Out There

Sucking in the '70s
Exit the Dragon
Urge Overkill
Geffen Records

If Saturation was the good KISS album Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley never made because they couldn't, then Exit the Dragon is the bad album KISS made over and over again. "This Is No Place" sounds like an outtake from Love Gun; "Need Some Air" recalls most of Destroyer; and the rest of the songs would have been the prerequisite Peter Criss ballads for the tone-deaf ladies.

Nash Kato, Eddie Roeser, and Blackie Onassis have lived this joke for so long--paying homage to '70s rock, rescuing bombastic kitsch and transforming it again into "art"--that there no longer exists a line between the two things; the very music these guys once lovingly mocked on Saturation has overwhelmed them, swallowed them up and spit them out as arena rock stars who'll forever play the clubs. At least Cheap Trick got to play the arenas first.

Sit and spin cycle
Washing Machine
Sonic Youth
DGC Records

The revolution is over, the party has ended, and all that's left to do is wave the white flag and call it a day or a lifetime. If Sonic Youth's now-sparse feedback-distortion-and-decay mountain of sound was once the soundtrack to a new movement, these poster boys and gal for "noise" and dissonance and tunefully tuneless tunes have grown up and grown out of the fold; they're old news, their music stalled in adolescent middle-age where the "songs" all sound the same from cut to cut to album to album, the evolution stalled somewhere between Daydream Nation and Goo. Sonic Youth has become the Pink Floyd for the alt-rock crowd, their particular brand of art-rock no less gimmick-ridden and clichd than the Floyd's, because it exists solely for itself.

Something smart
Music for All Occasions
The Mavericks
MCA Records

A country band that began its career touring the lounge circuit, the Mavericks are an ingenious creation: Raul Malo comes on like Roy Orbison and makes out like Chris Isaak, and though he's no traditionalist, he's also smart enough to know that for the gimmick to work he's got to sound as sincere as he does smarmy. And Malo's also smart enough to know he'll always be a novelty and never a star--hence the cover of "Something Stupid," with Trisha Yearwood as Nancy and Raul as Frank.

--Robert Wilonsky