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Do You Hear What I Hear?

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Of Grammatology

Derrida Cock-Horse

None of these young Chicago hipsters had actually played instruments before entering the studio, but they planned to employ Pro Tools' new "subtle, jazzy, evocative, futuristic, improvisational" plug-in to full effect. Due to a hard-drive error, though, what came out was scrambled fragments of tuning noises and Sean O'Hagan's collection of Jessica Simpson MP3s. Produced by Jim O'Rourke, who has noted that he doesn't especially "enjoy" it, the album has done exceptionally well on college radio.

Maude

Representing Maude

A scratchy-voiced soul diva with a neon fright wig, she got a major media blitz devoted to her debut: a two-part feature in the New Yorker, a special clothing line designed by Donna Karan, appearances on Leno and Letterman on the same night, and full-length posters at the Body Shop and Burger King. Due to a management oversight, she neglected to record an album. Fortunately, her street team hit chain stores and one stops nationwide and pasted her photo onto every copy they could find of the last three Pat Benetar albums. Nobody noticed the difference.

Portuguese Vehicle

My Eyes! Are Burning!

They were the emo band so intense their singer kept two orderlies just offstage in case he had a psychotic breakdown. Sadly, they broke up midtour--just after they were featured on the cover of Punk Planet--in a dispute over hermeneutics. All four members have now started projects of their own "to explore nautical themes."

ReĀ¢idivi$t

Fort Hard Knox

The dauphin of the New Orleans bounce scene celebrated his first huge hit, "Surrey Widda Fringe," by having his head replaced with a solid gold brick. Dozens of guest appearances on other people's records feature his signature yell of "cha-ching!" at the end of every line; they were so eager to return the favor that "Surrey" is the only track on his album on which he actually had room to perform.

Lou Reed

The Complete Metal Machine Music Sessions

Rhino's ultimate indulgence of its archival impulses: 11 CDs featuring rehearsals, false starts, trial arrangements, and unedited complete takes of Reed's screeching-feedback classic, as well as studio chatter (mostly Reed talking to himself in a methamphetamine frenzy). An enhanced bonus CD includes footage of the tape machine that recorded the album, as well as the promo-only single edit of "The Amine Beta Ring." Plans to follow this release with a 358-CD box of Merzbow's complete recording sessions were canceled after the label's in-house mastering engineer punctured both his eardrums with a sharp instrument.

Roly Poly

Jesus Fuck

A veteran of the British techno and big beat scene, Roly Poly finally struck crossover gold this year when he overlaid a bunch of his old tracks with voice samples from two sources: soul siren Dido crooning Jonathan Edwards's sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and a vintage Library of Congress recording of a longshoreman who'd just stepped on a rusty nail.

Skumbag

Blow a Lode

Nobody's ever seen any of the eight, ahem, members of this band without the giant penis costumes they wear onstage. Propelled by an endorsement from Fred Durst (later retracted when he realized he meant to endorse a different band, Scumbagg), they've built their reputation on their outrageous live shows, where front men Mr. Happy and the One-Eyed Bandit, along with their wacky five-year-old sidekick Little Elvis, toss bags of Rohypnol into the audience. Nobody over the age of 17 can name any of their songs.

Spartacus

Don't Take It Like That

These clean-cut lads got a big push from the Fox tie-in Cloning the Band, which followed the process of creating a boy band from the initial Nick Carter skin scrapings to the development process in Swedish nutrient vats to the final stages of coordinating hair stylists and plastic surgeons. This year the Vaguely Dangerous-Looking Goateed One broke hearts all over when the news got out that he's romantically linked to a computer-animated newscaster, but in the end the controversy only boosted sales.

Superhead

VH1 Behind the Music: The Superhead Collection

These "bad boy" Seattlites were signed eight years ago, during the big grunge scare of 1992, on the strength of their publicity photo. All subsequent recording sessions were cut short because at least one member was in stir and/or rehab. But this year management hit on the brilliant idea of kicking off their career with a Behind the Music special, and the companion CD entered the Billboard charts in its first week.

Ken Vandermark's Greazy Sportsman Quintet

Free for All

The noted reedman burned off the last of his MacArthur money on the finest Danish and Swedish metal revivalists he could rent for this group devoted to the Ted Nugent songbook. The musicians honed their interpretations at open rehearsals held at 4:30 AM on alternate Wednesdays, the only free time left in Vandermark's schedule. Weasel Walter has announced his intention to form a competing group, Flight of the Byrd, to play no-wave interpretations of the Amboy Dukes' repertoire.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): art/Sheila Sachs/Nickie Sage/Mark Blade/Elizabeth Tamny/Sheila Sachs/Godfrey Carmona.

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