Julian Cope

Anyone who wants to know a little bit more about the fine line between insanity and genius would do well to give this a listen. The esteemed Mr. Cope is certainly capable of making accessible pop: He manned the defunct British act Teardrop Explodes during an especially productive late Seventies/early Eighties period, and much of his solo work has been quite radio-friendly. Lately, however, Cope seems intent on convincing his admirers that he's got more loose screws than the DIA baggage system. Autogeddon, which ostensibly completes a trilogy that includes 1991's Peggy Suicide and 1992's JehovahKill, is a case in point--a bizarre, sometimes-tongue-in-cheek rant about the evils of cars. The first three tracks are mainly acoustic ditties exemplified by "Don't Call Me Mark Chapman," in which Cope (for no readily apparent reason) recites part of Barry Manilow's discography. That's followed by the brief, catchy "I Gotta Walk," the twisted psychedelia of "Ain't No Gettin' Round Gettin' Round" (which features Cope's ear-splitting comic laugh) and "s-t-a-r-c-a-r," an eleven-minute-plus epic that raises meandering to an art form. Just why this package seems immensely enjoyable, I can't say. Maybe because Cope lives half a world away and can't rag on me for not riding my bike to work.--Michael Roberts

Tab Benoit
What I Live For

Benoit's 1993 debut, Nice and Warm, was a tremendous artistic, commercial and critical success that spawned a legion of fans looking forward to a worthy follow-up recording. For the most part, this Cajun version of Jimi Hendrix hasn't let us down. While sections of What I Live For fall flat in comparison to its hard-hitting predecessor, others hold their own--and a few tunes actually outshine anything on Benoit's stunning first effort. As was the case with Nice and Warm, the new album finds Benoit playing alongside studio sidemen rather than the members of his popular road trio; this time around, he's supplemented by bassist Steve Bailey, drummer Kenny Aronoff, rhythm guitarist Derek O'Brien and keyboardist Reese Wynans, whose work is crucial to the recording's success. Likewise, the twelve songs featured here (most penned by Benoit) are not departures; most are in the surging blues vein that the guitarist/vocalist has been mining. Fortunately, Benoit's lyrics, which have been criticized by some, show signs of improvement. And the disc's highlights are a pair of Benoit originals: the title tune--a lean, mean stinger--and the lovely, straight-to-the-heart "Somehow," which features Benoit sans accompaniment. Yes, I was hoping for more. But the recording's worth it for those two songs alone.--Linda Gruno

Crappin' You Negative

Rather than an endorsement, consider this a warning about the new release from these four atonal virtuosos bred in the King's backyard. Clearly, the bandmembers suffer for their art. During a recent trip to Memphis, I asked a record-store clerk what kind of albums the players buy when they come in. "Nothing. They're always broke," he said. They're also genuinely alternative, creating music that's at once poignant and untouchably austere. It'll take an improbably beatific A&R rep to unearth these brilliant slugs: They'd resemble the Pixies if that group played country and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Soulful and sensitive, Crappin' You Negative is an unsentimental relation of Grifters' troubled days.--Jason Horwitch

Weapons of the Spirit

Most performers who choose to use only one name (e.g., Sting, Roseanne) do so mainly for self-promotional reasons. By contrast, Marvin (Etzioni) seems to have taken this route mainly out of modesty. He's an artist whose work is marked by small virtues: a craggy, genuine-sounding voice, a rough, spirited approach to songwriting and a way with words that's intriguing without being showy. During the period that he was a member of Lone Justice, a band so overhyped that it never stood a chance of living up to its early notices, these qualities were overshadowed by lead singer Maria McKee's big pipes. But while McKee guests on a pair of songs here ("Temple and Shrine" and "Bending and Craving"), Marvin remains in the spotlight. The new album is not as edgy and jarring as his previous release, 1992's underappreciated Bone, but it's more than good enough to satisfy that craving for roots you've been feeling. Clearly, one name is plenty.--Roberts


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