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Southern Lord
Rust never sleeps and neither does Dave Grohl. He's not only been in the influential bands Nirvana and Foo Fighters, but now he's released this labor-of-love, heavy-metal side project. He wrote the music, played most of the instruments, and recruited some of his favorite boyhood, underground-metal heroes to sing. This is a jarring, high-decibel slugfest which may come as a shock to some Grohl fans. He reportedly couldn't get any major record companies to release it, so he went with indie metal label Southern Lord. The album opens with the ghoulish "Centuries of Sin," featuring Cronos from the band Venom. And so begins a journey of metal mayhem that is sometimes uneven, but also exhilarating in the mystical "The Emerald Law," the Rob Zombie-like "Big Sky," the bashing "Dictatorsaurus" (with Snake of Voivod), the bone-rattling "Shake Your Blood" (with Lemmy of Motorhead screaming, "Rock out -- do it now!"), and the Black Sabbath-inspired "My Tortured Soul," featuring Eric Wagner of Trouble. There also are some political metal tunes such as "Silent Spring" (a cry against the rape of Mother Earth) and "Ice Cold Man." This last song includes some guitar help from Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, but mostly, Grohl lays down all the tracks. It's an astonishing individual effort, and metalheads should appreciate this CD even if some of the singers are no longer at their sharpest.


Paulina Rubio

Universal Music Mexico
Poor Paulina Rubio. She's like the Robbie Williams or, better yet, the Kylie Minogue of Mexico -- an uber-pop star with loads of fervent fans and towering sales in her homeland and yet still flying slightly under the radar in the United States. Well, at least with the mainstream pop market. Rubio's "Paulina," after all, was the top-selling Latin pop album of 2000. Rubio's latest disc, "Pau-latina," is a return to the warm embrace of her dance roots after her splashy English-language debut, 2002's "Border Girl," did modest business but certainly didn't rival the success of fellow crossover stars Shakira and Ricky Martin. Still, "Pau-latina," a pinwheel of staccato electronic blips, drunken Mariachi horn sections, and feverish electric guitars, will thrill the diehards. As usual, Rubio is particularly adept at transforming traditional instruments (accordions, Mexican guitar, etc.) into accomplices in relentlessly catchy pop-rock, especially on "My Friend, Mi Amigo." It's Rubio at her best: lyrics in Spanglish, a machine-gun-fast chorus, and layers of pretty harmonies. She misses the mark with the occasional saccharine ballad and a seriously awry barking-dog sample, but you never doubt Rubio wants the listener to indulge in her guilty pleasures. She giggles through refrains, sings about wanting another shot of tequila, and faux raps in Spanish. Shall we dance? Si!



Blue Cave
After a five-year hiatus, the trio dada returns with a set of previously unreleased tracks that show their range. The group, which had an alt-rock hit with "Dizz Knee Land" in 1992 and put out a number of unappreciated records, took some time off to explore their individual muses, and it sounds like the period of separation has been time well spent. While their name implies otherwise, dada is very much a traditional rock band built upon a foundation of wondrous harmonies, a superior rhythm section of drummer Phil Leavitt and bassist Joie Calio, and the mercurial guitar work of Michael Gurley. Their best songs feature expansive, ambitious arrangements that allow the trio to play off of each other and explore their musical dynamic to the fullest. When they click here as they do on "Guitar Girl," "Blue Girl," and the acute "Love Is a Weird Thing," the results are melodically rewarding and emotionally engaging. dada travels the road of life looking back through a fractured rear-view mirror where love is skewered, events are random and sometimes surreal, and offbeat characters are the norm. It makes for ambiguous yet entertaining listening. The sound here is rougher than their previous works and the songs don't feel as seamless as they would if they were recorded in one session -- they were cut piecemeal over the years. Still, it's good to hear that this band is alive and well. dada plays Harpers Ferry on March 5.



Hellcat Records
Psychobilly, that punked-up blast of rockabilly and surf music doused in B-movie kitsch, may have earned a gloss of respectability when it was celebrated in a Vogue article last fall that included a how-to guide for achieving the sound and the look. But there's still an element of danger to the movement, thanks to the music's high-octane beats and the tattoo-drenched, tough-as-nails demeanor of its devotees. And it's hard to imagine a saucier incarnation of the sound than Danish rockers the HorrorPops. Their debut album can coo with sultry, retro charm and swooning electric guitar, and then kick your teeth in with moments of punk bravado, all carried by the thumping upright bass and tough-dame vocals of front woman Patricia Nekromantix. Her sultry voice teases like Gwen Stefani letting her bad girl run riot over a stray cat strut of bass line on album opener "Julia," while her devilish diva vocals evoke Siouxsie Sioux over a cool ska beat, peppered with tart splinters of guitar during "Girl in a Cage." Misfits-style "woh-ohs" kick off "Where They Wander," which tears open into a furious rocker with a ripping beat, sawing electric guitars and snarling horror movie lyrics, while "Dotted with Hearts" plays with a dreamy "Beauty School Drop-out" style voice-over and tart girl group vocals. A sexy shot of psychobilly that captures the movement's mood as vibrantly as a pin-up girl tattoo.


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