If you were of college age during the '90s and thought at all about women's politics, you likely belonged to at least one of three camps: the Ani DiFranco-heads, the Sarah McLachlanites and the Toriphiles. From the then- shockingly sacrilegious twinklings of Under the Pink (1994) to the full-throttle From the Choirgirl Hotel (1998), fans stuck by Tori Amos because, despite the crazy topics and experimentation, she was always Grade A. But then the consistency of her albums started sliding slowly downhill. Her latest, The Beekeeper, is all the more depressing because of her crazy past. What happened to the writhing Cat on a Hot Piano Seat? And how could a song titled "The Power of Orange Knickers" be dull? Even the album's art feels like a Glamour Shot, and not in a fun, ironic way. Granted, there are a few keepers here. "Hootchie Woman" sounds a little like War's "Low Rider," but the general feeling is we're being served Tori-lite.
-- Kara Luger
The problem with a rap group called Living Legends releasing an album called Classic is that it sets the bar for success awfully high. This group needs a pole to vault over its own expectations. To be sure, the Oakland-Los Angeles collective deserves credit for staying away from major labels and issuing their own music, and these guys aren't amateurs. But they are also neither classic nor legendary. Their bland Outkast-meets-West Coast rhymes over G- Funk synthesizers fail to deliver anything noteworthy. They even shun chances for uniqueness. Though many of the band's members give shouts to Maui, Hawaii in the liner notes, the island is never mentioned in the music. Listeners expecting a classic will likely yawn through this album, then feel a strong urge to play Outkast's Stankonia for the real thing.
-- Dan Wilcock
Hot Hot Heat
British Colombia's Hot Hot Heat excel at crafting compact garage-pop songs with a UK-inspired nasal twist. Clocking in at under 40 minutes, these 15 songs are sliced into nifty radio anthems, prepped for the next iPod advertising campaign. Sure, it's catchy stuff, with songs like "Running Out of Time" and "Goodnight Goodnight" containing some of the same infectious spunk that made Two Tone ska records cool back when. But songs like "You Owe Me an IOU" are so middle-of-the-road predictable as to inspire middle- school girls and marketing executives -- teeny bopper music for the mechanized industrial matrix. So Elevator is good for a quick, calorie-free pick- me-up thrill, but a letdown for those looking for long- lasting musical nourishment.
-- Dan Wilcock