- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

Good Charlotte, “The Chronicles of Life and Death” — The Waldorf, Md., pop-punk quintet fairly puts the “emo” in emote on its ambitious sophomore album. Making like a primal Bryan Adams on the power ballad “The Truth” and half-rapping about the downside of fame on “I Just Wanna Live,” singer Joel Madden and guitarist and twin bro Benji paint a picture of quasi-Christian angst: the world as “idiot’s parade” and killer of innocence, redeemed only by belief.

Producer Eric Valentine makes sure every chorus rolls like a Creed freight train, nearly fooling you into thinking the twins Madden have more than one or two melodies up their young and earnest sleeves. (Epic/Daylight)

Interpol, “Antics” — Paul Banks, lead singer of these latecomers to the parade of New York’s finest, sings like the B-52s’ Fred Schneider on downers and makes riding a cruise liner sound like a trip to the dentist on this oppressive follow-up to 2002’s “Turn on the Bright Lights.”

Each of its 10 tracks is mired in a midtempo drone that is Joy Division without the energy and early R.E.M. without the hooks. (Matador)

Mark Knopfler, “Shangri La” — Would that be the good ol’ U.S. of A. that Mr. Knopfler refers to in his ironically paradisiacal title? Probably. But the concept is only half-executed, as the ex-Dire Straits guitar master eventually gives up his America meditation, with its melancholy story songs about Vegas (the aptly-titled “Sucker Row”), down-on-their-luck fishermen (“The Trawlerman’s Song”), Elvis (“Back to Tupelo”) and that community-sundering restaurant chain McDonald’s (“Boom, Like That”).

“Postcards from Paraguay” and “Don’t Crash the Ambulance” have gentle Latin beats, and “Donegan’s Gone” (a tribute to the late skiffle hero Lonnie Donegan) has a noticeable skip in its step, but other than those intervals, Mr. Knopfler plays in a languid rut.

Sounds as though the sultan of swing has laid down his sword.

(Warner Bros.)

Social Distortion, “Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll” — It’s like they never left. Mike Ness re-ups this sawtooth Los Angeles punk band as mortality peers over his shoulder. Next to tales of pimps and dirty boulevards are songs “Reach for the Sky,” “Live Before You Die” and “Angel’s Wings,” which have the late Social D. guitarist Dennis Dannell in mind.

The band plays the way Mr. Ness exhorts the rest of us to live — like there’s no tomorrow. And the formula — raunchy guitar riffs, sloppy Chuck Berry fills and hooks wide enough to drive a semi through — still works like the old “Ball and Chain.” (Time Bomb)

The ‘89 Cubs, “There are Giants in the Earth” — Try to pin down this gloomy, shape-shifting Omaha, Neb., post-punk trio to one musical idea per minute if you dare. Eerie overtures give way to detuned walls of sludge and howls of feedback, then back to pretty guitar haikus. It’s hopeless. And thrilling. And, ultimately, a little annoying. That’s no way to play October ball. (Slowdance)

Scott Galupo

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