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July 1999

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Clean Up their Act

Music Reviews of this month'S new releases

In recent years, the L.A.-based band Red Hot Chili Peppers have been dismissed as yesterday’s news. But just when it seemed the crossover music pioneers — with their trademark mix of funk, rock, jazz, punk and pop — could not compete with today’s techno trends, they delivered the first-rate CD Californication. This is not to say that they have changed styles. The Peppers pull past musical trends into the present and serve them up with conviction, just as they’ve always done. The new work comes after a four-year break, during which two of the band’s members attended drug rehab for heroin addiction. “For us, the material success of the album isn’t the important thing,” explains bassist Flea, “Californication is the story of our survival, proof that the band still exists. Humor is, and always will be, the motivation behind this band — even though there are those who see us as crazy druggies. I am sure that, in not taking life so seriously, we were able to survive our excesses. If you keep a bit of distance between you and your persona, neither life nor death will greatly impress you.” Californication is already impressing audiences worldwide, fans who are happy to see their team back and clean . Sixpence*** None the Richer (East/West) Leigh Nash is only 22 years old and already counts among today’s most impressive, innovative female vocalists. The young Texan’s powerful presence and voice elicit comparisons to Cher and Natalie Imbruglia from the press. As the lead singer of her equally talented back-up band Sixpence, Nash delivers songs laced with a strange confluence of influences — Bob Dylan, Radiohead and Patsy Cline. The band’s current single, Kiss Me, is heading up the U.S. Billboard charts. If you like folk ballads with operatic intensity, None the Richer certainly belongs in your CD collection. Die Sterne*** Wo ist hier? (Epic/Sony) Hamburg pop band Die Sterne have always been known for their sound — George Clinton-style funk weighted with the heaviness of Nick Cave. You could dance to their songs, and grumble at the same time. It is a strange mixture, thought by some to be “very German,” but extraordinary nevertheless. On Wo ist Hier? Die Sterne experiment with synthesizer sounds heard in other German bands of note, such as Nightmares on Wax and Kraftwerk, without losing their signature moodiness. It is this blend of pop and eccentricity that sets Die Sterne apart from more mundane German musicians. Amanda Marshall** 18 tracks (Columbia) Three years ago, Amanda Marshall’s self-titled debut CD sold more than two million copies, making an instant success of the Canadian rocker. With blues, funk and a strong, raspy voice, Marshall held her own against the superstars she was inevitably compared to — Alanis Morissette and Sheryl Crow. It is a shame, then, that her second work falls so far short of her premiere triumph. Tuesday’s Child is a lackluster collection of pop tunes, with none of Marshall’s trademark intensity in evidence. In striving for command of the pop charts, she has exchanged originality for popularity. Scritti Politti**** Anomie & Bohemie (Virgin) Leeds’ Green Gartside, mastermind of the eighties polito-pop band Scritti Politti — whose punk/reggae/syn-pop album Cupid and Psyche 85 featured the catchy tunes The Word Girl, Perfect Way and Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) — is back after eleven years seclusion. Gartside’s decade of rest seems to have restored his wealth of creative energy. Anomie & Bohemie, the trio’s fourth album, is a pre-millennium masterpiece, not simply a rehash of Politti ditties. Keeping current by mixing hip hop, jazz, African rhythms and swing, Scritti Politti proves come-backs are possible. Jovanotti*** Capo Horn – Lorenzo 1999 (Mercury) It’s taken four years for Italy’s hip-hop king, Lorenzo Cherubini, alias Jovanotti, to release his fifth album. Taking his time paid off. Capo Horn – Lorenzo 1999 is the most diverse collection of songs the boisterous rapper has produced to date. While a few of the cuts are too similar to his 1994 summer hit Serenata Rap, most are original. There are even several songs on which Jovanotti actually sings, rather than chants in his monotone rap. Those who have been following the Italo-popper’s career will be pleased with his new creativity. Those who haven’t will be treated to his best work yet.

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