Alibi V.18 No.12 • March 19-25, 2009 

Sonic Reducer

Thunderheist Thunderheist (Big Dada)

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Rave-rap is a strange beast, and few bands highlight the genre's strengths and weaknesses better than Canada's Thunderheist. As long as the synths are thick, the flows are energetic and the beats don't sound processed, this album is a party-starter. But when the beat is a programmed thud and the vocals are a monotone-mumble, only robots could get down. Thunderheist succeeds about half the time: When it does, there's usually xylophone, disco claps or tambourine bringing the songs to life. MC Isis wraps her rhymes tightly, but she often borrows lyrics from artists like Old Dirty Bastard, Aaliyah and Lil John. Her skills are strong enough to stand on their own, but she leans on the words of others too frequently. (SM)

Aaron J. Johnson Songs of Our Fathers (Bubble-Sun Records)

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On his first release as a leader, trombonist Johnson and his quintet—with special praise to Salim Washington (sax) and Victor Lewis (drums)—celebrate a long-gone but ever-present era in jazz that finds its expression in “melody, groove, the blues and swing,” to quote Johnson. Unapologetically old-school and undeniably upbeat, Johnson’s nine shapely hard-bop compositions, and one from Joe Henderson, beckon the listener in like a friend. From the sanctified feel of “Folk Forms” to the NOLA march of “Big Fun Blues” and the late-night soulfulness of “Shamba,” this is a recording that buoys the spirit. (MM)

Chris Cornell Scream (Interscope Records)

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Judging from his solo projects Temple of the Dog and Audioslave, it’s hard to predict just where Cornell’s post-Soundgarden musical attention lies. Cornell goes even further afield with Scream, as we hear pop-producing phenomenon Timbaland partner with the pillar of ’90s grunge. It’s uncharted territory: You can almost hear the sound of shattered expectations, good and bad. The walls are still resonating on this one. (JH)

(SM) Simon McCormack, (MM) Mel Minter, (JH) Justin Hood