Cracker Greatest Hits Redux (Cooking Vinyl)
Mmmm, crackers. Just kidding. This isn't the only "solid gold" Cracker compilation, but it is the only one approved by the band. I never cared for Cracker: David Lowery's vocal cadence bothers me and there's something generically alternative (or too '90s) about it; but looking back, the songs remind me of early adolescence and getting drunk by the lake during the summer. This is one of those situations where nostalgia trumps overall quality, so soon you can probably catch me putting "Low," Cracker's big hit of '94, on a compilation in between Blind Melon and Veruca Salt, which I plan to enjoy with some sunglasses and one of my dad's Heinekens.
Dilated Peoples 20/20 (Capitol)
After over a decade of work in the hip-hop field, Dilated Peoples' new album suggests the group might need a weekend retreat. The beats are interesting but try too hard, at points creating a severely irritating cacophony. To make matters worse, the lyrics are mildewed with the same "I'm a major league emcee, my DJ makes the sharpest beats" and "people have to lift themselves up so you can have a crib like I do" themes and messages you're used to. Besides impressive turn table work, 20/20 is a snoozer. Zzzzzzz.
The Gossip Standing in the Way of Control (Kill Rock Stars)
I bet singer Beth Ditto can do some dulcet karaoke renditions of Heart songs because her voice would be perfect in an "I Go Crazy on You" context. Add that fact to an imaginary world where The Plasmatics were members of the Motown generation and you'd have the balmy punkesque sound of The Gossip. The Olympia, Wash., residents (via small town Arkansas) have made a composition that is not only better than before, but, like Heart, has the very gratifying ability to grow on you.