who plunge into solo albums, D:Fuse wisely sticks to his strengths for a large part of the CD, laying down funky beats for tracks like "Deep Seduction" and "Living the Dream". Excursions into the realms of Latin house ("A Light Less Broken"), jazzy broken-beat ("Know It's Late") and trip-hop ("Into Me") are nowhere near as awkward as they could have been. His lyrics are a little trite and his production is somewhat bland, but his heart's in the right place. This is hardly the best album you'll hear all year, but it isn't nearly as bad as it could have been. [Amazon]
The Cat Empire, "Hello" / "How to Explain" [2-track sampler] (EMI Australia) Rating: 2
Oh sweet Jesus. It started with so much promise: ecstatic horns, hand claps, congas, a ticklish keyboard riff. A prelude to ass shaking that lasts a whole 18 seconds. And then? G. Love rapping with the square de-li-ver-y of Vanilla Ice? Line up the body shots and let the frat boys in. Whoever thought of fusing Miami Sound Machine with the Macarena probably uses dollar bills for soap, because the Cat Empire's debut album (from which these two songs are taken) went double-platinum and earned six ARIA nominations in Australia. This Melbourne sextet, which inexplicably got actual Cuban musicians and producer Jerry Boys to work on its new CD Two Shoes, describes itself as a "jazz-soul-hip-hop-Cuban-reggae-gypsy amalgamation". I think "piss in a Mountain Dew bottle" will do just fine.
Christ., Seeing and Doing. (Benbecula) Rating: 6
What do you expect when you hear a band named Christ? Contemporary Christian pop? Gothic sludge? Death metal wankery? All three and then some? Well, perhaps it should ultimately be no surprise that Christ is an electronic act, mixing ambient textures with fuzzy beats and found sounds sprinkled throughout. It's a fine little EP of sorts, but the fact of the matter is in its four short cuts (the fifth track, "Marsh of Epidemics" is a remix of itself on track two), not much ground is covered. It sounds nice, but it feels static. Kind of like a ton of other albums released in the genre. Still, one could do worse, and if you're looking for something to perhaps relax to, or have some nice background music or unobtrusive driving tunes, Seeing and Doing doesn't make for a bad choice. [Amazon]
The Thieves, The White Line EP (Liquor and Poker)
With a fat riff and a slinky vocal The Thieves tear open the lid on their The White Line EP with "You Get It Easy". It's a catchy rock song that aspires to the best that Eddie Money and Rick Springfield ever gave to us. By that I mean it's pretty shallow, vapid, and unimportant. But it's fun to sing-a-long to as long as you don't tak yourself or The Thieves too seriously while you're doing it. This is music to drink and snort lines to and the band knows it. They're aspiring to the throne of success, money, and hella chicks. There isn't a song on The White Line EP that you'll be able to remember once the hangover has worn off. It's fun for about one verse and one chorus, after that it's a quick trip the fast forward button. The White Line EP is an utterly typical and totally forgettable set of songs. Sure, there are county fairs all across this great nation begging for visits from a band like The Thieves. With a little luck they'll find each other. I'll be listening from the beer garden.
Muller and Patton, Muller and Patton (self-released) Rating: 6
Jaye Muller and Ben Patton weave some very sweet melodies over a pop-meets-rock jangle on the pout-tinged opener "I Want My Mommy", which brings to mind the Finn Brothers trying to rock out after listening to The Futureheads. "Marylou" is a slower, ballad-fuelled tune that again brings Neil Finn to the fore with a light but extremely melodic string-laced ditty. By the first 10 minutes you think you're listening basically to one long song, although the jazzy, be bop nature of "We Oughta Work Together" misses the mark initially before veering back to familiar territory. And "Life Preserver" is a bit too cute for its own good but the Beatles-ish beat makes up for it. The same can be said for "Photo of the Future" which sounds like a mellower Ben Folds. "To Be Honest" has that sappy '80 Brat pack film score feel to it -- somber but with a big beefy ending. [Amazon]