Legends of the mall
Basketball Diaries
Various artists
Island Records

How in the fuck did Jim Carroll, a transparent and hollow boho from New York, suddenly become the "legend" of which the TV ad speaks? From Patti Smith compadre to one-hit wonder ("People Who Died" in 1980, the Cliff's Notes version of Diaries) to subject of Hollywood biopic starring boy wonder-turned-gay test case Leonardo DiCaprio--the ex-prep-school-student-turned-junkie-turned-lit-prodigy has inexplicably become an icon for those who find Lou Reed too precious and Jack Kerouac too juvenile. He's old-school street-tough avant-garde, a self-created myth embraced by the new breed, a pretentious poet who sets his words to a dull rock and roll beat till it adds up to art--which makes him no more, no less than the Jim Morrison of his degeneration but with a better shtick (speaks in a New Yawk blurt, tells tales of suckin' off guys for junk, and could post up in the lane).

The sound track that accompanies Carroll's bio is as uninspiring as his own work, appropriate in that it kicks off with a remake of "Catholic Boy" (with Pearl Jam in high Kansas gear), includes "People Who Died," and is interspersed with various spoken-word excepts from Carroll his own bad self. As an album--music to be heard without the images--Basketball Diaries is predictable and dull: disposable nobodies like Green Apple Quick Step and Rockers HiFi sit alongside overrated has-beens like the Cult and the Doors alongside overwrought product like the Posies and Soundgarden to create a formula that reeks of street without ever stepping off the curb. And the PJ Harvey cut, from her new Island album To Bring You My Love, smacks of nothing but a cynical ploy--like a worm on the end of the hook, there to lure you to something far better than this dead weight.

Tank Girl
Various artists
Elektra Records

A collection that plays like CMJ crossed with Highlights, the Tank Girl sound track--assembled by the artist formerly known as Courtney Love who has now added the suffix "Cobain"--is equal parts "tank" and "girl." With a roster that boasts some of the alt-rock world's best-known female rockers (L7, Hole, Veruca Salt, Belly, Joan Jett, Portishead, Bjork, Paul Westerberg), Devo's torpid remake of their own underrated "Girl U Want," and Ice-T's paean to chicks with a "Big Gun," Tank Girl is surprisingly directionless and thin. It lacks any momentum, sticking to the generic sort of rock that defines the worst of what passes for "alternative." Even worse, there's Magnificent Bastards (which features STP's Scott Weiland) and Bush, which gives you an idea of why Love-Cobain is really overrated: she's got bad taste.

--Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky