St. Anger

By MATT ASHARE  |  May 2, 2006

It’s not even clear Jewel’s aware there’s a war on. Her new Goodbye Alice In Wonderland (Atlantic) is a coming-of-age suite from a sweet young thing who should have grown up years ago. Producer Rob Cavallo does his best to erase any memory you might have of an Alaskan yodeler whose hobbies included poetry, surfing, and cleavage. His production mimics the vaguely rootsy, rockist, woman-with-guitar aesthetic that’s worked so well for Sheryl Crow. After an earful of Neil Young and Pearl Jam, the spoken-diary-entry refrains in “Good Day” feel painfully misguided: it’s hard to take Jewel seriously when she digs down deep to proudly pronounce “It’s going to be alright” in a voice that mimics Crow’s grittiness on “Good Day.” In fact, didn’t Sheryl Crow already write that song?

When Lisa Kekaula grooves to the line “Tell a lie, tell a lie, tell a lie, tell a lie,” on the BellRays explosive new Have a Little Faith (Cheap Lullaby), I can’t help but hear echoes of ’60s soul music -- and of the coded verses that soul singers used to challenge the powers that be. Segueing from smooth Marvin Gaye grooves to raucous MC5 workouts, sometimes in the space of a single song, the BellRays are an absolute throwback to that era. And once the garage-rock/soul-funk guitars kick in, it’s hard to believe that these guys are from Southern Cali, not the heart of Detroit.

I was never the biggest Pantera fan, and Damageplan, the post-Pantera band bassist Dimebag Darrell started with his brother Vinnie Paul, weren’t my cup of tea either. But it’s still hard to believe Dimebag was gunned down on stage. That just ain’t right. In the wake of the tragedy, Vinnie Paul set his brother’s affairs in order, mastering an album that they’d been slowly working on with bassist Rex Brown and outlaw cowboy singer-songwriter David Allen Coe — the dude who wrote the Damageplan staple “Jack Daniels If You Please.” The self-titled album from the group — bearing the fitting moniker Rebel Meets Rebel — is more metal than country, though it’s got it’s twangy moments and an excellent anthem in “Cowboys Do More Dope.” It’s being released simultaneously with a DVD titled Dimevision, Volume 1: That’s the Fun I Have— a collection of archival footage of Dimebag on and off stage with Damageplan and Pantera — on Big Vin Records, Vinnie Paul’s own imprint.
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Neil Young, "Living With War" (streaming audio)
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