On the Racks: May 23, 2006

Def Leppard, Dixie Chicks, Damone
By MATT ASHARE  |  May 23, 2006

OUT OF THE ASHES: Damone rallies the troops (on the 86 bus)

Damone, Out Here All Night (Island/Def Jam). They’ve been around for only two albums and already Damone’s story reads like something right out of a VH1 Behind the Music special. They made a highly touted debut album — From the Attic (RCA) — full of all the classic pop-metal touchstones the Darkness would soon use to conquer the Western World, but it got lost in the major-label consolidation shuffle. The guy who wrote all the songs left the band, the label said “bye-bye,” and Boston’s Great Rock Hope were left not just penniless, but without anyone to write more tunes. Most bands would have called it quits. But Noelle LeBlanc rallied her boys, the hooks started flowing, and — a couple of double-fisted, Iron Maiden-style harmony guitar leads later — Damone have risen from the ashes of, ah, Damone, with Out Here All Night, an album of shiny metal hooks, tough grrrl attitude, double-kick refrains that make your heart race, and even a cool little cover of “Wasted Years.” A penalty bong hit for anyone who doesn’t know who originally recorded that tune.

Def Leppard, Yeah! (Island). “Yeah!” is goddamn right. Short of a new Shania Twain album, nobody is gonna get rich by writing new Def Leppard songs, and on this disc the old Def Leppard are smart enough not to try. We want the old stuff. Give us us T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy,” all dolled up in spandex-metal garb, and follow it up with a searing “Hanging On the Telephone,” a oddly tender surprise in “Waterloo Sunset,” and, hell, might as well take a stab at ELO’s “10538 Overture” (10538 refers to the number of overdubs it took Jeff Lynne to get the tune just right). Yes, it’s a full album of covers from these pyromaniacs, which is such a much better reason for them to tour this summer than a tired album of new songs that no one would remember by next summer anyway.

Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way (Sony Nashville). When Lyndon Johnson heard Walter Cronkite questioning the escalating war in Vietnam, he realized his political career was over. Natalie Maines is no Walter Cronkite, but when she created her infamous stir by telling a British crowd she was embarrassed to hail from the home state of George W., the President should have seem the writing on the wall. When country music mainstreamers like the Dixie Chicks start abandoning the cause, well, it’s not a good sign. Then again, the Chicks aren’t you’re average Nashville girls. For one thing, they can play. Evidently they can write, too (all the tracks on the new disc are co-authored by the band – a first). And retaining Rick Rubin to produce was the clincher. He brought in Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, and co-songwriters like Pete Yorn and Jayhawk Gary Louris. So even if the country crowd’s still pissed at the Chicks, they got no worries. The rock crowd’s coming to the rescue.


BACK IN BLACK: Yeah, that's the Dixie Chicks

Osaka Popstar and the American Legends of Punk, Osaka Popstar (Rykodisc). It was Johnny Rotten who, in a Sex Pistols furor over the New York Dolls, spat out the wicked little line, “You think it’s cool playing in Japan/When everybody knows/Japan is a dishpan.” But not even Rotten/Lydon could have imagined as unabashed a ploy for big-in-Japan status as Osaka Popstar and the American Legends of Punk, a washed-up supergroup of sorts featuring Misfits John Cafiero and Jerry Only, Black Flag survivor Dez Cadena, Marky Ramone, and Voidoid guitarist Ivan Julian. The joke, of course, is on them, but not for lack of extras. A bonus DVD features a video, by anime master Mari-Chan, for their cover of the Daniel Johnston-penned “Wicked World.” And the band has shamelessly teamed up with Topps to bring back “Wacky Packages” stickers of the band members by original Wacky Packy/Garbage Pail Kids artist John Pound. (Jerry Only is second only to Gene Simmons in merchandising genius — though even Gene might’ve been jealous when Alice Roi sent a Misfits lunchbox down the runway earlier this year.) The CD is almost beside the point: let’s just say that Julian nailed “Love Comes In Spurts” and “Blank Generation” with Richard Hell the first time around, and “Shaolin Monkeys” is either really offensive, really bad, or both. Does anybody fell cheated?

PJ Harvey, On Tour: Please Leave Quietly(Island). When Polly Jean first emerged with that big bloozy guitar strapped on her tiny frame, passionately pissed off as she grinded through and dry-as-bone kiss-offs, it was hard to imagine that this 50-foot queenie would eventually put down her guitar and grow into a sensual, red-gowned diva. It was the tour behind To Bring You My Love that made her a spectacle, commanding avant-rock virtuosos in yet another twist on themes that have wound like a snake through the blues for decades. But her first live concert DVD follows her through Europe and the US on her 2004 Uh Huh Her tour, the one that found her backed by a four-piece band who could handle the rough stuff with the same finesse as the softer, subtler material from To Bring You My Love. There are a pair of previously unreleased tracks here as well as plenty of fascinating behind the scenes footage of the ever mysterious Harvey.

American Idol Season 5: Encores (RCA). What would it take to raise enough votes to eliminate encores from the American Idol juggernaut? More clout than I’ve got, that’s for sure. The fifth season has been touted as the one where the contestants were the most evenly matched. One question: is that a good thing?

Related: Going on sale: June 2, 2006, Lucky 13, Rock of the ages, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Jeff Lynne, Def Leppard,  More more >
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