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Record reviews



Published: Sun, April 7, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

LIL WAYNE

Album: “I Am Not a Human Being II”

Grade: C

Audiences are very understanding when it comes to Lil Wayne: his dissing of prosecutors during his case against Quincy Jones’ kid; his interest in skateboarding; those unexplained seizures.

But a lame Wayne album without the raw, vicious verve that fills his best work — that’s out of the question. Yet, here we are, faced with tepid, liquid sky-synths, mealy metal guitars, cheap beats and limp rhymes.

This sort-of sequel seems half-baked. Wayne’s usually focused, ire-filled treatises are blurry rather than boisterous. Most of Wayne’s naughty talk is so tedious that if this album were phone sex, you’d fall asleep.

The oozing, buoyant “Bs Love Me,” the violent inventiveness of “Trigger Finger,” the poetic spaghetti-Western “God Bless Amerikka,” and the slithering, salacious “Curtains” (where an Auto-Tune-heavy Weezy spends time “getting cake like I’m Jewish”) are delicious.

These are exceptions to this album’s rule-of-thumb dumb.

The spooky “Gunwalk” is dull and abrasive at the same time, humorously when Wayne yelps, “Man you can’t trust no one/I don’t even have a trust fund”). The tame hard-core of “Hello” is stupid. Still, his voice is one of rap’s most cutting instruments, with its bitter Bob Dylan-like sneer. Just avoid the lyrics, and you’ll get through it.

-A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer

THE STROKES

Album: “Comedown Machine”

Grade: C

It’s tempting to write off the Strokes’ “Comedown Machine” as a mediocre result of the contractual obligations blues. The band’s fifth album completes its contract with RCA.

That alliance started so well back when “Is This It?” arrived in 2001 and continued on 2003’s underrated “Room On Fire.”

But the bare-bones packaging, in which the name of the label is twice as big as that of the band, reinforces the notion that “Comedown” is a getaway album.

The Julian Casablancas-led fivesome’s career has indeed been one of diminishing returns: A recent article in Stereogum convincingly argued that the New Yorkers have made their biggest impact as hipster fashion models rather than musicians.

Acting like they just don’t care has always been the Manhattanites metier. But “Comedown Machine’s” failings don’t seem to arise from disaffection so much as from uncertainty.

The album is spotty, for sure, but mainly because Casablancas and crew seem unsure as to whether they should fall back on the taut, propulsive Strokes-of-old sound, as in “All The Time,” or take a stab at something new.

Sometimes such stabs hit home, as on the moody “80s Comedown Machine,” which sounds for all the world like a Yo La Tengo song. Other times, as when the singer whips out his grating falsetto on the synthy “One Way Trigger,” the cockiness the band displayed in its early ’00s heyday seems a distant memory.

-Dan DeLuca, Philadelphi Inquirer

MARNIE STERN

Album: “The Chronicles of Marnia”

Grade: B

“Don’t you wanna be somebody/Don’t you wanna be?” So sings Marnie Stern on her fourth album overall, and her second on which you notice the lyrics more than the guitars.

It’s a sarcastic, exhausted, justified statement from an artist who fights the urge to try conventional singing and songwriting when her own universe of frenetic, two-handed guitar tapping — a style she singlehandedly introduced to indie-rock — is right in the palm of her hand. Stern loves stretching her abilities into the unfamiliar, be it backward pop songs or merely restrained rock numbers or Deerhoof-inspired prog.

She won’t make the same album twice, and she’ll hit upon a great one someday. Meanwhile, she’s an openhearted, funny weirdo who’s still mastering her sound — and figuring out what it even is.

-Dan Weiss, Philadelphi Inquirer

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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