After I got over my debilitating crush, I realized that Tina Fey is actually
the weak link on the only consistently funny bit Saturday Night Live
does these days. At first, her spunk (and those glasses) suggested that
rare commodity -- an attractive, funny comedienne who didn't have to play
second fiddle to the boys. But she's let the attention get to her head.
Too often, she's preachy and self-righteous -- she actually thinks we
want to do something other than laugh along with her at midnight. Which
is why Jimmy Fallon is still worth defending. He's bound to stumble over
that thin line into eternally unfunny Hollywood wannabe eventually, but
for now his utter callowness makes each news update utterly hysterical.
I feel the need to point out how subtle and terrific he is in this role
so that history will record this crucial moment before he turns into a
total schmuck. A-
STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS, LIVE AT THE EL
REY, APRIL 29
More Replacements songs than Pavement songs, and if he wants to, well,
what can we do? Like labelmates Yo La Tengo, Malkmus is Indie, Inc. --
he's mastered the look, sound, and attitude. With nothing to prove, his
solo career has been one long, lazy, lovely victory lap. And the sold-out
crowd did their part, exhibiting the sort of reverence and unquestioned
loyalty usually associated with a Hall-of-Fame induction ceremony. But
the honored guest wasn't interested in nostalgia, even if his recent material
suggests he's destined for the bench while the young phenoms steal his
playing time. But, still, casual command, easy rapport, a tower of melodies.
He shoulda been bigger than Beck. B+
X2: X-MEN UNITED, DIRECTED BY BRYAN SINGER
Diverting, entertaining, fun, a little junky. Singer doesn't have a style
as much as he knows what he likes -- Star Wars, Star Trek II, the
creepy chick from The Ring. You either get impressed that he was
able to make a comic book movie with a little resonance or you shake your
head at how much more meaningful and moving this story really could have
been. Not that anybody cares what you or I think -- it's well on its way
to $200 million. B
RADIOHEAD "THERE THERE"
Nobody does brooding apocalyptic dread as well as these guys -- and so
they do it one more time on this pre-album release. Ever since "OK
Computer" forever changed the world and his place in it, Thom Yorke
has opted mostly for an impressionistic vagueness to his lyrics and singing.
From the clatter of guitars to his mournful moaning, everything works
toward the same goal: starin' hard into the abyss. It's a shame the one-time
greatest band in the universe abandoned the brilliant this-is-your-life-now
snapshots of "OK" for this more abstract artfulness. I mean,
a whole album of this murk can't sustain itself -- did they learn nothing
from "Amnesiac"? But on a case-by-case basis, their songs can
still bring the menace. A-
SEAN PAUL "GET BUSY"
The first three times I heard this radio-ready adrenaline rush, I was
happy that Shaggy was already back with a new single. The next three times,
I realized it wasn't Shaggy but that didn't matter -- who cared
if a human being created this song or not? The next three times, I was
determined to make out the lyrics. Fifty times later, I still couldn't
figure any of it out. And now? I tell myself that Paul's disposable ditty
is actively rotting my brain. But I really want to hear it again. Right
MS. DYNAMITE "A LITTLE DEEPER"
With a name like that and an album title like this, you're forgiven if
you think she's one more R&B hottie only into herself and what she
can do in bed. Turns out she's much more than that. Sure, she should stay
away from reggae and Santana ripoffs. But even when she sings her own
praises on the big hit, "Dy-Na-Mi-Tee," she's nothing but charming.
Not since the Fugees has a female soul singer sounded this confident without
tripping into arrogance. She doesn't write the music or work the boards
and yet she doesn't feel too slick or overproduced. She knows how to sing
her words and sound fresh fresh fresh. Don't ask if it'll last. Enjoy
this one for what it is. B+
ZWAN "MARY STAR OF THE SEA"
Who needs a happy Billy Corgan? B-