The Neptunes Present The Clones
Star Trak Records
Be you Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears or pop punks The High Speed Scene, there's only one hot group of producers right now, and it's The Neptunes (beatsmiths Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo). How exactly they became the Wal-Mart of music manufacturing is a long story beginning in the mid-1990s with lots of hard work and lucky breaks, but nowadays you can hardly scan the FM spectrum without hearing the stripped-down, lurching, minimalist beats of this duo who has now taken a place next to Quincy Jones and Dr. Dre (as recent Coors commercials have impressed upon the masses) in the pantheon of music producers. When the producers become the stars, the artists they produce tend to become, well, clones. And lest you think they aren't aware of it, they titled their album thusly. Clones isn't a great record. Some of the artists they work with seem to find their way home in the understated Neptune beats better than others, and, unsurprisingly, it's the big names: Snoop Dogg, Dirt McGirt (the ol' dirty bastard formerly known as Ol' Dirty Bastard), Williams himself (whose song "Frontin'" is by far the catchiest on the album) and Nelly. With more cameos than a Woody Allen film, the Neptunes have wisely made up for their shortcomings with the likes of Jay-Z, Nas and the like. It's worth it for the sheer phenomenon of it all.
-- Noel Black
Under the Influence
Under the Influence: Morrissey
Under the Influence Records
This fantastic compilation is like a mix-tape directly from Moz himself. Featuring everyone from the New York Dolls to T. Rex, the Ramones, Sparks and Charlie Feathers, you get to peek inside the music behind Morrissey and lollygag around in some of the best nearly forgotten singles of the past 50 years. If that weren't enough, the liner notes are a grabby little musical memoir with lines like: "Only a similar mental anguish could steer the songwriting pen of Ron Mael, who appears to play for Marx-ist laughs, but whose lyrical take on sex cries out like prison cell carvings."
-- Noel Black
What Can You See From Your Place
Five One Inc.
There's something so endearing about a post-punk band from Tokyo whose members not only sing in their native Japanese tongue but also publish the liner notes to their CD in traditional right-to-left Japanese fashion. While most of the international rock scene caters to the English-speaking market, Eastern Youth wend the lilting staccato sounds of their language through the streets of a decidedly American rock sound to take you on a tour of a lovely new soundscape most bands wouldn't risk. Touching translations of the lyrics are printed below the Japanese songs for your pleasure. Not only that, but they're playing at Jack Quinn's, 21 S. Tejon on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. for $8 (and it's all ages). Call 385-0766.
-- Noel Black