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by Luke Baumgarten and Carey Murphy & r & & r & Cat Power & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & The Greatest & lt;/a & FOUR STARS & r & Press releases talking up Cat Power's desire to explore the so-called "Memphis sound" had me properly worried about all kinds of musical elements that might turn Chan Marshall into a parody of herself. That big, ebullient Al Green sound, for instance. Ten seconds in, though, as four pained notes of "Moon River" string in under a lazy piano line on the title track, my fears lay dead. She's still inconsolably sad. Now, though -- credit, perhaps, the muted horns and springier guitars -- it sounds as if she's trying to fight through it.

Forcing the sound into a retro form like this, while gimmicky and potentially deadly, has allowed Marshall to focus musically the same way she's always been focused thematically. There's still nothing better than hearing her harmonize with herself, multi-tracked, each instance of her voice hitting different notes, yes, but also different emotions.

Thank God The Greatest isn't as Memphis as her label led us to believe. I'm tired of "Let's Stay Together," regardless of who sings it. -- Luke Baumgarten

The Subways Young for Eternity TWO STARS & r & This band was cool . . . when they were called the Burning Brides. Yesterday's fresh distillation of pop, punk and thrash jolted the scene. In the hands of these youthful upstarts from across the pond, the jolt loses its forcefulness. It's too easy, too familiar, too obvious to be invigorating. The ubiquity of pop-punk is definitely starting to drown all of us.

The majority of the album's 12 tracks are fairly straightforward rockers. Because of this, it's almost impossible to tell the difference between "Rock 'n' Roll Queen," "Young for Eternity," "Oh Yeah" and "City Pavement." And these are my favorites. "I Want to Hear What You Have Got to Say" is definitely a mouthful, as far as song titles go -- and it's a Strokes rip-off.

The only really interesting element comes from the acoustic "Lines of Light," maybe the album's only honest moment. The rest seems to be a safe pose, a quick fix. In every other regard, the Subways take no risks. And that's sad. -- Carey Murphy
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