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CD Reviews: Neko Case, Mix Master mike, Puffy AmiYumi

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
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Neko Case - The Tigers Have Spoken
8 out of 10

Whatever your musical taste is, I can only hope you've heard Neko Case's 2002 album Blacklisted. It's an amazingly modern country/rock album chock-full of melancholy, anguish and heart-breaking guitar sorrow that was recorded, of all places, primarily here in Tucson.

Case, a Virginia native, has a voice born somewhere between Loretta Lynn and Dusty Springfield with a bit of new-age sultriness thrown in for good measure. Neko Case's latest album The Tigers Have Spoken, released on Anti- Records, is a live composite recorded during shows in Toronto and Chicago.

Not one to make anything simple, Case mixes cover tracks - like Lynn's "Rated X" and The Shangri-Las' "Train from Kansas City"- with new and old songs alike. The title track is a 2 1/2-minute comparison of a dwindling relationship with a newly released Tiger in the wild. The back-up band Case generally travels with, the Sadies, adds remarkable complements to her voice throughout the album. The drums are soft when Case begins to swoon and the guitars follow. Every track sounds like a studio recording, as the sound is so tight and forceful that Case's voice has no where to go but right into your heart.

Her distinctive voice - deep, rough and always alluring - carries the album from short song to short song - only two tracks run longer than 3 1/2 minutes. The only setback is that the listener is never really allowed to settle into a song, instigating a little panic when the tracks sound so damn beautiful-most particularly "Soulful Shades of Blue"-you'd like them to last 6 minutes.

If you're tempted at all by this sort of sound, you should run - or just drive - to pick up Blacklisted and The Tigers Have Spoken. This live album should more than satisfy those who've been waiting around listening to old Wilco albums.

- Brannon Larson

Mix Master Mike - Bangzilla
5 out of 10

Mix Master Mike, a name associated with Beastie Boys' release Hello Nasty, is a DJ and yes, he busts some pretty fat beats.

His most recent release, Bangzilla, is not that "new" when you step back and look at the entire history of hip-hop.

I was not very impressed with this album until I realized I had ignored the entertainment value of watching a really good DJ. Mix Master Mike makes scratching look easy but when I confronted a closet DJ acquaintance of mine, he assured me it was anything but. One needs no prior DJ experience to enjoy the frantic fingers and steadfast concentration of a seriously talented turntablist. Too bad Bangzilla isn't a DVD.

On Bangzilla, Mix Master Mike loses some of that intensity, choosing to scratch out a fragmented "When The Music's Over" by The Doors, sample Run DMC's "LSD Lyrics," and include countless other tidbits of sound which ultimately create a mirage of closely knit DJ music that doesn't go beyond the call of duty.

To a fan of scratching, the album has a worn yet comfortable sound that is common within the DJ genre and fits in just like it's supposed to. The album is like an old and familiar loveseat. You know how it feels and how comfortable you are in it, because it has got some good use since you first bought it in 1982. But now it is coming apart at the seems and needs refurbishing. So, if it's time to get a new loveseat, that's your decision, but at least you'll know what to expect from this album.

- Dan Shapiro

Puffy AmiYumi - Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi
2 out of 10

Japan's Puffy Amiyumi are leading the J-pop scene straight into a new level of hell, if that can even be done.

Full of cuteness and ready to share it with all their fans, Puffy Amiyumi are busting into America with an animated series featuring their own music, which is a fruity cocktail made of sappy '60s pop with a hint of talent whispered over a sound that is equal parts Avril Lavigne and The Monkees.

On the opening track of their self-titled album, the stage is set for turning off your stereo. The song "Hi Hi" is an introduction to Puffy Amiyumi, who repeatedly yell, "Hi! Hi! Puffy Amiyumi show!" The song is extremely catchy. You'll find yourself whistling the chorus. I promise.

The next track is "Friends Forever," which has a similar appeal because it is so damn catchy. They hit all the right harmonies so expectedly that you forget about dissonance and originality and let that part of you that is still a 13-year-old girl move you a little. If I wasn't such a stickler for constantly seeking out new music and listening to really weird shit, then I might just find a little nook in my CD holder for something Puffy Amiyumi-ish, but I seriously don't have room.

Before the album gets wholly boring, the song "Joining A Fan Club" steals a guitar riff right from No Doubt's "I'm Just a Girl." Just don't tell No Doubt because they would well, I don't care, tell whoever you want.

If joining a fan club is something you've always wanted to do and enjoy music with three chords and an endless amount of Japanese happy time, this album is irresistible.

America is no match for these two adorable Japanese girls whose musical aspirations consist of looking cute, getting famous, wearing artfully ripped jeans and endorsing as many products as possible. Yeah! If that isn't alternative and hip, I don't know what is.

- Dan Shapiro

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