- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

MAGNET

Caffeine Superstar

(Magnetic Motorworks)

When the Ramones played "I Wanna Be Sedated," the band's manic energy made the request sound like a good idea. Local group Magnet's take on the song slows the beat down to a crawl, so that lead singer/guitarist Mark Goodman already sounds drugged, about to fall asleep any minute.

That turtle-pace flavors much of the band's fourth record, "Caffeine Superstar," which is full of dreamy pop and atmospheric guitars that seem to shimmer out of nowhere. It's a formula that groups like Spiritualized have been taking to the bank for years, and it serves Mr. Goodman and crew well.

Magnet itself is a rather curious creation, a band that is now based in the District, but has been essentially a one-man project for Mr. Goodman since 1996. He's worked with an odd crew of musicians in the past, including former Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker and several members of the band Cracker.

Here he recruits several of his regular touring partners to flesh out his rather stark tunes that would be folk rock were it not for the way the electric guitars float off into the ether. The songs that work best are the ones where Mr. Goodman reins in his tendency to meander and delivers songs of incredible beauty.

"Best Way Down," one of the album's best moments features a spacey guitar solo midway through the song that serves as a nice counterpoint to Mr. Goodman's honey sweet voice. Not every track connects the country blues of "Feel No Pain" and the Ramones cover are good examples (sometimes it's best not to mess with the original) but the songs that do give one hope that Mr. Goodman will continue to enrich the local scene.

Derek Simmonsen


TUCK & PATTI

Chocolate Moment

(T&P Records)

The husband and wife duo of Patti Cathcart and Tuck Andress returns to the music scene with "Chocolate Moment," the first album released from the couple on its own label.

Although this is their ninth album overall, this is actually only the second album of completely original material in the duo's long musical career, with Miss Cathcart serving as the duo's songwriter. The music of Tuck & Patti, with Miss Cathcart on vocals and Mr. Andress on guitar, is very uplifting and involves love and hope.

Highlights on this jazz disc include "Comfort Me," "Love Flows Like A River" and "One For All," which is one of the best tracks on the disc. The track "Knowing" will mesmerize the listener with its beauty and demonstrates how easily Mr. Andress' guitar intertwines with the vocal ability of Miss Cathcart.

A real treat is the instrumental track "Interlude in the Key of P" which has Mr. Andress showing off his musical skills on the electric guitar. Tuck & Patti have delivered another album that takes the listener on a wonderful musical journey.

Amy Baskerville


VARIOUS ARTISTS

TV Land Presents Favorite TV Theme Songs

(Rhino Records)

When I listened to this CD for the first time, I did so without first reading the listing of the 40 TV theme songs included so as to test how many of the shows I could identify upon hearing them. I recognized 37 of the 40, which means either that I have a TV IQ of Mensa proportions or that I spent way too much time in front of the idiot box in my formative years.

Baby boomers will experience deja view all over again listening to this compilation of kitschy, kooky cultural mileposts, featuring as it does TV theme songs primarily from the '60s and '70s (other than perhaps "Friends" and "The Simpsons," has there been a memorable new TV theme song in the last 15 years or so? Just asking).

As is Rhino's commendable custom, the booklet that comes with the disc provides nuggets of background information on each of the tracks for the benefit of trivia buffs.

Lucy is here, as you'd expect; happily, so are Gilligan (the Skipper, too) and Andy & Opie, Capt. Kirk & Mr. Spock, Oliver & Lisa Douglas, and many, many others, some more deserving of inclusion than others.

There are three songs the disc would have been better off without: the grating "Maude" theme; "Thank You For Being a Friend," the theme from "The Golden Girls," an insipid cover of Andrew Gold's underappreciated '70s pop gem; and the eminently forgettable "What's Happening!!" theme. The latter was definitely not composer Henry Mancini's finest moment. Rhino would have better served including his "Peter Gunn" theme.

Curiously, there is both the opening and closing themes of "The Beverly Hillbillies," but only the opening theme of "Gilligan's Island." They are the only two series I know of that had both opening and closing themes with lyrics.

Many theme songs of the era went on to become hit singles on radio, among them "The Rockford Files," "S.W.A.T." and "Hawaii 5-0," and the extended versions are the ones included here. I'm pleased to report they've lost none of their ability to set one's fingers tapping on the steering wheel on the long drive to and from the office.

Inexplicably, however, there are also extended remixes (to put it in latter-day parlance) of themes that would have been better off left in their original read, shorter TV forms, notably "Dragnet," "Bonanza" and "Mannix" (the latter is particularly regrettable, since "Mannix" is my all-time favorite TV series).

Even with more than three dozen TV themes songs included, there are so many other memorable ones still out there from the original "Family Affair" (newly remade as a series this season), "Hogan's Heroes" and "Sanford and Son" to "My Three Sons," "Lost in Space" and "Simon & Simon" that we can almost count on there being a Volume 2 and maybe even a Volume 3. As they say in TV Land: "Stay tuned."

Peter Parisi


BECK

Sea Change

(Geffen)

If Beck's last effort, "Midnite Vultures," was an all-night dance party, then "Sea Change" is the rough morning after: music tinged with sadness, regret and loss. It features lyrics that sound more personal than the beat poetry of his past, even as they fail to match his previous offbeat creativity.

The opening track "The Golden Age" sets the mood it's atmospheric, folky and features Beck's voice sounding more tender than it ever has, with a slight echo adding to the haunting quality. "I don't even try," he sings, and he may be right, as the whole album has an effortless feel about it.

Songs like "Paper Tiger" add sinister violins to spice up his folk schtick, but what it seems Beck really wants to do is sing the country blues. On "Guess I'm Doing Fine," you can almost hear the twang as he sings "It's only tears that I'm crying/It's only you that I'm losing/guess I'm doing fine."

The follow-up "Lonesome Tears" has a rich string backdrop, but that can't hide the fact that this is almost Beck's version of "The Red Headed Stranger," Willie Nelson's stark concept album. The synthesizer keyboard melody that hovers over the tune only serves to enhance the emptiness that Beck seems to be feeling.

Beck has played with his folk side before (notably on 1994's "One Foot in the Grave" and 1998's "Mutations"), but here he sounds like he could out-dour Nick Drake. For a man who was doing his best to wail like Prince, Beck now sings almost in a mumble here, his voice husky and strained.

While this gives the album a consistent feel, it also drains the life out of out several tunes, most notably "End of the Day" and "All In Your Mind."

For all of the meandering tunes here, there are some outstanding exceptions. "Little One" is one of the best songs he's ever written, a tune that sounds like a distant cousin to the hip-hop folk of his debut "Mellow Gold." It's one of the more upbeat songs on the album and features the revealing line "In a sea change/nothing is safe."

"Sea Change" is a difficult listen, one that is best enjoyed in the wee hours of the morning or after a particularly devastating heartbreak. It's an interesting experiment for Beck, but its songs are more atmosphere than substance.

D.S.


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