Surprising to see No Doubt still hard at work behind Rock Steady, the surprisingly excellent album the surprisingly long-running Orange County outfit released nearly a year ago. Not because the record can't support it--it could probably withstand two more singles, in fact--but because the disc suggested the band was more interested in diversifying its sound than in racking up a few more weeks on the road blasting out "Just a Girl" and "Spiderwebs." A couple of months ago in New York, the two auxiliary keyboardists had trouble re-creating Rock Steady's zippy arrangements, but the other guys seemed to relish the opportunity to sound like a real band again, and Gwen Stefani had fun with her adoring audience. Hopefully the onstage perspiration will yield more in-studio inspiration. More surprising is that Garbage is still out in support of last year's Beautifulgarbage. Though a pleasant elaboration on the formula Shirley Manson and Butch Vig have developed with aplomb, the record is one of those that implicitly doubts a fertile future--maybe not Boston's Don't Look Back, but shot through with a similar sense of, "What else?" Maybe that's why dolled-up L.A. gutter punks The Distillers are opening this joint jaunt: Sing Sing Death House, the band's second album, is ragged enough to make the future seem square and creative exploration squarer. "Are you ready to be liberated?" front woman Brody Armstrong asks with a sneer as wide as Sunset Boulevard. If it means not having to look back, why not?
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