Various Artists
What Is Bhangra?

Bhangra, according to this disc's liner, is traditional music from the Punjab region of northern India that immigrants to England subsequently tricked up with pop, hip-hop and house touches. Sounds crummy, I know, but as judged by this compilation, the style is compelling in a fairly unexplainable way. Artists such as Nukhe Chakhee Javana ("Achanak"), the Anakhist ("Anakhi") and Bhar Phar Nee ("Intermix") make exotic death disco that merges Indian vocal wails and chants with electronic beats and minor-key melodies that seem pleasantly incompatible with your average get-down partay. Those of you on a steady diet of grunge should find this a much-needed palate-cleanser.--Michael Roberts


Eat vocalist Ange Dolittle, a long-haired British man of Sicilian descent, has a good sense of humor; he's joked, for example, that in his band, "we're outnumbered--three skinheads to two hippies." Nonetheless, the lyrics featured on Epicure, Eat's latest, generally sacrifice amusement for anger. A case in point is "Shame," a number with a simple, catchy riff and lines such as "Shame, shame on you/You broke so many basic rules/Lies on your grip/ Dragged us down to lower depths." Later, during "Tranquilliser," Dolittle sneers, "I'm so glad your reputation's blown" against a wall of hypno-guitar. Fortunately, the singer is able to display his silly side on "Bleed Me White," which resembles Jethro Tull covering "Kids in America"; clever wordplay like "I'm hanging out with Jesus/He seems to think there's something big between us/Blowing kisses" contrasts nicely with the elaborate "Golden Egg," "Bottle Blue" and the numbers in which Dolittle works out traumas apparently produced by past relationships. Epicure is proof that this five-piece project out of London is an undiscovered next big thing.--Susan Dunlap

Lucky Peterson
Beyond Cool
(Verve Blues)

So good was vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Peterson's stunning 1993 Verve debut, I'm Ready, that it was hard to imagine how his next recording possibly could measure up. But Beyond Cool does--and in some ways is even better than its predecessor. The reason may have something to do with how Peterson was reared. Now just shy of his thirtieth birthday, he was a toddler when he learned how to play the organ; his father taught him by placing cigarette butts on the keys he should play. Peterson's first recording, at the age of five, was produced by bluesman Willie Dixon, and as Lucky matured, he worked with Jimmy Reed, Little Milton and Bobby "Blue" Bland. This experience is audible throughout Beyond Cool, on which Peterson succeeds at his stated goals--to "play the hell out of the blues and make the listener feel them." Although the album places more emphasis on Peterson's sleek guitar playing rather than on his amazing organ work, it showcases his strong compositions, hard-driving style and burly vocals. A fine collection from a modern master.--Linda Gruno

Stakka Bo

This group has been labeled a Swedish version of the Stereo MC's, and the platform shoe fits. Stakka Bo (the moniker is street slang for "Stockholm Boys") uses a similar combination of updated world beats, minimalist organs and horns, and a rapping/singing style that finds the members showing off their mastery of the English language; words used here include "paradigm" and "purulent." The lead singer, who uses the same name as his band, and his partner, simply called Oscar, alternate microphone duty, while day-tripping flower-child-type Nana Hedin sings and dances in the background. The highlight is the hit "Here We Go," a happy, jammable anti-ode to materialism built around its chorus: "Here we go again/Here we go, go, go/To the temple of consumption." Elsewhere on their debut disc, the trio addresses Important Issues such as water conservation ("Living It Up") and world peace ("We"). Fortunately, this brand of political correctness is easy to swallow.--Dunlap

The Rugburns
Morning Wood

Novelty records tend toward ephemerality, and this one is no exception; for instance, the lyric "Satan's in the bagels, and my toaster's masturbating" is unlikely to be quoted as often as, say, "I took the road less traveled." Still, this gag-filled disc is worthy of notice for at least one song--"Me and Eddie Vedder." The tune's not much musically, but the words more than compensate. "I wanna die wasted in a room with Eddie Vedder," sings vocalist Steve Poltz. "We can both die together, but he'll go first/Yeah, Eddie'll go first 'cause he's more famous/More famous than the Rugburns." That's justice, dude.--Roberts


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