New Recordings: Jon Langford, YG, Chuck E. Weiss
Ratings: **** Excellent, *** Good, ** Fair, * Poor
Jon Langford & Skull Orchard
Here Be Monsters
"I'm like a god with a thunderbolt, sitting on a big white cloud," prolific Welsh rocker Jon Langford sings on Here Be Monsters.
The founding member of shambling punk experimenters the Mekons and emphatic country-punks the Waco Brothers isn't boasting of his protean powers. The song is "Drone Operator," a typically psychologically astute tune about geopolitics and morality that concerns a technician who rains down destruction from the heavens and then has beer and watches basketball. The costs and benefits of violence are much on Langford's mind throughout Here Be Monsters. With guns, blood, and business in his sights, he asks "Ooh, what did you do in the war?/ Did you make more money than ever before?"
With Skull Orchard, featuring violinist Jean Cook, behind him, Langford is in a somewhat more folkish, contemplative mood than usual this time out, although biting wit is never in short supply. And really, even when weaving together various genres, he's incapable of standing before a microphone and not rocking out. Added bonus: Among other manic multitasking skills, the longtime Chicagoan is an abundantly talented visual artist, and the Here Be Monsters CD contains mini-reproductions of paintings created to correspond to each song on the album, including a cover of Viv Albertine of the Slit's "Don't Believe." So buy a hard copy.
- Dan DeLuca
My Krazy Life
(Def Jam ***)
From N.W.A. to the first Snoop Dogg/Dr. Dre pairing, the West Coast has been where gangsta rap and its grooving cousin G-funk rules. No surprise, then, that Compton's Young Gangsta, best known to mixtape aficionados as YG, is gangsta's freshest prince. His Def Jam debut has the sort of hard, evil edge that Eazy-E and Co. made into hip-hop's most dangerous vibe, with the sexy, weed-stained swagger of early Snoop.
DJ Mustard's beats and backgrounds both define and defy the genre, as YG leans into his work with confidence and a singsong flow. His narratives aren't daring, but his evocation of a day in the life - robberies, drugs, parties, punishment, finding tomorrow - is bold and refreshingly plainspoken. Regrets? He's had a few, as in "Sorry Momma," but not enough to qualify his bounce, as in the aggressively catchy "Do It to Ya," or slow his roll, as in "Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)." Guests such as Drake, Schoolboy Q, and Kendrick Lamar help make the Krazy party more sociable, but the CD's most crucial moments come when the rapper brings the fun, or faces his fears, alone.
- A.D. Amorosi
YG, with DJ Mustard, plays at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, at Theatre of Living Arts, 334 South St. Tickets: $22.50, $25. Information: 800-745-3000 or www.Ticketmaster.com.
Chuck E. Weiss
Red Beans & Weiss
Chuck E. Weiss has hung with the cool cats all his life. In his youth, he played drums with Lightnin' Hopkins and other blues legends. In the '70s, he palled around with Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones, who immortalized him in her first hit, "Chuck E.'s in Love." Waits and Johnny Depp are the executive producers of the new Red Beans & Weiss, Weiss' fourth album.
It's a bluesy rock-and-roll record, with Weiss playing the role of a goofy, grizzled raconteur and with excellent, raw guitar work from X's Tony Gilkyson (Depp contributes to several tracks, too). Weiss sounds a bit like Waits, especially on the unhinged blues shouts of "Dead Man's Shoes" and "Oo Poo Pa Do in the Rebop." He can be silly on novelty songs like "That Knucklehead Stuff," but his boho-hipster attitude makes everything cool.
- Steve Klinge
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SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 4/19/14 © 2014
On Sale Tuesday
Jessica Lea Mayfield, Make My Head Sing;
Rodney Crowell, Tarpaper Sky;
Tyler the Creator, Wolf;
The Both, The Both