by TED S. McGREGOR JR. and MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE & r & & r & Traffic and Weather
You'll swear you've heard every one of these tunes somewhere before -- like on an old Styx record or maybe the Cars. And that's by design. The brains behind FoW -- Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger -- specialize in crafting pitch-perfect American pop songs. Then, with a twist, they add lyrics about the mundane parts of life here in the 21st century -- that's why you get references to listening to Coldplay, watching The Late Show and hanging out at the Gap.
These songs can be very funny (especially "Strapped for Cash"), and their musicianship is impeccable, but it all adds up to a novelty act. When they actually forge something original (like "All Kinds of Time" from their 2003 CD Welcome Interstate Managers), you get the feeling FoW could be great. But Traffic and Weather is confusing: Is this an attempt at a serious rock 'n' roll record or some kind of wink-wink tribute to these guys' favorite '70s pop songs?
-- TED S. McGREGOR JR.
DOWNLOAD: "Someone To Love"
KRONOS QUARTET & r & & r & Gorecki String Quartet No. 3
Polish Catholic composer Henryk Gorecki had to wait 17 years after writing his Holocaust-themed Third Symphony before it achieved popularity; similarly, while he completed his "... songs are sung" quartet in 1995, only now has he allowed its dedicatees, the Kronos Quartet, to record it. In the intervening years, anxiety has crept into Gorecki's "holy minimalism" -- witness the first movement's lullaby opening cut by the headache of "keening dissonance." In the middle movements, mournfulness gives way to hopeful caresses and romantic melodies, only to be arrested full-stop and plunged back into jagged frenzies. Stately crescendos dwindle, then drag themselves to whispery endings. One passage is even marked "morbido": This is music that represents what it's like to lose one's memories and then die. By pitting violins against viola and cello just often enough, however, Kronos keeps the drama taut and the hope of beauty alive.