Po' Broke 'N Lonely?
Sure, the music of Boyz II Men is fixated on sex--but it's sex of a sanitized, airbrushed kind that most of us know about only from watching movies like The Blue Lagoon. Po' Broke 'N Lonely?, by contrast, recognizes that it's possible to combine soulful melodies and strong, youthful harmonies (a la the Boyz) with a lyrical worldview that acknowledges that lovemaking need not always be treated like a religious sacrament. In other words, the members of PBL are as lascivious as hell, and they're not afraid to admit it. Given Chris Taylor's apprenticeship in the L.A. hip-hop scene, where he worked with artists such as Ice-T, Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg, his interest in fine ladies should come as no surprise. But the good news is that Taylor and his mates (vocalists Ruben Cruz and Mike Lynn) are more interested in saluting the qualities of the female gender than treating everyone in a skirt like a Divine Brown wannabe. The carnality that drips from these numbers has little in common with the ditties pumped out by members of the ho-and-bitch brigade; if anything, "Twisted," "Mr. Go Down," "Voyeurs" and "Sexy Dance" recall the sounds and attitudes associated with the Let's Get It On-era Marvin Gaye and the Prince who made Dirty Mind. And while the songs themselves aren't always up to the level attained by these precursors (a few make the Boyz comparison ring a bit too true), Vibe succeeds simply by acknowledging that intercourse can be a lot more fun when both parties put some effort into it.--Michael Roberts
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Everything Is Wrong
The stark divisions of Moby's new material--it ranges from hyperspeed dance music to infra-slow instrumentals--initially made me think of a car that could drop from 80 mph to zero in a second without snapping your neck. Yet the musical forces at work here actually have more in common with a river's hydraulics. The speedy beats set the forward flow, the hardcore guitars create the back flow, and the mood pieces on side two provide too much calm too soon. Lyrically, meanwhile, Romantic Exhaustion follows Exhilaration so closely that they could pick lint from each other's back pockets (for an example, check the way the upbeat "Everytime You Touch Me" runs directly into a voice chanting, "It hurts to let you go"). Perhaps Moby's Christianity, more instinctive than grounded at this stage, will connect all these qualities someday. If so, maybe he'll forget all about asking Hugo Largo's Mimi Goese for vocals and song input. Here's hoping.--John Young