Omigod did you hear who Ashlee has hooked up with? Really, he's so perfect for her -- anything she needs, there it is, just like that. He really takes care of her. And you know those problems she used to have with, you know, singing? He's got that covered too.
Who is it? You really haven't heard? It's Timbaland! Right, the hottest producer anywhere. Well, that's what I say, even though that English guy won the producer of the year Grammy.
This new album, out today (PayPal me for the plug, please), is just all these jammin' tracks. You know, she did that kind of Beyonce thing on her last album, in the middle of all that awful rock? Well it's almost all like that but better.
She's also got it going on with that guy from the Neptunes, Chad Hugo? Anyway, Timbaland is the man, believe me. It's weird, though, there's like a couple of ballads, but I bet her dad or the record label made her do that. She has to, you know, sing. You can tell she's not into it.
Of the Timbaland songs, though, there's club jams and even a couple of sort-of-rock ones, and a jazzy thing like Christina, and she just seems so, I don't know, it's like she's totally turned into Gwen. All that attitude. When she goes "Get outta my head" with that goofy voice, it's so cute.
This record is so Top 40, I can't believe she's not playing Wango Tango. But I bet she doesn't even care. She just glows. Did you see the cover of Cosmo Girl? She looks just like Jessica now instead of Kelly Osbourne.
-- Richard Cromelin
Bragg settles down a bit
"Mr. Love & Justice"
* * 1/2
With eight years of a generally unpopular American presidency from which to draw, troubadour Billy Bragg's latest release, "Mr. Love & Justice," spends surprisingly little time mixing pop and politics. Instead, Bragg breaks his six-year recording silence with more intimate introspection than typical vitriol.
The opening track, "I Keep Faith," harks back to the sweet melodies and love-struck lyrics of Bragg's 1988 release "Worker's Playtime," although the perspective of this year's model seems to have matured on matters of the heart. Pining for the affections of a girl has given way to unconditional commitment: "Doesn't matter if this all falls off the cliff. Together we are gonna see it through."
Unfortunately, when Bragg ventures back into well-trod territory, it falls somewhat flat. Though "Sing Their Souls Back Home" focuses on troops stationed all over the world, the teeth of past protest songs are entirely absent.
Perhaps the wisdom that comes with age smooths out the rougher edges of youth -- for good or bad.
-- Christy Grosz
Plenty of zest, not much surprise
Tokyo Police Club
* * * Tokyo Police Club had some proving to do after the flash fire success of the 16-minute debut EP "A Lesson in Crime," which found the young (barely out of high school) Ontario, Canada, band the recipient of raves for its adrenalinized youth anthems.
Though its follow-up full-length, "Elephant Shell," doesn't disappoint, neither does it surprise too much. Chock-full of TPC's own generic brand of punky-shoegazey hybridology (the opening "Centennial"), the set's Cure-ish guitars and new-wavey beats fling around singer-bassist David Monks' vocals.
The pattern is repeated several times over the course of the disc, eventually revealing a limited number of elements (speedy drums, jangly guitars, twee voice): "Graves" is breathless, urgent, Monks' contrived vocals festooned with cheapo synth touches, while "Nursery, Academy" is rock on pins and needles, all pointillistic guitars/thumps/vocals. By the time "Sixties Remake" rolls around, things are getting downright cookie-cutter.
Though not bursting with new ideas, Tokyo Police Club is loaded with gusto.
"Elephant Shell" is like being in love for the first time, in musical form -- that kind of rush.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).