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by Mike Corrigan and Leah Sottile & r & Stephen Malkmus & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941.447828214 & amp;type=10 & amp;subid= & quot; & Face the Truth

& lt;/a & **** & r & The wonky analog synths that explode on the first track put me off straight away. But Face the Truth (Matador) is an album by Stephen Malkmus, I told myself, the guy who led my favorite '90s band, the genre-defining Pavement, the band that rarely passed on an opportunity to F-up an otherwise lovely song with sheets of noise. And so I refrained from tuning out, secure in the knowledge that there would be lovely pearls and swine forthcoming upon which to feast. And there were. And there are ("Freeze the Saints" and "Post-Paint Boy," for starters).

Despite minor annoyances, this may be Malkmus' best of three "solo" outings (his backing band, the Jicks, are mostly there for touring purposes) since dissolving Pavement five years ago. Displacing the strange (ironic?) giddiness of his first and the introverted prog excursions of his second is a darker and consistently more open approach. Everything's built on the same winning foundation -- smart and playful word calisthenics, endearing humor and the sheer approachability of that languid delivery -- that we've come to expect from indie rock's favorite postmodern lad. -- Mike Corrigan

Audioslave & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941.441477745 & amp;type=10 & amp;subid= & quot; & Out of Exile

& lt;/a & ** & r & Did I miss the memo on Audioslave? I must have, because last I checked this was supposed to be the collaboration of the century -- a fusion of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine. Both were bands that took risks. Both had something to say. Both made waves and never apologized. So what happened? It's clear now that Chris Cornell and Tom Morello had little, if nothing, to do with any of that.

Out of Exile, Audioslave's second album, dances along the same lines as their 2002 self-titled record. Audioslave carefully produces seamless, risk-free rock 'n' roll. Tracks switch between skillful, technical rock and sweeter, grown-up jams. On it's cover, it's perfect -- but that's exactly what makes the album suffer. Listening to Exile is like watching a high school valedictorian waste away his potential on bong hits and Grand Theft Auto; Audioslave squanders their talent here on safe, easy rock songs. Maybe Zack de la Rocha and Kim Thayll should collaborate, form "Visualserf" and make some real music. --Leah Sottile
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