- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

With "G-Sides," self-described zombie hip-hop quartet Gorillaz reanimates the corpse of studio leftovers and releases them in a trancelike state. They should have let them rest in peace.
"G-Sides" is a lame attempt to profit further from the band's critically acclaimed, self-titled debut. It has nine tracks, roughly half the number on the debut, nearly all of which are loopy throwaways with virtually no artistic merit. Two are previously unreleased, three were B-sides in the United Kingdom and the rest are remixes.
"Faust" uses inane drum-machine pulses and trippy, dewdrop keyboard noodling as a backdrop for Miho Hatori's rambling vocals, apparently in Japanese. On "The Sounder," Phi Life Cypher's fervent rap generates enough juice to render the repetitive composition and plunky chorus listenable.
Blur frontman Damon Albarn is credited as the Gorillaz's creator, and his laconic vocals are the album's only motif. It's a shame that he takes the lead in collaborations, such as "Latin Simone," in which expressive Cuban vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer contributes a wordless background melody.
Mr. Albarn didn't exert himself in "12D3," in which the lone lyric seems to be "One two D, mmm, one two by me, mmm, piano chord, mmm, dictionary." The track's musical spine is a mindlessly cyclical guitar progression.
A nomadic guitar-and-bass line stretched over taped television forms the listless soundscape of "Hip Albatross," through which Mr. Albarn babbles sorrowfully.
"Ghost Train" is energetic, with a call-and-response lyric evoking a deranged church, backed by a thumping bass line and Mr. Albarn's falsetto. The vamping carnival organ of "Clint Eastwood" employs an original riff and repeats until it's annoying. There are two remixes of "19-2000," which is a toothsome piece of pop, but the second one devolves in cut-and-paste dance pastiche.
"G-Sides" relies entirely too much on loops and programming, which gives it an anemic feel. The debut CD may have deserved its kudos, but the six-month follow-up seems a mercenary swipe at that fading hype. The album should throw a monkey wrench in the Gorillaz's credibility.
Bruce Hamilton

Texas Rain
(Tomato records)
All the songs on this collection by the legendary Texas songwriter have been previously released on Townes Van Zandt recordings. Here, they are fleshed out with contributions with some of the biggest names in country music, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson among them.
This set has sat on the shelf for a while Mr. Van Zandt died in 1997 of a heart attack after breaking his hip. But its release is a posthumous tribute of sorts, with the benefit of Mr. Van Zandt contributing. The result is a collection of perfect and beautifully melancholy songs.
Mr. Van Zandt has the voice of a thousand years, and it meshes well with those of Miss Harris and Mr. Nelson on "If I Needed You" and "No Lonesome Tune," respectively. The honky-tonk "Blue Wind Blew" enlivens the album a bit, but the selections tend to ballads. A duet with Kathy Mattea on "At My Window" closes the set, and it'll leave you feeling blue, but you won't mind at all. Brian Sink

ERICGORFAIN, The section Quartet
The String Quartet Tribute to Led Zeppelin, Vol. 2
(Vitamin Records)
Yeah, and Spam is a tribute to pigs.
The "Vol. 2" part of the title really has me dazed and confused. This is the second installment of reworkings in a classical format of songs by the seminal heavy metal band Led Zeppelin by let's give blame, er, credit, where it's due Eric Gorfain, Roland Hartwell, Piotr Jandula and Richard Dodd. Sometimes, you should quit while you're behind.
If I were the parents of these guys, I think I'd make them pay me back for all those lessons I paid for.
It's not the musicianship that's bad here; the quartet is good. There are interesting moments to be found if you can trudge through it all. Knowledgeable fans of Led Zeppelin might be interested in how the quartet solved some of the problems of translating these songs to this format.
The real problem is the idea. Led Zeppelin was a great rock 'n' roll band, but it played rock 'n' roll. You can't play rock 'n' roll on two violins, a viola and a cello, no matter how much you want to and no matter how much you like Led Zeppelin.
Zeppelin fans might be interested in which songs are covered on this recording, so as a public service, here they are: "Good Times Bad Times," "What Is and What Should Never Be," "Thank You," "Heartbreaker," "Living, Loving Maid," "Tangerine" "Black Dog," "Bron-Y-Aur," "Ten Years Gone" and "Darlene."
The best way to listen to this is to play a track until you recognize which song it is, then skip to the next track. You can get through the whole album that way in about four minutes. Of course, in that same amount of time, you can actually listen to Robert Plant sing about how it's been a long, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time, and you'll enjoy yourself a whole lot more. B.S.

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