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Ben Ratliff


  • Iggy Pop on Singing Jazz, Turning 70

    Rock vet talks adapting to the "quietude" of new piano-trio LP 'Loneliness Road,' crooning in French and how he's keeping busy

    • Music
  • Discovery

    Homework, the french duo Daft Punk's 1996 debut album, relied on sleazy electro-funk hooks and clever thefts of Seventies radio pop: It got you feeling good, though slightly covertly, since you didn't really know who these people were. Daft Punk wore masks in publicity shots, disguised their voices with electronics, preferred the sound of outmoded […]

    • Music
  • American Life

    Madonna Ciccone has done it again: The forty-four-year-old guitar player from London via Detroit has taken the pulse of the nation, if not the whole Women's Wear Daily-reading world. American Life, her tenth album, isn't much as a work of music — diluted Eurotechno from her producer Mirwais, built around acoustic-guitar vamps that are either […]

    • Music
  • Chocolate City

    After George Clinton's Funkadelic crashed and burned —; taking the whole era of psychedelic funk-rock with it —; up sprouted Parliament, an astonishing new group building wonderlands of fun and sass and ass and horns and keyboards. Whereas the old, guitar-centered band glowered at the straight world from its freak-trench, Parliament found a way to […]

    • Music
  • Justified

    Justin has risked so much, girl, to have your business. The teen-pop movement has been filing toward the cliff of adulthood; as we watch, each adorable entertainer either falls or makes it to the other side. Britney Spears completed the jump by a hair last year; LeAnn, we're glad you wore that parachute; but Timberlake […]

    • Music
  • Nirvana

    With its chorus of double-tracked, serrated, drowsy bellowing, "You Know You're Right" is the most Sabbath-esque song Kurt Cobain ever wrote. The last recording of his short career centers around harsh drones and repetitions. It is not upset and losing it; it is upset and inert. Cobain sings it with certainty. Here, after Nevermind, after […]

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  • If I Could Only Fly

    At this point, Merle Haggard's musical territory is staked out and grazed to the nubbin: slow, sauntering ballads, up-tempo country boogie, occasionally a little Western swing. No string sections, no synths, no exclamation marks. Staying clear of the clotted, market-tested production of the Nashville A-team studio players seems to keep him alive; still, his recent […]

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  • American III: Solitary Man

    Even the best good ideas can get pushed too far, and for Johnny Cash, American III: Solitary Man is one Rick Rubin-built cover album over the line. The point with the Cash-Rubin series, which started in 1994 with American Recordings and continued with 1996's Unchained, isn't really transformation, as Willie Nelson has done with his […]

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  • R

    The California desert: home of hot-rod proving grounds, heat hallucinations, alien abductions. It was the home, too, of Kyuss, a quartet started in the late Eighties by the teenage Josh Homme, a burnout visionary for what became a viable music subcategory by the late Nineties: stoner rock. What stoner rock delivers, slowed down and magnified, […]

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  • Mule Variations

    What Tom Waits does to the blues is something like what newspapers do to bright colors — in the way that a picture of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling ends up looking like roast beef in the morning edition, Waits' arty, seasick imagination turns a rural American song form into a garish, surreal fantasy. Mule Variations, […]

    • Music