Cd Reviews

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Nov 022005
 
Authors: Nicholas LoFaro

t.A.T.u. "Dangerous and Moving"

Narcissistic and confident, the two young Russian exports known as the group t.A.T.u. return to the music scene with their sophomore album "Dangerous and Moving."

Yes, it may sound as if the album is "dangerous and moving" – given the group's controversial reputation – but the album is the same replicated pop-weaponry that the "pretend lovers" used to get on the music charts a few years ago with their first album. Forlorn love struggles and minor-keyed, somber-sounding music makes up for the duo's power-pop.

The two women present themselves as artistic and intellectual, but also try very hard to seem like sexually progressive young women with their career – in their past they engaged in making out on the "Tonight Show" – so it is clear that they will to do whatever they want, regardless of expectations or inhibitions.

t.A.T.u. denies that their controversial stage presence and reputation is mindlessly sensational. They claim that their on-stage fondling is out of pure emotion, not for shock value.

"Maybe it's more of a Russian thing to kiss each other," said t.A.T.u. in a television interview. Well, you be the judge.

The band dropped off the bill on the European MTV Awards because they were forbidden to have machineguns on stage (probably a good idea, although it sounds fun!), so it's clear that they want to be controversial. Both sexuality and violence have contributed to the banning of the duo's videos.

All reputation and controversy aside, what happens when a band's persona is bigger than their music? "Dangerous and Moving" sounds overtly-industrial with all the techno drumming, synth effects and keyboard string arrangements.

The album's high-energy club tracks are the only songs that seem to work for t.A.T.u. Their slow songs are trying too hard to be sweeping ballads and end up being rather annoying and whining, not to mention corny. Perhaps the slow songs would be better fit in the days when Madonna's "Like A Virgin" was big, but they'd still be annoying.

"Cosmos (Outer Space)" is a pretty cool song, using the women's ambient and melodic voices to layer the mean and distorted guitars, making for a good heavy metal song. The song "Love Me Not" is the best track, following the band's tried and true formula of having a dance-beat verse, but with a really head-banging chorus. Time will tell if t.A.T.u.'s music will out-weigh their controversy, but for now the scale remains heavier in shock and awe.

Thrice, "Vheissu"

Given that Thrice's fourth album is named after a series of tunnels, which run underground Mount Vesuvius, it is not surprising that "Vheissu" is explosive. Drawing less influence from hardcore, Thrice have mellowed their overall sound, but they did it without getting soft – by any means.

Thrice has a reputation of high intensity and energy and are passionate and eloquent in their music craft. Through imploring emotional, physical and political interests out their fan base, the band's continued success is definitive. They prefer to be boundless and free when writing music – especially in their new album – so it is difficult to simplify Thrice into any specific genre.

On "Vheissu," the quartet have distanced themselves from traditional punk sounds and, in exchange, they have succeeded in showing the influence that Radiohead and Bjork have had in their musicianship. The product is a diverse album full of harmonized vocal arrangements and soaring lead guitar and piano elements that work to create a wholly astrological sound-scape.

The opening track, "Image of the Invisible," beats into your ear like a revolution of freewill and human spirit. The song seems to comment on the band's overall emotion on making the album: "We are lost and we are found/ no one can stop us or slow us down."

"The Earth Will Shake" is one of the album's finest tracks, opening with "chain-gang" vocals and quickly turning into a mean and growling heavy metal track. The lyrics invoke liberation: "we dream of ways to break these iron bars/ we dream of black nights without moon or stars/ we dream of tunnels and of sleeping guards/ we dream of blackouts in the prison yard."

"Atlantic" is a beautifully written, ocean-swollen love song that is as equally haunting as it is uplifting. Fans of Thrice's hardcore and punk sounds may feel disappointment with their new album, being that there is lots of piano and keyboard work and there is a lot of ambience, even in the album's heaviest tracks.

"Of Dust and Nations" is probably the album's best track. Using distorted energy and echoing lead guitars, the song recalls political animosity and commands the listener to "put your faith in more than steel." "Stand and Feel Your Worth" is remarkably poetic and check out the song "Red Sky," a song about love and raising an "empire from the bottom of the sea." … very Jules Verne. Thrice is indeed building a powerful autonomy.

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