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No Code

GRUNGE IS DEAD, at least as a fashion statement. Pearl Jam's work make the time capsule, however, remembered for quality rock that transcended trend. There's growth everywhere--Jack Iron's primal beats stand out. Eddie Veder's vibrato still ripples and broods, but now punches with a more self-secure, sober delivery. Spirituality rises in "Who You Are," with non-occidental influences surely inspired by Veder's work with Nusrat Fateh and Ali Khan for the powerful Dead Man Walking soundtrack. The No Code CD package offers interesting art, with a pocket full o' Polaroids. Pearl Jam is aging well.

--Molly Who


Beautiful Freak

A LYRICAL AND musical study in the reconciliation of juxtaposition, the 12 tracks of Beautiful Freak are a somber frolic through the busy avenues and dark alleys of social interaction and isolation, a transition from detachment and defeat to triumph and celebration. The smooth, poetic rasp of E's barely sung, spoken-word vocals, the catchy pop melodies, and the fluidly integrated samples are subtle, sophisticated, and uniquely emotive. Spare simplicity rises to lush life with the vivid addition of each element, only to be dramatically reduced, creating a dynamic ebb and flow of sound and energy that is thematic throughout. Despite the depressive cynicism of lyrics like One day I'll come through/my American dream/but it won't mean/a fucking thing/how do you stand when you've been crushed, this is not the myth of Sisyphus. It's instead a narrative of wholeness through integration, a brilliantly consistent, beautifully mixed, and coolly rendered first effort by the Eels.

--Lisa Weeks


Rounder Records

AS LONG AS there's a market for off-the-wall music, Tiny Tim will find a record company wanting to stick a microphone under his sizable nose. The respectable Rounder label went far beyond issuing a merely bizarre disc of weirdness, instead choosing to back His Tulipness with the very skilled Brave Combo. The band's rhythmic strength far exceeds that of Mr. Tim, whose live, 45-minute medleys of ancient tunes are about as rhythmically solid as a five-dollar watch. Drop the bucks for this disc if only to hear his creepy interpretation of the Beatles' "Girl" and the jazzy take on "Stairway To Heaven."

--Dave McElfresh

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