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Let the Dominoes Fall


Buy if you like: Clash, Ramones

Punk may have the image of being all about youth and rebellion, but sometimes it takes some experienced hands to show how it should be done. That's the case with Rancid, which still has the rebellion and fire that have always fueled its combustible brand of punk and ska. Its first album in six years is among its best efforts, with smart, infectious songwriting on punk anthems like "East Bay Night," "Last One to Die" and "L.A. River," as well as the hook-filled ska songs like "Up To No Good." The band's playing is razor-sharp — perhaps better than it's ever been — and delivers plenty of timely social commentary. And the singing is as rough as ever, continuing to add an essential element of grit while serving as a reminder that Rancid is still one of punk's most honest and battle-tested bands. — Alan Sculley


Johnny Hodges and His Orchestra

Used to be Duke


Buy if you like: John Coltrane, Duke Ellington

Alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, once a pivotal member of Duke Ellington's august orchestra, gathered a stellar set of players in 1954 at a Los Angeles studio under the direction of Norman Granz. Among them was tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, who plays here with enough promise that it's clear he'll be nationally notorious in only a few years. The songs also shine: "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Madam Butterfly," "Autumn in New York," "If You Were Mine" and seven others. There's no doubt greatness is in the air, and even when the overall style is decidedly sophisticated, blood still runs hot. Through it all, Hodges stays suave but ready to blow beautifully at all the right moments. Used to be Duke is a perfect album, one you can listen to at all hours and never be less than thrilled. — Bill Bentley



West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum


Buy if you like: Arctic Monkeys, early Oasis

For Kasabian's third album, the underground Brit pop-inspired act eschews its Stone Roses tendencies for a fresh batch of sounds and styles: the upbeat rocker "Fast Fuse," the playfully acoustic, Fab Fourish "Thick as Thieves," and the introspective album closer "Happiness." But the real game-changer on this CD is the first single, "Fire," which balances its dark, mid-tempo opening with an insidiously devious chorus of cascading vocals washing over lead singer Tom Meighan's nearly indecipherable, against-the-grain lyrics. Add an electronic breakdown mid-section, and this rocker easily gets in your head for weeks. Brit pop may be getting mainstream attention of late, but West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum won't enjoy the same success; instead, equal parts crazy and genius, it will cement Kasabian's underground credibility. — John Benson

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