Out There

Moody music
Original Soundtracks 1
Passengers
Island Records

The Passengers are Brian Eno and U2 with special guests; the sound tracks may or may not exist in places other than their own minds; the album is more or less a sequel to Eno's own brilliant, ambient "sound tracks" of the '70s and '80s. And the result is less a U2 album and more an Eno piece--electronic sounds seething and breathing in the foreground, Bono's voice just a small piece of a rich background. It isn't new age music, just music for a new age--rock and roll under a soft blanket, guitars that sound like keyboards that sound like drums that sound like whispers.

As with Eno's 1975 masterpiece Another Green World, the songs here can't be separated from the whole; they must be heard within the context, appreciated as a "sound track" because it's mood music that builds to and sustains that mood from techno opening ("United Colors") through dreamy dance-floor closer ("Theme from Let's Go Native"). And it's even got a sense of humor: "Elvis didn't smoke hash," Bono sings on "Elvis Ate America," and "Elvis would have been a sissy without Johnny Cash." It's been a long time since Bono made anyone laugh intentionally.

Kennel rations
Dogg Food
Tha Dogg Pound
Death Row Records

Here's the final proof for the non-believers that rap has finally become clichŽd, over-the-top, parody, fatalistic, self-absorbed, and laughably predictable; it's like Public Enemy or Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy never happened, the genre now dominated by men like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg--would-be tough guys gone corporate, counterfeiters who use a CD pressing plant to make their money. Tha Dogg Pound is nothing more than Doggystyle, Part 2, though it packs a weaker punch. We've visited this neighborhood before, seen its sights and heard its sounds.

The entire album reeks of Dre's style--edgy and claustrophobic, tense beats and sharp bursts, songs that roll by slowly shouting their hollow boasts and empty threats. They're out to make the "platinum hits" (see: "Smooth") stuck on an assembly-line formula that made The Chronic so profound and Doggystyle so popular. But if The Chronic was Dre's character study set to a threateningly funky beat, and Doggystyle was Dre's way of imbuing Snoop's laconic drawl with a subtext of substance, then Dogg Food is the attempt to make stars out of backup singers who complain they need to get paid when they already got more money than Dogg-spelled-backwards.

--Robert Wilonsky

 
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