Sonic Youth's 'Dirty' rocks with realism

July 24, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic


Sonic Youth (DGC 24485)

Anyone who thinks Ross Perot's candidacy represented the full range of political disaffection in America today obviously hasn't been listening to Sonic Youth's new album, "Dirty." It isn't just that its songs are angry and edgy, topping dense squalls of guitar noise with snarling, in-your-face lyrics; the real power here stems from the Youth's steely determination, a not-gonna-take-it insistence that adds realism and resonance to every track. And that's as true of the searing social commentary on "Swimsuit Issue" (about sexual harassment) or "Shoot" (about the right to choose) as it is of such pointedly political material as "Chapel Hill" (about Jesse Helms) or "Youth Against Fascism" (about politics as usual).


Marty Stuart (MCA 10596)


Even though it sometimes seems that modernization is pushing country music further and further from its roots, it doesn't have to be that way. For instance, Marty Stuart's "This One's Gonna Hurt You" opens with a song that borrows its basic riff from "I'm a Man," invokes the Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and even includes some rap-style sampling. Yet Stuart uses those tricks not to sneak onto the pop charts, but to transport himself and his fans to hillbilly heaven. And it works, too -- in part because Stuart has as much heart as he has audacity, but mostly because he's able to evoke the length and breadth of true country music, from the moaning pedal steel on "Just Between You and Me" to the lonesome harmonies of "High On a Mountain Top." This one's gonna bowl you over.


Megadeth (Capitol 98531)

Megadeth may not be the only heavy metal band smart enough to cite Nietzsche, as it does in the first song on "Countdown to Extinction," but it is the only band in its field whose sound is ferocious and intelligent enough to accompany such a quote. That's not to say that the songs here are egg-headed and unapproachable, mind. If anything, "Countdown to Extinction" ranks as Megadeth's most accessible album yet, thanks to the textural range exhibited in "Foreclosure of a Dream" and the muscular melodies of tunes like 'Sweating Bullets " and "Psychotron."


Too $hort (Jive 41467)

Contrary to popular belief, Hammer wasn't the rapper who put Oakland, Calif., on the map. Credit for bringing that Oaktown sound into rap really belongs with Too $hort, whose street-savvy rhymes and synth-driven rhythm tracks remain as distinctive on "Shorty the Pimp" as they were on his 1988 debut. It doesn't hurt that his sound hasn't changed much since then -- there's still plenty of gangsta swagger to raps like "In the Trunk" and "I Want To Be Free (That's the Truth)," while the X-rated "Hoes" sums up his none-too-progressive attitude toward women. But no matter what the subject, Too $hort manages to maintain a strong enough sense of humor that even his trashiest talk rarely offends.

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