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Fast reviews of recent releases

Bell Hollow, Sons of the Burgess Shale (Five03). While so many latter-day post-punk bands fall all over themselves trying to mimic the more danceable moments of a Gang of Four record, Bell Hollow chooses to embrace atmosphere and mood. The act's songs -- which sound like the Chameleons playing haunted tunes in an abandoned church -- are filled with otherworldly melodies and warmed by urgent rhythms. -- Tom Murphy

Earl Greyhound, Soft Targets (Some Records). Fans of the BellRays will find a great deal to love in Earl Greyhound's passionate exuberance and soulful vocals. Think Detroit garage mated with Sly & the Family Stone. Soft Targets is a bracing reminder that hard-edged rock and roll and R&B can be fruitfully blended. -- Murphy

Josh Groban, Awake (143 Records/ Reprise). The name of this disc seems like a dare -- as in "Betcha can't stay awake through the whole thing!" But if the frequently bombastic arrangements make doing so possible, it's not recommended, since those who remain conscious will have to hear Groban mingle sentimentality and lugubriousness for nearly an hour. Sleep well. -- Roberts

Public Enemy, Beats and Places (Slam Jamz Records). Making for the perfect post-election collection, this lavish, independently released set of "unleashed" and "unreleased" material focuses on some of Public Enemy's most politically charged tracks to date and includes a DVD of self-produced videos that otherwise probably wouldn't see the light of day. Beats and Places finds P.E. in top form. -- Brandon Daviet

Frank Sinatra, Vegas (Reprise). The subtly artistic Sinatra doesn't appear on this boxed set. Instead, these four CDs and one DVD focus on his brassy showman side as he sings for poker chips between 1961 and 1987. The deterioration of his gifts over this span is noticeable, but not as depressing as anticipated. Indeed, the Voice sounds pretty choice throughout. Ring-a-ding-ding. -- Roberts

Various Artists, American Hardcore: The History of American Punk Rock 1980-1986 (Rhino). Comprising carefully picked songs from bigger-name early-'80s hardcore acts like Black Flag and Bad Brains and lesser-knowns such as Jerry's Kids and Big Boys, Hardcore is meant as a lively summation of the film of the same name. But the disc surpasses the self-indulgent flick by concisely putting the impact of that era into context. -- Nguyen

 
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