Pop Pap - August 24, 2006

Beyonce – Ring the Alarm (Columbia, 2006)

Oooo weeee! Girl is pissed. We don’t see this side of Lady B. very often, but when we do - look out! Raging diva on the loose. Seriously, she’s done an excellent job here of portraying the insanity and paranoia of a broken relationship. The song takes off with a wailing siren and Beyonce shouts so manically she makes her delicate vocal chords sound strained and raw: “I’ll be damned if I see another chick on your arm!”. It’s a classic pop motif: I’ll murder you if you start dating someone else (see the Beatles’ “Run for Your Life.”) The 808 bass bumps aggressively, the handclaps are sassy and mean, the telegraph staccato synth is frantic like it’s got an emergency to report on. The whole aura is drama and desperation, and it only lets up briefly during the bridge section, in which Beyonce seems to have calmed down a bit and realized that she don’t need no man all up her biznitch after all. It’s nice to see that Beyonce isn’t content to rest on her success and play it safe. This is quite edgy, a true step forward for her as an artist, and impressively scary in its feminine rage. (Rating 9.5/10)

The Killers – “When You Were Young” (Island, 2006)

I can’t stand Bruce Springsteen. Sorry, I know that’s a little sacrilege to say in certain circles, but I don’t care. I think he’s a tired old wheezebag. When I read reports about the Killers suddenly developing a Springsteen fetish, I was not impressed. It must be a U2 thing. The U2 influence was clear on the Killers debut, but in more of a “new wave” kind of way. Hot Fuss wasn’t really a subtle record at all - it had some major U2-ish epic qualities to it. On “When You Were Young” they manage to slide right through Springsteen territory right into Meat Loaf city. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s so self-consciously epic and bombastic that it becomes almost humorous. It’s slickly produced, mainstream rock record in mid-80’s MTV style. Brandon Flowers’ voice and lyrics are the only thing a bit Springsteen-esque, all quavery and gravelly. Unfortunately, this record never really rises above average – it thunders by so quickly that nothing especially memorable sticks in the brain. (Rating 6/10) Beck – “Nausea” (Interscope, 2006)

"Aw it's Nausea, rock on!" An echoey vintage drumbox, an acoustic guitar, electro bleeps, finger bells, white-boy rap. Yes, Beck is back and all the usual elements are here. There was a time when Beck was expected to create miracles in stereophonic sound, and indeed he did. He explored his two alter egos to the extreme (Prince on Midnight Vultures, Bob Dylan on Sea Change) and here, while not sounding nearly as experimental, he manages to settle into a cozy niche between the two, as he did on last year’s rather fine Guero LP. The big deal this time is that the new album The Information was produced by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who has worked with Beck on the slower, Dylanesque records - but this time they decided to go upbeat and fun. "Nausea" is classic Beck jangle-pop, simple and catchy, witty and wordy. The new tracks I've heard so far are not neccesarily among his very best compositions, but they show that Beck is still an amazing recording artist – no one since the Beatles and George Martin have used the recording studio as a compositional tool to such stunning effect. The Information will be packaged with a blank cover and come with stickers so you can make your own unique design. How cool is that? More amazing tracks from the new album can be previewed at beck.com. (Rating 7.5/10)

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