Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Review: Kid Rock, "Cocky"

The title of Kid Rock's latest album "Cocky," is, if nothing else, appropriate. But perhaps this time he's gotten a little too cocky for his own good.

Fresh off the huge success of 1998's "Devil Without a Cause," Kid Rock sets out to prove he's not a one-trick pony on this album. There's no denying the talent of his Twisted Brown Trucker band, as they effortlessly shift from R&B grooves to headbanging metal to foot-stomping country. I have to question if this is really what fans want from Kid Rock.

Those who enjoyed the punchy mix of hard rock and hip hop on "Devil Without a Cause" may not find much they recognize on this album.

The first single "Forever" mixes a catchy, funky guitar riff with some nice hooks. And the title track, with its self-aggrandizing swagger, echoes the attitude of his last album. But beyond that, this album is a self-indulgent jumble of musical styles which leave the listener wondering what's going on.

Two big-name guest appearances are both disasters.

"Picture," his country duet with Sheryl Crow will be a big hit, I'm sure - and if it wasn't Kid Rock, it would probably cross over to country radio. But it's boring and a bit hard to swallow.

The same with the other country tune "Lonely Road of Faith." It's really hard to take these heartfelt lyrics about devotion seriously coming from someone who was just extolling the "virtues" of strippers on the last song.

The other guest appearance is rapper Snoop Dogg on the track "W.C.S.R." This is a pointless exercise in vulgarity, that seems to be a contest between the two to see how much profanity they can fit in a three-minute song.

Songs like "Midnight Train to Memphis" and "Drunk in the Morning" seem to drone on in a country twang before erupting into something more like what you expect from Kid Rock. They're not bad songs, but I have to wonder how many of his fans are going to sit through the first two minutes to get to the "good part."

It's not all bad, though. When the country/rap/rock formula works, it's fantastic. The perfect example is "You Never Met a Motherfucker Quite Like Me." The song layers twangy guitar over a hip hop beat with just a touch of Southern rock on the chorus.

Of course, I would like to hear him write a song every now and then about something besides himself, but what can you expect on an album named "Cocky?"

"What I Learned Out on the Road" starts with a smooth country sound, then moves to a funky Aerosmith-flavored chorus. It's one of the strongest songs on the album.

Then he takes a heavier turn on "I'm Wrong, But You Ain't Right." The introduction is an obvious tribute to Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," but then the tune explodes into heavy Pantera-influenced screamer.

The Southern-fried blues groove of "Baby Come Home" is addictive, and may be my favorite song on the album. While the Iggy Pop-inspired punk of "I'm a Dog" showcases Kid Rock at his conceited best.

Overall, "Cocky" is not bad. Kid Rock accomplishes his goal, which is to show more musical depth.

But, in all honesty, if I want musical depth, I'm not going to look to Kid Rock. I look to him for uptempo tunes with plenty of swagger, and above all, plenty of fun. While it is a good album, I've got a feeling a lot of fans will wear out the skip button.

Get "Cocky."

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Review: Kittie, "Oracle"

When I first heard about this group of teen-age girls playing metal, I'm sure I smirked. I could just imagine what they considered metal. But one listen to Kittie's debut album "Spit" wiped that look off my face and made me a believer. The collection of short, punchy and heavy tunes convinced me they were the real deal.

Apparently, convincing guys like me that teen-age girls could indeed lay down some heavy tracks wasn't enough, though. On their latest release "Oracle," the girls from Kittie take it one step further - or perhaps one step too far.

The most intriguing thing about "Spit" was the alternating melodic vocal passages and feral snarls. Combine those with a catchy hook - like the one on "Brackish" - and Kittie produces a song that can rival the best of the nu-metal crowd. On "Oracle," though, they focus less on melody and more on the snarl.

There's no doubt these girls have the chops. The riffs on songs like "What I Always Wanted," "In Winter" and "Wolves," will stand up to those of just about any metal band out there.

It's also obvious they've been listening to a lot of Pantera, especially on "Severed" and "No Name" - tunes ripped straight out of the Pantera songbook. Kittie thrashes through these numbers convincingly, but perhaps they've been focusing on the wrong things about Pantera. While they manage the huge riffs and snarling vocals, they don't quite get the total package. "Severed" gets redundant after a couple of listens, and "No Name" never really takes off.

The album does show glimpses of Kittie's potential. "What I Always Wanted" comes close to matching the best songs on their debut, striking a delicate balance between the band's light and dark sides. "In Winter" is the strongest performance on the album, with a dark and melodic verse and a nice chunky chorus riff. It's followed closely by their crushing cover of Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell." Kittie gives the song a heavy, bouncing riff and singer/screecher Morgan Lander showcases some interesting vocal inflections on the verse.

For an album that goes out of its way to show how heavy the band can be, two of the last tracks on the album seem like strange choices. Rather than go out with a bang, Kittie instead changes pace with "Safe" and "Pink Lemonade," a pair of interesting, yet morose tunes. The melancholy, keyboard-driven "Safe" is the better of the two, while the industrial-sounding "Pink Lemonade" gets a bit boring. Not a good choice as the listener's last memory of the album.

The songs on "Oracle" are not bad songs, in fact most of them are a bit above a lot of the nu-metal set. But it's also not an album that's likely to spend a lot of time in your CD player. It lacks the hooks and passages that get stuck in your head and won't go away. After a few listens, it gets a little dull.

On "Oracle," Kittie obviously set out to prove that they're more than a novelty act. Unlike their debut album, though, when the novelty wears off on this one, the listener may find there's not much beneath it.

Get "Oracle."