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Rock

Julian4.5Julian Lennon
Photograph Smile
Fuel 2000/Universal Music

After seven years away from the music biz, Julian Lennon has had plenty of time to contemplate the troubles that plagued his adult life – financial problems, a shattered relationship and a dwindling music career. But the time off may have been the 35-year-old songwriter's best career move, if this 14-song collection is any indication. Already released overseas, the album's garnered substantial critical acclaim. But it's nostalgic Beatles fans who will appreciate this record most, as the album's opening cuts "Day after Day" and "Cold" sound remarkably like the work of Lennon's legendary father. And the album's fifth track, "I Don't Wanna Know," is Lennon's tribute to the band that defined rock 'n' roll as we know it. We can only hope there's more where this came from.

 

4Velocette
fourfold remedy
Beggars Banquet

British trio Velocette have arrived in the U.S. with their full-length debut, a soothing collection of richly-textured pop songs – imagine a toned-down Cardigans with violins and clarinets. Their ability to incorporate so many different instruments sets them aside from other run-of the mill pop bands. While the entire album is solid, standouts include the slow-rolling, funky instrumental "Where Are We," and the exotic "La Sirena," which showcases frontwoman Sarah Bleach's seductive vocal abilities over a trippy track laden with guitar, congas and flutes. Light the meditation candle before listening to this one.

4Wilco
Summer Teeth
Reprise

Wilco has been making exceptional, commercially unappreciated music since their 1994 debut A.M. Their latest release is no exception. An all-American rock 'n' roll band with country sensibilities, the four-man ensemble continues to explore the musical frontier on Summer Teeth. There's some uptempo rockers – "Can't Stand It," and "I'm Always In Love," and the Beach Boy-esque "Candy Floss." But frontman Jeff Tweety is at his peak on the more somber cuts, like "She's a Jar and "How to Fight Loneliness." Get ready for the emotional rollercoaster ride of your life.

 

3.5Joe Henry
Fuse
Mammoth

Imagine meeting Jack Kerouac for an early evening martini – this little gem would make for the perfect musical backdrop. Crisp, cool vocals, engaging basslines and jazzy keyboard arrangements make this the hipster's choice for March. "Like She Was a Hammer" has a hook that's tough not to sing along to, but if you croon like we do, you'd better just leave that to Joe. This is the singer/songwriter's sixth album, but he is at no loss for inspired, fresh material. Just one question: what's the deal with the monkey?

POCKET BAND

Mankind Liberation Front
Mankind Liberation Front is making music for the new millenium – 2012 to be exact. According to Herwig Maurer (a.k.a. Smack 3000), this is when the human race will come to terms with its new state of existence, a synergy between machinery and the collective human subconscience. "It's not necessarily the end of the world. It's just the end of the world as we know it," he says. "It's just a step in evolution," adds bandmate Ran Pink (a.k.a. Breathe).

But even if you don't buy into their philosophy, you can't deny the electronic duo's musical talent. Their self-titled debut, available on Sol3 Records, is an infectious mix of electronic-meets-Jamaican dub-meets outer space, and they play live drums, bass and electric guitar along with their computers and electronic equipment. Influenced by everyone from the Dead Kennedys to New Order, the band is one of the more refreshing techno acts to hit the dancefloor.

And with lyrics like "we'll chase our tails for a few more years and then we'll know about the aliens, apocalypse and legal weed," there's no denying the group's cosmic message. "Why might there not be other life in the universe?" Pink asks. "I believe we think ourselves too important."

For the unedited interview with MLF, see www.umagazine.com

VARIOUS

Hot Rods & Custom Classics
Rhino Records

Let's face it, the key to popularity isn't looks, money or fame – it's a really bitchin' car. Fortunately, you can still be cool even if you don't have your own "Little Deuce Coupe." Just rev up this four-disc collection of America's greatest road anthems, which features everyone from George Thoroughgood to Rod Stewart. You'll be "Rockin' Down the Highway" in no time.

Van Morrisson - Back On Top
Point Blank/Virgin
He made us dance, he made us cry and he boosted the ego of every brown-eyed girl from here to Dublin. Grab a Guinness and listen to Van rock some bluesy new material.

Gang Starr - Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr
Virgin
This retrospective chronicles the career of the two jazziest innovators in hip-hop – Guru and DJ Premiere. Besides the all-time favorites, be on the lookout for two new cuts from these real urban legends.

Marmoset - Today It's You
Secretly Canadian
A throwback to post-punk with a '90s indie twist, Marmoset isn't afraid to take risks. From surreal, psychedelic guitars to driving pop, the band's experimental first full-length album doesn't conform to a particular sound or style so there should be at least one potential fave for any new fans. Go crazy with it.

Ben Lee - Breathing Tornados
Capitol Records
For anyone who doubted it, this album proves again that Aussie sensation Ben Lee is more than just Claire Danes' boyfriend. Keep your ears peeled for "Cigarettes Will Kill You," and make a spot for this synthesized pop record in your collection – it's a keeper.

ON CAMPUS

Music Madness Tour
Interested in checking out some great bands and performing your civic duty at the same time? Check out the Music Madness Tour, which features RCA artists Babe the Blue Ox, The Interpretors and Trinket. Tickets are going for $5 to $7, with a portion of the proceeds going to Rock the Vote and RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network).

"Coming to the show is guaranteed to make you sexier," says Babe the Blue Ox drummer Hanna Fox. Sure, Hanna, but what about the music? "It's a little bit edgy, but you can still sing along. You can still shake your ass but we're not a funk band." Fox says she's excited to get on with the tour, especially to meet Trinket. "I've seen them and I like them. I guess we'll get to know them," she says. "It's sort of like summer camp when you go on tour with other bands. You're sort of like looking at each other like ‘are we going to get along,' are they going to play nice?"


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