Just Enough Education To Perform

Caught between the swaggering lads and too-clever prettyboys of British guitar rock, Stereophonics can be forgiven a certain defensiveness. The trio (singer-songwriter-guitarist Kelly Jones, his rather less ambitious bassist brother Richard and drummer Stuart Cable) revels in unaffected, unironic tales of the duller classes, and Jones' vocals, especially when compared with the keening falsettos of his contemporaries, indulges a soulful, masculine rasp. From the title down, Stereophonics' third album, Just Enough Education To Perform, bitterly acknowledges just how out-of-fashion their AOR pub-rock can sound. Appropriately enough for a band whose liner notes obsessively detail the construction of each track and fail to include any pictures, the album piles uncomplicated songwriting atop pleasant, slowly chugging melodies that seem to delight in a cruising anonymity. Nothing objectionable, but, apart from the anthemic single ("Have A Nice Day") and the vicious, somewhat deserved tirade against everyone's favorite whipping boy--the music critic ("Mr. Writer")--Stereophonics' tunes betray a same-y, workmanlike approach they're surely proud of. Nobody's suggesting they need more education, but the unreconstructed modern rock trio demands something beyond good intentions. Jay Horton

Stereophonics ply their trade this Thursday at Berbati's Pan. See music listings, page 31.


snap judgments

Carissa's Wierd
You Should Be At Home Here
(Brown Records)

In the liner notes for You Should Be At Home Here, the songs' lyrics are deliberately scratched out, with only titles remaining. Is this CW's seditious declaration that these words live only within the warm sonic embrace of each of these tracks? Lead vocals hide sheepishly behind a heavy drape of strings and a simple high-hat-and-snare rhythm. At times, this sleepy trot swells in moments of exultation, transforming otherwise meditative lullabies into personal anthems.
Russ Meyer

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Sigur Rós
Angels of the Universe

An appropriately gray-skied soundtrack to the Icelandic film about a man slowly drowning in a sea of insanity (oh, joy). The bulk of the album is dedicated to Hilmarsson's moody, minimalist neo-classical score, a collection of short, glacially-paced bits made of minor-key chamber strings and chilly electronics. But the atmospheric rock darlings of Iceland's Sigur Rós are the reason most people will pick up the album; their two cuts are a typical mix of crystalline guitar ambience and angelic boychoir vocals that lull you into a sad trance. All told, one of the worst party albums ever made--except maybe for that midnight tea party with your cracked, drooling psyche. John Graham

Fred Anderson
On the Run, Live at the Velvet Lounge
(Delmark Records)

Now in his 70s, Fred Anderson is still inventing his own personal take on what jazz is and can be. Anderson blows long, lyrical lines of tenor saxophone like fallen leaves floating in autumn air, and the music on this disc is like good haiku--spare, playful and classic. Bassist Tatsu Aoki plucks minimalist hard blues, while Hamid Drake (possibly the most vital drummer playing today) layers complex African polyrhythms and dead-heavy funk. In fact, much of the dynamic between Anderson and Drake recalls vintage Sonny Rollins/Max Roach outings--tough-swinging, sweetly melodic and intensely passionate. Dewey Mahood

A Motion Signal
(Beta-lactam Ring Records)

Strange electronic noises drift in and out with relaxed, somber piano tones. At times quirky electro-rhythms throb and pulse through cosmic washes of mysterious sound. Just when you think you've got a track pegged, it warps out into something quite different. Like Zoviet-France and the more ambient sides of Coil and Nurse With Wound, Stimulus invents music that is both subdued and edgy--and not easy to classify. Rolf Semprebon

The Get Up Kids
(Vagrant Records/ Heroes & Villains)

This compilation of rarities, B-sides, songs from split-singles and compilations and other odds-and-ends may not represent the best of the hot-selling Kansas City emo quintet. But "the best" is hardly the point of such lazy, whipped-out-between-albums records, is it? The point is to get all the well-scrubbed young things who turned the Get Up Kids into bona fide unit-shifters to pony up and complete their collection. Here you'll find the emo-popsters covering such classics as David Bowie, Cure, Pixies, Replacements, New Order and Mötley Crüe. So walk, don't run! Time is not running out! Who wants to wait for the real deal (the GUK plan a new record for early 2002)? Be the first on your block!
Jenny Tatone