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CD Reviews: R.E.M., Marilyn Manson, The Delgados

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 14, 2004
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R.E.M. - Around the Sun
6 out of 10

Listening to an R.E.M. album made post-Bill Berry, the drummer who left the band in 1997, is like listening to a Tom Waits record without piano - something just sounds fishy. It's as though the crescendo never happens, like the rough edged rock quirkiness that marked the brilliance of Monster and Automatic for the People has been replaced by constant melancholy and mediocrity.

There's certainly something to be said for the odd softness of Michael Stipe's voice throughout R.E.M.'s latest album Around the Sun. The opening "Leaving New York" swoons across simple piano parts and solidly complimentary drums, giving Stipe's voice a fragile arrogance vacant from their last two albums.

The next four tracks though slip back toward the electronic simplicity of 1998's Up, with synthesizer crackles and the strung out sizzle of television feedback. The center of the album, from tracks "Final Straw" through "Boy in the Well," would be a cohesive EP that uses the guitar to its fullest - "Final Straw" uses a simple Western-drawl chorus and the nasal vocals of Stipe to create a smooth sound of anger. "I Wanted to Be Wrong" has a celestial guitar reminiscent of Beck that adds brevity and beauty to an otherwise lyrically disappointing song.

By the time the twisting pianos and feedback of "High Speed Train" chime in, the album feels panicky and moody - Stipe's voice is shallow and the guitars disappear. It's too bad, because what starts as a compelling melding of folksy sincerity and electronic experimentation becomes an exercise in everything already done before.

- Brannon Larson

Marilyn Manson - Lest We Forget: The Best of
7 out of 10

Marilyn Manson once said that in his world there are those who love him and those who hate him, and no one else really matters. Now that his "farewell album" has been released, Manson's followers and antagonists alike have something to remember him by.

As the album's title denotes, The Best Of is a collection of Marilyn Manson's best songs released over a 10-year period, including tracks from the band's older stuff (post-Spooky Kids days) and their latest stuff.

It's ironic that a purist like Marilyn Manson would include three covers on the album, including Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," the only new track.

Early tracks, like "Get Your Gunn" and "Lunchbox" will make the hardcore fans happy, while their newer, more controversial stuff give you that warm, nostalgic feeling.

Tracks from the band's last two albums, The Golden Age of the Grotesque and from Holy Wood: In the Shadow of the Valley of Death, are decent, but don't compare to tracks from the band's breakthrough album, Antichrist Superstar.

"Sweet Dreams" and "The Beautiful People" helped Manson establish himself in the mainstream, and The Best Of plays to his mainstream fans. While "The Beautiful People" is the Manson anthem, his later singles were often disappointing. "Dope Show" and other tracks should only be featured on a singles anthology and not connected with the word "Best."

Only people without a Manson album would be interested in this offering, and if you don't have one yet, chances are you're never going to get one.

Luckily, you can just keep putting "The Beautiful People" on your mixed CDs.

- Kylee Dawson

The Delgados - Universal Audio
7 out of 10

Universal Audio reads like a trashy romance novel. As hard as you might try to deny it, its allure is overpowering.

The new album by The Delgados is very upbeat and feel-good. There are no sappy love songs or strange attempts at emo. Thank God.

Universal Audio is one of those albums that is so campy it becomes cool.

The Delgados feature both a male singer and a female singer, both of whom have a great sound quality. Very sing-songy/folksy/Dido. Really smooth. Like butta.

There is also an underlying Zero 7 vibe in this music. Sort of like if the lead singer of Zero 7 sang with The Shins with a dash of Frou Frou. Basically, if you were to somehow blend up all of the major bands that were on the "Garden State" soundtrack, you would get The Delgados.

At their best - "I Fought the Angels" and "Now and Forever" - The Delgados mix '80s pop song quality with contemporary electronica.

There is no real bad apple in the bunch, but their weakest song is called "Bits of Bone." It's the Christmas carol "Star of Wonder," only they talk about bits of bone. See, I told you it was campy. But it still manages to be a decent song.

Listen to Universal Audio cover to cover. And like a romance novel, you won't be able to put it down.

- Celeste Meiffren

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