• Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, 'Howl' (RCA)

    The Jesus and Mary Chain? Nah. These days, when Black Rebel Motorcycle Club need inspiration, they just call on Jesus. In the past two years, something has happened to transform BRMC from a dead-eyed trio of noise peddlers to church-going country-blues converts. Maybe they realized that the question they asked on their 2000 debut -- "Whatever Happened to My Rock N' Roll?" -- became moot as soon as a new onslaught of guitar bands arrived on the scene. Or maybe, after splitting with Virgin, they felt the creep of mortality setting in. The first line of Howl -- "Time won't save our souls" -- seems to suggest the latter, but who knows?

  • Jimmy Eat World, 'Futures' (Interscope)

    There are basically two ways to handle sudden success: Take it as a mandate to chase your muse, doin' it for art and adventure, or spend the rest of your days obliging folks who want to hear you play your first hit single all night long. Two years after the massive pop hit "The Middle" and its young-people-in-their-BVDs video catapulted them from best-kept-secrecy to MTV ubiquity, Jimmy Eat World are at that crossroads. Rumor had it they were working on a less accessible album, one that would separate the true believersfrom the kids who just came for the underwear party.

  • Noise Live: The Polyphonic Spree

    12/19/03The Polyphonic SpreeLakewood TheaterDallas "Howmany of you are scared of snakes?" isn't a question you'd normallyexpect to hear at a rock show. But by the time the Fort Worth Zoo'sSean Green posed this query, on the first night of the PolyphonicSpree's holiday shindig, it was stage business as usual. He waspreparing to parade a python down the aisles of the Lakewood Theater,but he might as well have been asking for a little more guitar in hismonitor. After all, we already had witnessed walk-ons by acapuchin monkey and an ornery reindeer.

  • Phantom Planet, 'Phantom Planet' (Epic/Daylight)

    Serving as the opening act for Fox's The O.C. isn't a bad gig -- beats rocking the Peach Pit with Brandon, Dylan, and the gang. But for Los Angeles power-pop quintet Phantom Planet, the show's use of "California" (a track from their 2002 album, The Guest) as its theme song is a mixed blessing. For years, the band have struggled to prove themselves as more than a between-movies lark for actor Jason Schwartzman, who was the group's drummer until last year (and got so much attention you'd think he was Dave Grohl pinch-hitting between Foo Fighters records or the one-armed dude from Def Leppard). Now they've got a fluke hit to live down, too. On their ambitious, uneven third album, Phantom Planet make a valiant attempt to solve both problems.

  • The Shins, 'Chutes Too Narrow' (Sub Pop)

    When the Shins' 2001 debut, Oh, Inverted World, catapulted the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based indie-rock Anglophiles to the top of the middle, not everybody boarded the bandwagon. In an interview, Sebadoh guitarist (and Sub Pop labelmate) Jason Loewenstein slammed the band's "terrible, terrible music." Even the Shins' hometown alt weekly turned its back on them like Paul Sorvino at the end of GoodFellas, running a bitter editorial titled "McShins, New Corporate Suck-ass" after the Inverted song "New Slang" turned up in a McDonald's TV spot.

  • My Morning Jacket, 'It Still Moves' (ATO/RCA)

    Think of It Still Moves--the third album by Kentucky's My Morning Jacket and their first for Dave Matthews' ATO Records--as a Tennessee Williams play revamped as Southern-rock opera, all gothic romance and alcoholic ardor. Five seconds into album opener "Mahgeetah," singer/guitarist Jim James admits that he's "all wrapped up in a bottle of wine"; "Golden" is about his ongoing love affair with bars. The music teeters between a buzz and a bender.

  • Super Furry Animals, 'Phantom Power' (XL Recordings/Beggars Group)

    In song and sound bite alike, Super Furry Animals have never made a secret of their love for America. But so far, their affection has gone unrequited, like a foreign-exchange student's crush on a head cheerleader. We like our imports easy to categorize, after all, and the Welsh band's up-for-anything, down-for-whatever aesthetic doesn't always translate, especially given their fondness for grand and confusing gestures. They've built a song around a recording of Paul McCartney chomping carrots and celery, penned a best-friends-forever ode to pet hamsters, and released a Welsh-language album (2000's Mwng). The band haven't made it any easier for themselves withPhantom Power, which tempers the giddy IMAX ambition of 2001's Rings Around the World with some art-house despair.

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