- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

Stanley Climbfall
Stand, climb and fall, and get back up again.
That's the theme of Lifehouse's sophomore release, "Stanley Climbfall," produced by Ron Aniello and mixed by Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, U2, Stone Temple Pilots). The name for the album came from the title track, "Stanley Climbfall," which is a melding of the words of the song's chorus to create a character.
"Everyone has their ups and downs," lead singer Jason Wade has said, revealing that, after a lot of wordplay, a song called "Stand, Climb, Fall" got "transformed into an everyday character named Stanley Climbfall, who goes through those kinds of changes."
Mr. Wade, who is also the group's guitarist and songwriter, spent much of his spare time while touring on the group's double-platinum album, "No Name Face," writing songs for the new project.
It seems his hard work has paid off. The first single, "Spin," will surely be a favorite of rock and alternative radio stations across the country. Ironically, Mr. Wade wrote it more than a half-decade ago, when he was 16.
The song's chorus goes: "And the world keeps spinning round/My world's upside down and I wouldn't change a thing."
Many of their songs touch on spiritual themes. When Mr. Wade was a child, his parents were missionaries in Hong Kong. Bassist Sergio Andrade's parents were also missionaries.
Many of the songs are clearly influenced by this experience, similar to Jars of Clay, P.O.D., Creed or U2. This may be the reason that Lifehouse distinguishes itself from other grunge bands by singing about subjects other than the ills of society.
For instance, in the song "Wash," Mr. Wade seems to be singing to God when he says, "You wash over me like rain, you wash over me like sunshine," referring to how life is mixture of happiness and sadness.
"The Sky is Falling" is a reminder of how easily people forget the tragedy of September 11 and simply return to their ordinary lives: "I'm alive, but tell me am I free? I got eyes, but tell me can I see? The sky is falling and no one knows."
"Take Me Away" is a love song that pleads, "I've seen it all and it's never enough/it keeps leaving me needing you."
The 12 tracks tend to have heavier musical arrangements than songs on "No Name Face," such as "Trying." Drummer Rick Woolstenhulme, was certainly more integrated into the overall sound of the band on this album. However, the more mellow side of Lifehouse does come out during the songs "The Beginning" and "Empty Space."
Fans will surely enjoy the new collection of songs as much as the old. This album is definitely not a sophomore slump.
Jen Waters

Wiretap Scars
Sometimes a band breakup can be a good thing, indeed. When Texas hard rock outfit At the Drive In imploded last year, two factions in the group split off into new groups Mars Volta and Sparta.
Sparta is clearly the more commercially-minded of the two, a group which is influenced in part by punk and hard rock, while still keeping in plenty of catchy hooks. At the Drive In might have been a more artistic band, but Sparta is a rock band, plain and simple. The music is meant to be listened to with the car windows rolled down and the stereo cranked up.
First hard-charging song "Cut Your Ribbon" is a good example. Singer Jim Ward can go from a hushed whisper to an impassioned scream of "How can you sleep at night?" in seconds and by the second time the chorus comes around, it's hard not to sing along.
Even songs that start out mellow, like "Air" and "Collapse" soon become power chord-heavy rockers. Not all of the group's experiments work out well "Mye' sounds like a Tool outtake, except that Sparta doesn't have anywhere near the musical chops of that group.
What Sparta can do is write good light metal riffs music that skirts the line between punk, hard rock and metal without sounding too much like a Papa Roach or Linkin Park ripoff. That alone makes "Wiretap Scars" a perfect car album, even if it doesn't make for a groundbreaking listen.
Derek Simmonsen

Il Canto di Malavita
(PIAS America)
Even if one doesn't speak Italian, it's easy to get caught up in the simple beauty of these folk melodies, illustrated with traditional accordion, classical guitar and tambourine accompaniment. The title is really a major clue something is amiss: "Il Canto Di Malavita" translates into "Songs of a Life of Crime" and this album is filled with sinister tales of how "blood cries for blood."
It's probably not a coincidence that a collection of traditional songs about the Calabrian Mafia should surface at the same time "The Sopranos" returns to HBO, but there are notable differences between that slick crime drama and the tales that unfold here.
According to the album's introduction, the Calabrian Mafia (or Ndrangheta) began with vigilante gangs protecting citizens from corrupt monarchs and roving bandits. The clans exist outside the law, while still holding up strict codes of behavior, which is why many of the tunes here are concerned with what happens to squealers; as one song notes "This is the law of our society/laws that don't forgive those/who break their silence."
Just as Americans of Italian descent have protested the negative stereotypes of Tony Soprano and his ilk, there has been intense debate in Italy over songs that glamorize these often brutal traditions. It's easy to see why many are concerned.
For instance, the celebratory "Dance of the Muntalbanu Family" features a man speaking in Italian "Through terror and through violence/the family won respect," not exactly a proper moral lesson.
In spite of these sometimes gruesome tales, the music itself remains hauntingly beautiful. Like Italian opera, it is not necessary to comprehend the language to appreciate the beauty of the words themselves in song. The musical backdrops remain simple and unadorned, letting the voices of often anonymous singers carry most of the tunes.
It also puts the Mafia into a historical context that is often missing from modern-day crime dramas. While not sure to draw in a casual listener, this collection is highly recommended to those fascinated by organized crime and the roots of these centuries-old traditions.

The Art of Translation
(Gotee Records)
Up-and-coming hip hop artists, Grits (no relation to the old D.C. rock band) are creating quite a buzz with their fourth CD, "The Art of Translation." These Tennessee boys, who call themselves Coffee (Stacy Jones) and Bonafide (Teron Carter), first lit up the national rap scene with their 1999 breakthrough "Grammatical Revolution."
Much like their previous work, their new album is full of brilliant beats and catchy hooks. Most of the songs were produced by Incorporated Elements and co-produced by Grits. The duo also had a hand in co-writing every song on the CD.
"Here We Go," one of the best songs on the album, opens the project with a vibe that would rock any dance floor. The creative lyric says, "My brain pattern skip a jiggawatt/No more room in the pan/I cook up rhymes in a bigger pot."
"Ooh Ahh," the second track on the CD, is a spiritual anthem, which says, "It's times like these that make me say, 'Lord if you see me please come my way'/leavin' bread crumbs for when I stray." The haunting nature of the track sticks with the listener long after the song is finished.
The bass-heavy "Tennessee Boys" is sure to be a favorite of anyone living in the southern state. The NFL's Tennessee Titans, who are based in Nashville, Tenn., should be sure to take advantage of this song. It could definitely be used to excite fans during football games.
The chorus says, "T, E, double N, E, double S, now double E/now spell it out for me/no matter where I be/ everybody say it loud for me."
"Be Mine" is a tribute to women everywhere who want to be respected and loved by a man. The lyric says, "Slow down, hold up/I want you to be mine/we can hook up/we can get married/this is my gift to you/my love is true/we can get married."
Many of the tunes on this album should be the life of a lot of parties.

Higher Ground
The Blind Boys of Alabama, whose voices age like wine, getting richer and fuller with time, are back with a new album, "Higher Ground." And that's exactly where they've gone. Higher. Stronger. Better.
Still flush with the success of the Grammy-winning "Spirit of the Century," the group continues its winning formula, revitalizing and refreshing classic gospel and R&B; tunes.
On "Higher Ground," they tackle Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" and Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross."
Covering classics is generally a risky venture, but the Blind Boys, who have been singing together for more than 40 years, do it well. The backing group, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, uses pedal steel guitar, bass and percussion to capture the essence of bluesy gospel.
One standout is "The Cross," written by Prince. Jimmy Carter's soulful vocals backed by John Ginty's crescendo-building Hammond organ make it the album's most powerful track.
Associated Press

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