The Crystal MethodVegas (Outpost 30003)Like the Chemical...

CD REVIEWS

September 04, 1997|By J.D. Considine

The Crystal Method

Vegas (Outpost 30003)

Like the Chemical Brothers, the Crystal Method's greatest genius isn't rhythmic but textural. In other words, it's not the beats that make "Vegas" worth visiting, but the way those beats are played out. Master mixers Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan have tweaked the components in their electronic arsenal for maximum sonic impact, so the synth sounds are thick and chewy, the drums carry more punch than Holyfield, while the bass dives to bowel-rattling depths. That works to wonderful effect in "Keep Hope Alive," where a dreamy, ambient-style intro is shattered by a snarling synth pulse and burst of percussion, and the booming sub-bass cuts through the mix like a kick in the behind. But as awesome as that track is, "Keep Hope Alive" seems almost prosaic when compared with the aural drama of "Trip Like I Do," which layers a rubber-band synth twang and air-raid siren whines over a loping bass before jacking the beat into techno overdrive, or Busy Child," where the thrumming bass and briskly percolating synths are laid out against house-style vocal samples and an intoxicating, stop-start drum program. No doubt about it - Crystal Method has enough energy and imagination to make "Vegas" a sure thing.

Amy Grant

Behind the Eyes (A&M 31454-0760)

With its bluesy melody and shaggy-dog-story lyrics, "Curious Thing" serves up exactly the sort of bar-band wisdom you'd expect from Sheryl Crow. Except in this case, the chanteuse coming on so worldly and wry is Amy Grant. Granted, it's not the image she usually conveys, but within the context of "Behind the Eyes," it makes perfect sense. Grant may not be a rocker in the usual sense - she's more a crooner than a belter, and prefers finesse to raw power - but she understands the style well enough to be convincing on her own terms. So where another singer might have simply steamrollered through the swamp-rock groover "Takes a Little Time," Grant is content to let the song set its own pace, honoring its quirks instead of trying to bend them to her will. Likewise, there's an ease to the way she approaches "Leave It All Behind" that not only underscores the song's take-it-easy sentiment, but brings out the beauty in its gently modulating melody. That's not to say that Grant has transformed herself completely; there's plenty of predictably safe sentimentality to songs like "I Will Be Your Friend" and "Turn This World Around." But there's enough depth and daring in the likes of "Missing You" to make even nonfans wonder what this new Amy Grant will do next.

Talk Show

"Talk Show" (Atlantic 83040)

If the opening chords to Talk Show's "Ring Twice" sound like something off the last Stone Temple Pilots album, there's a reason - Talk Show is basically just STP with a new singer. Not that former Ten Inch Men frontman Dave Coutts sounds all that different from STP's Scott Weiland; Coutts' voice may be light and high enough to avoid the Eddie Vedder comparisons that dogged Weiland, but his general timbre is edgy enough to fit quite comfortably with what Robert DeLeo, Dean DeLeo and Eric Kretz do and have done. Don't take that to mean that "Talk Show" is all secondhand news, though. However much the album's overall sound might seem of a piece with STP's back catalog, there's enough difference to keep the album from sounding like a retread. "Wash Me Down," for example, is nothing like the old band's stuff, with its dreamy, Hawaiian-style guitar lead and dark, lazy pulse, while the swirling, semi-psychedelic "Mourning Girl" shows off the band's instrumental strengths (especially the muscular melodicism of bassist Dean DeLeo) without falling into any of its old habits. At the same time, though, there's enough of the old power "End of the World" and the jaunty, jangly "Hello Hello" to keep STP fans from thinking that Weiland was the whole band.

Trio

Da Da Da (Mercury Chronicles 314 536 205)

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