Public Enemy (Def Jam/Chaos 53014)
Any act that has ever cracked the charts can cobble together some sort of greatest hits package, but how many can create a credible album out of their misses? Public Enemy, for one. On "Greatest Misses," the group avoids the obvious by resurrecting and remixing such shoulda-been-hits as the funky "Who Stole the Soul" and the driving "You're Gonna Get Yours." Of course, it doesn't hurt that P.E. fleshes out the collection with a half-dozen new tracks, the best of which -- like the Bush-and-Clinton-bashing "Tie Goes to the Runner" or the incumbent-indicting "Hazy Shade of Criminal" -- boast an angry election-year edge.
III SIDES TO EVERY STORY
Extreme (A&M 31454 00006)
Before "More Than Words" catapulted them into the Top 10, Extreme had everything but the audience it deserved -- terrific material a savvy singer, a great guitarist and the funkiest rhythm section in hard rock. So has success spoiled these guys? Not hardly. If anything, "III Sides to Every Story" actually raises the standard set by the band's last album, "Pornograffitti." It helps that the songs are smart and tuneful, running the gamut the gently Beatlesque "Stop the World" to the furiously funky "Politicalamity," to the rip-roaring "Rest in Peace." But the best thing about "III Sides" is that the band never pulls its punches, as if out to prove that it's possible to be a success without wimping out. Sometimes, the best bands really do finish first.
AMUSED TO DEATH
Roger Waters (Columbia 47127)
Is there anybody better at apocalyptic entertainment than Roger Waters? Let's hope not -- after spending 72 minutes listening to him rage over mankind's self-destructive shallowness in "Amused to Death," it's hard to imagine that any of us would want more of the same. To his credit, Waters does pack enough melody into the mix to keep his doomy mutterings listenable, particularly on "What God Wants, Part 1," which is perhaps the catchiest thing he's written since penning "Another Brick in the Wall" for Pink Floyd. But you've really got to wonder about a guy who thinks that making rock videos is the best way to warn the world about the evils of news-as-entertainment.
Sugar (Rykodisc 10239)
What set Husker Du apart from the rest of the post-punk underground in the '80s was the fact that it never let its fondness for melody compromise its brutal sound -- or vice-versa. But even at their best, the Huskers never delivered quite the punch guitarist Bob Mould pulls from his new band, Sugar. Admittedly, it helps that "Copper Blue" boasts some of Mould's most consistent writing, but what ultimately gives this album its edge is the way the band's untrammeled intensity seems to heighten the melodic impact of the material. As such, "Copper Blue" gets better the louder it's played, and that's as true of the jangly "'If I Can't Change Your Mind" or the majestic 'Hoover Dam" as it is of power-rockers like "Changes" and the Pixies-ish "A Good Idea."