Tribe Called Quest's latest is straight out of snoozeville

October 18, 1991|By New York Daily News


A Tribe Called Quest (Jive) Last year, A Tribe Called Quest helped quell rap's long-held lust for lyrical brutality and rhythmic ferocity. Slow and ambient, their hip-hop style (along with De La Soul's), helped forge a more spacey, contemplative approach to the form. So give 'em a nod for originality, but before their album is through, one is more inclined simply to nod off. With repeated listenings, their easygoing sound verges on the narcoleptic. The problem continues this time around, though here the group has done well in one area. Jazz bassist Ron Carter fleshes out the low end of the sound on one track and throughout they've sampled an amazingly rich array of bass lines. Still, the rest of Quest's sound can be so minimal, and their raps so ambivalent, that after you get past the striking aridness of it all, you just feel parched.


House of Freaks (Giant)

Don't let their name confound you. House of Freaks is a thoroughly accessible pop band (a la Crowded House and Smithereens) with just a few rural blues and folk licks tossed in. Their "freaky" credentials come entirely from the unkempt immediacy of their production sound. Despite the fact that "Cakewalk" represents this Richmond, Va., duo's major-label debut, they've made it sound like a total home job.

Bits of yawning, rehearsal sounds, and general horsing around are tossed between each song. The rumpled attitude is fleshed out by low-stress lyrics, which often find our heroes wittily accepting the blindness of everyday life. The real joy of the record, though, is the group's melodic flair. Cuts like "Rocking Chair" and "I Got Happy" should easily win over Beatles fans, while even throwaways like "Hymn" have an unpretentious charm. The result is pure ear candy, served up with Southern hospitality.


Erasure (Warner Bros.)

Pity the poor pop group. Metal outfits can get by on the brutality of their inflection and club-oriented groups can play tricks with production, all to cover for faulty songcraft. But pure pop players live and die by the melody, which, face it, is the hardest thing to craft in popular music. Ask Vince Clarke. The guy may have cooked up lots of great tunes over the last decade with Depeche Mode, Yaz and finally Erasure. But the new outing finds him dry, leaving singer Andy Bell with little do but croon and bear it.

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