• Rancid, 'Indestructible' (Hellcat)

    Back in 1993, almost eight years after the Clash sputtered to a close, Rancid released their self-titled debut, which exhumed the Clash's ultra-potent punk rock and shocked it back to life.Indestructible is Rancid's sixth album, and by rights the band should sound like laughable necrophiles. But they don't. And on the album's surging title track, Tim Armstrong proclaims, "I keep listening to that great Joe Strummer!" as drummer Brett Reed amps up the skinhead stomp. It's been a decade, but Rancid still hear an ideal in the music of the Clash (who began imploding when Strummer booted Mic kJones from the band on ideological grounds) that the Clash themselves lost sight of that a rock band can apply their progressive politics to their own internal workings and create a powerful, if flawed, utopia. The proof is in the pronouns.

  • Northern State, 'Dying In Stereo' (Startime) / Fannypack, 'So Stylistic' (Tommy Boy)

    Northern State and Fannypack, two New York female rap trios, both obsess on hip-hop sounds that ruled before they were born. Specifically, Northern State pass the mic like the early Beastie Boys, while Fannypack's beats evoke '80s electro and J.J. Fad's "Supersonic." What really separates them is self-consciousness. Northern State are white and post-collegiate, and they won't let you forget it, because they can't either. Two-thirds of the multiculti Fannypack are still in high school, so they're blissfully unaware of how anomalous they are. Northern State assert their right to say what they want. Fannypack just say it. Like the Beasties, Northern State's skills and we-can-do-this exuberance transcend what otherwise might be shtick. Dying in Stereo's eight songs are smarter, more fun, and less strident than most indie hip-hop.

  • System of a Down, 'Steal This Album!' (American Recordings/Columbia)

    In the wake of September 11, System of a Down became the rock band most willing to articulate the unstable--sorry, I just can't do it. Let's go ahead and admit that the best thing about this avowedly (and admirably) political band is Serj Tankian's willingness to make a complete ass of himself. Recorded mostly during the same sessions that produced 2001'sToxicity, which entered the charts at No. 1 on the day the earth stood still, Steal This Album! gives a nod not only to Abbie Hoffman's revolutionary 1971 tract, Steal This Book, but also to Steal This Album by Oakland agit-rappers the Coup, whose most recent release, Party Music, originally featured cover art (designed before 9/11) that depicted the Twin Towers exploding. That's some serious company.

  • Yo La Tengo, 'Summer Sun' (Matador)

    Old dogs may have trouble with new tricks, but sometimes musicians have trouble sticking to the good tricks they know. Not so Yo La Tengo. Carbon dating places the band's origins in the mid-1980s, but sometimes it feels like they emerged from Hoboken, New Jersey, around the same time as Francis Albert Sinatra. For years, Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, Yo La's husband-and-wife core, have been tending a little plot of land in a post-Velvet Underground urban wasteland. And they've remained good citizens as the neighborhood gentrified around them, demonstrating a rock-solid commitment more bands should emulate. There's been a gradual freeing of minds going on in Yo La-land since 1997's funky, experimental I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, and on Summer Sun the band's asses occasionally follow, as on the Meters-meets-Magnum P.I. instrumental,"Georgia vs.

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