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  CONSUMABLES: SONIC YOUTH, ICE CUBE, YO LA TENGO, A MIGHTY WIND & MORE.  
   
   
   
 

 

SONIC YOUTH "DIRTY (DELUXE EDITION)"
Stupid, it's not called "Dirty" because of its sound. This was the Youth's sexiest, naughtiest, angriest, grittiest record -- it's dirty thematically. Butch Vig came on board to give it the "Nevermind" breakthrough feel, but all it did was open up Thurston Moore's politics, provoke Kim Gordon's best songs, and ensure that Lee Ranaldo's beautiful guitar-scorching ballad would shine through. For an 11-year-old album, its timing couldn't be more perfect. "Youth Against Fascism" is a better piece of anti-war indictment than anything we got this time around. ("And, yeah, the president sucks/He's a war-pig fuck" was about the last Bush, but, really, it's still applicable.) This band was too arty and cool to make a perfect album -- that sort of ambition is for uptight squares. So, yes, this two-disc retrospective comes complete with lots of B-sides, outtakes, crap. But just like everybody from R.E.M. to Pavement, opening up didn't mean selling out. They were obscure and learning before "Dirty," experimental and obscure afterward. This finds them at their peak. A-

YO LA TENGO "SUMMER SUN"
"And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out" was such a great album of devoted married love that I was convinced I should consider popping the question myself. This new one doesn't have such an effect because it's too much like the last one -- still gorgeous, still intimate, still personal as hell, a little redundant. But that doesn't mean that these indie lifers doesn't know what they're doing. They've given up rocking out, but they're learning to groove and get busy in a middle-aged kinda way. A great argument for loving the one you're with and never leaving your apartment. A-

ICE CUBE "AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED"
If I was 20, black, rich, famous, with a paranoid streak down my back and across the street, and had something to prove, yeah, my hip-hop album might have sounded a lot like this. But that wouldn't make it brilliant. Reissued with "Kill at Will" by its side, it's a piece of history like "Straight Outta Compton" is -- dark, foreboding, glaring, bullying anyone in its vicinity. And also like "Compton," time hasn't been altogether kind to it. Get past the then-start-of-the-art sonics, and Cube's tough-guy act has very little depth. He's a mean woman-hater, but why? Society, of course, meaning us white folks. This came out the same year as "Fear of a Black Planet," which is looking more and more brilliant with each passing era. Meanwhile, Cube just proves that having the Bomb Squad watch your back doesn't automatically guarantee visionary anything. B

THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST, DIRECTED BY AKI KAURISMAKI
Deadpan is fine. Subtle is fine. Even quirky is OK. Put 'em all together, though, and you've got a slight little movie people might confuse with genius. When we've been blessed with films like Y Tu Mama Tambien, City of God, Talk to Her, and Yi Yi that are bold, challenging, and involving, why does the foreign-language branch need to waste our time with mediocrity like this? B

A MIGHTY WIND, DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER GUEST
Familiarity sets in -- maybe even a little self-satisfaction. The set pieces aren't as great, the characters not as original. What we get are a series of chuckles. Bob Balaban is quite fine, though. And Mitch & Mickey's "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" is right up there with Keith Carradine's "Easy" from Nashville -- great film music that both distills the character of its singer and perfectly embodies the tone of its genre. And let's leave it at that. B

NICK HORNBY, SONGBOOK
As a music critic, Hornby has that rare ability to almost always be completely wrong while still being engaging, provocative, insightful. This collection-of-essays disguised as pop musings is more of the same. His unwillingness to separate autobiography from analysis is going to irk people who never think about their record collections this deeply, but he gets to the heart of what individual songs do to us. And like any music nut, his tastes keep teasing us, daring us to figure out the man behind all those opinions. Although I usually have nothing to do with loudmouths who can't access Dylan, a human being who can actually make me think about the J. Geils Band in 2003 deserves some slack for his sometimes indulgent (and just plain wrong) ramblings. B+

THE SIMPSONS, SUNDAYS ON FOX
Matt Groening's greatest achievement has been pronounced dead as many times as rock 'n' roll has. And even though the show still displays a little kick now and then, its agreeable complacency is pretty discouraging. Where episodes used to have bite, a clear agenda, and laughs, now we have shtick. And endless congratulatory self-reflexive asides to earlier, better seasons. And needless cameos. Do I still watch every week? Of course, it's a beacon for my generation. But even the soft spot in my heart knows I'm overrating its mild charms these days. B-

 

 
 

GOOD THINGS.

GREIL MARCUS, "REAL LIFE ROCK TOP 10" AT CITY PAGES, APRIL 9.
All of us annoyed to pay for content on the Web but hopelessly addicted to our favorite columnists were in a bind yet again: What to do about Salon's further squeezing of their best writers? In the case of this great music and culture critic, the answer is a very happy Don't Worry. Fans of Marcus -- who adore his sober, still-interested eye for everything out there in the universe -- are pleased to report that his essential column has found a new home on this Twin Cities website. His inaugural piece might as well have been called Greil For Dummies -- comments on Randy Newman, Bob Dylan, and leftist politics. And, of course, each one is perfect. And, of course, left-field references without warning -- A.R.E. Weapons dance with Six Feet Under's Claire, the Raveonettes make film noir. Even when I don't know what the hell he's talking about, I luv him. A-

 

BAD THINGS.

THE IN-LAWS (TRAILER)
When exactly did Albert Brooks start looking like Vicki Lawrence from Mama? C-

KID ROCK FEATURING SHERYL CROW "PICTURE"
Formerly amusing curiosities, now they're both merely worthless wastes of space -- celebrities because of their ability to be in enough of the right places enough of the time. So they did a song together. Since it's omnipresent on radio -- Top 40, country, adult contemporary -- it's not like I can get away from it. But I'll be damned if I could tell you the first thing about it. The epitome of the sort of pleasantly boring music that makes up the background of our daily lives. B-

 
 

 

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CONSUMABLES FOR APRIL 22: CABARET, WHITE STRIPES, FUTURAMA, SPOON AND MORE.

 

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Tim Grierson is an editor of The Simon, a weekly online publication of culture, politics, and humor.