R.E.M., "Accelerate" (Warner Bros.)
Michael Stipe and the boys may well have tapped into a supply of Red Bull and Viagra cocktails while recording their latest release. Down to three original band members and considerably older, R.E.M. pulls off the most fiery rock album since their youth. From the opening cut, "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" to the title track, the sound is reminiscent of a time before the jangling mandolin of "Losing My Religion" hit pop radio and "Monster" tried too hard with overzealous reverb. This time around the guitars are gritty, the drums crash in perfect time and the same raw energy that pushed every exhausting line of "It's the End of the World" to completion drives each track on the disc. A moment of rest comes with "Until the Day Is Done" with its wandering melody and lament of a country in ruin, but it isn't long before the jarring "Horse to Water" kicks things back into overdrive. This is the sound that R.E.M. once used to blow through college arenas around the country.
-- Hilary Langford
B-52s, "Funplex" (Astralwerks)
It goes without saying that the B-52s live in their own cosmic realm, sporting '60s beehives and day-glo outfits into the 21st century. Aptly named "Funplex," their first disc in 16 years pulls us right back into a carefree, glitter-encrusted wonderland where rock lobsters roam and love shacks shake. With quick licks and steady drum kicks, "Pump" and "Hot Corner" dig back into the quartet's early years, embracing a crime-jazz meets surf-rock feel. All the while, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson harmonize like two golden-throated teenagers amid Fred Schneider's intermittent yelps and deadpan repetition of snarky lyrics, marking these tracks as 100 percent prime-grade B-52. "Eyes Wide Open" does chart new territory, toying with deeper house beats and begging to be the party track of the summer. Once again, the kitschy Georgians take us out of this world and the ride is wild. H.L.
The B-52s play The National Sunday, April 27, with special guests Eagle Seagull at 7 p.m. Tickets are $37.50. 612-1900 or www.thenationalva.com.
Chris Cagle, "My Life's Been a Country Song" (Capitol Nashville)
A Louisianan by birth and Nashvillean by profession, Chris Cagle begins his fourth album with "What Kinda Gone," a clever song that's essentially a Clintonian parsing of the meaning of the word "gone." Is she long gone, good and gone, or just gone for a night? "I wish she'd been a little more clear," he laments. "Is it a whiskey night or just a couple beers?" As the title song implies, Cagle favors witty Nashville compositions that play into country music's tendency for conveying misery and heartache with a twist of humor. Every song here is about music in some way or another, either explicitly ("No Love Songs") or implicitly ("I Don't Want to Live"). It's a clever concept, but aside from the name-dropping on the title track, there's more rock on "Country Song" than country more Telecasters than pedal steels, more winks than weeps. For all his charm, Cagle's definition of country song proves too limited.
Meredith Monk, "impermanence" (ECM)
Meredith Monk's new album may be called "impermanence," but it sure makes a lasting impression. Throughout her 40-year career, the experimental composer/singer/director/choreographer has sometimes created music and then discovered a theme. But in this recording, which is a condensed musical version of her 90-minute interdisciplinary work "impermanence," the theme is the fragility of life, and it was inspired by the death of Monk's partner of 22 years, Mieke van Hoek.
Some pieces, like "little breath," are done in traditional Monk fashion, using extended vocal techniques. But others, like "last song," expand Monk's exploration of language using words that fade into something unintelligible perhaps because in the final moments of life there is nothing left to say.
In general, the pieces that make up "impermanence" are more chromatic and dissonant than the norm for Monk. In previous works, Monk also shied away from using instruments in her compositions, instead preferring to use voices in instrumental ways. But here we are treated to a surprising integration of voices and instruments used interchangeably in a colorful musical collage. Perhaps this technique is what really cements this CD's theme after all, if everything changes, it only makes sense that we can take nothing for granted, not even the traditional role of instruments and voices.
Charles Lloyd Quartet, "Rabo de Nube" (ECM)
At 70, Charles Lloyd is a unique, deeply playful voice in jazz. His solos mix a Coltrane-like spiritual questing with a warm, embracing lyricism. His love of playing is palpable, and his adventurousness takes the audience with him. It's a charm that made him wildly popular in the peace/love/Woodstock days of the late '60s, and it remains charming four decades of development later. The live CD, "Rabo de Nube" ("Tail of a Cloud"), continues his long and fruitful relationship with chamber jazz label ECM. Like his former sideman Keith Jarrett, Lloyd's intensity blazes through the polished restraint of the label's impeccable production.
The other major ingredient in the Lloyd Quartet is the brilliant young pianist Jason Moran, a far more spiky and percussive player than Jarrett, Brad Mehldau or any other keyboardists the saxophonist has used in the past. It's not an idle listen; only two of the seven songs are less than 10 minutes. But Lloyd and Moran, along with drummer Eric Harland and bassist Reuben Rogers, are as impressive, intuitive and vital a group as any, and "Rabo de Nube" is very likely one of the year's best.
DVD: "The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder: John, Paul, Tom and Ringo" (Shout! Factory)
A day after John Lennon was gunned down on Dec. 8, 1980 (soon to be the subject of two movies), producers of "The Tomorrow Show" rebroadcast a candid 1975 interview the legendary singer gave just before he went on a five-year hiatus to be with his family. This two-disc set one disc too long, in my opinion features the 1980 tribute show on disc one, consisting of the original Lennon piece as well as interviews with his lawyer Leon Wildes, who discusses the singer's immigration case (the FBI hated him). There are also interviews just after the shooting with shocked and saddened friends, including journalist Lisa Robinson and music producer Jack Douglas, who had been working in the studio with Lennon and Yoko Ono hours before the murder. Late-night TV host Tom Snyder, now deceased, smokes away in his leisure suit during the interviews, but at least his producers allow for an informal setting that feels more like real conversation than most talk shows today (excepting Charlie Rose).
Disc two is the filler: forgettable interviews with Paul McCartney and Wings from 1979, as well as weird segments with Ringo Starr, and inexplicably, actress Angie Dickinson for completists who want the whole show. The only thing worthwhile here is disc one's interview with Lennon, which shows him relaxed, lucid and charming, talking about The Beatles and his life in New York a nice way to remember him. Brent Baldwin
Cashmere Jungle Lords, "Oodjie-Boodjie Night-Night" (Little Abner Records)
The Cashmere Jungle Lords have been rocking these parts for decades. Old-school fans will delight in this reissue, featuring some of their classic vinyl material that takes you back to the bouncy '80s, a time when alternative college radio actually mattered. The trio makes guitar-driven bar rock with chutzpah to burn, veering from twanged-out surf instrumentals to traditional Bakersfield country to rockabilly if they were all square-dancing around a Mexican-themed baby pool party. Kicking things off is their self-titled 45, featuring the majestic instrumental track "Como Se Dice Amor?" and the clean '80s college rock of "My Brother, Humphrey." Just imagine yourself in a John Hughes movie, peering at a teenage crush through a pile of multicolored nachos. The bulk of the CD comes from fan-favorite "Oodjie-Boodjie Night-Night," which shows a competent bar band juggling popular underground styles of the time with their own bluesy, Southern-fried goodness. There's even a creative fiesta version of Burt Bacharach's "Theme From the Blob," simply called "Los Blob." Lead singer/guitarist Dominic Carpin did a nice job transferring these tapes and printing new digital stereo masters under less than ideal circumstances. For extras, he tosses in the previously unreleased "Slugland Sessions," recorded at the band's former Oregon Hill apartment. Brent Baldwin
The Cashmere Jungle Lords play a CD release party with Rylo and The Palominos at the Capital Ale House Music Hall May 2 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $8-$10.
Taylor Barnett, "For Someone" (self-produced)
There is an unfussy elegance at the heart of the beguiling new CD from composer/trumpeter Taylor Barnett. With the exception of the opening Beatles cover ("Girl"), the songs are an eclectic mix of originals, ranging from Béla Bart¢k reimaginings, to the Ellington/Strayhorn-tinged "Sunday Morning Blues," to the off-kilter Nino Rota circus swing of "Struggles the Clown." The strong melodies quickly become familiar an increasingly rare charm in an age where the song head may be little more than a clever but unmemorable bit of harmonic gymnastics. But Barnett's great strength is as an educator. Someone unfamiliar with jazz could learn a lot about structure and phrasing from the clarity of his arrangements. Co-producer/guitarist Trey Pollard offers prominent support throughout, in addition to an admirable catalog of the best local musicians: trombonists Bryan Hooten and Reggie Chapman, clarinetist John Winn, saxophonist Jason Scott, flutist Venessa Lopez, pianist Ryan Corbitt, bassist Randall Pharr and ace drummer Brian Jones. In sum, the multilayered "For Someone" offers something for everyone. P.M.
There is a CD release party at The Camel Monday, May 5 at 8 p.m. $5. The concert will include both the recorded pieces and an entire set of new tunes and arrangements. 358-4901.