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SECRET MACHINES Now Here is Nowhere ****


Coming off as a “normalized” Flaming Lips with the organic, wide-open psychedelia of Spiritualized, Secret Machines’ music is not so special and revolutionary that it’s above being played during the closing credits of a multimillion-dollar Hollywood blockbuster. A definite Gary Numan flavor comes out in “First Wave Intact,” but the best songs are the two closers, “Lights On”—an intense hypnotizer, the chorus of which recalls the shadows of ’80s Goth injected with plenty of reverb—and the title track, which glides into satisfying electric pop ending with a bang and a whisper. (Reprise)


NEW FOUND GLORY Catalyst **.5


Sure, New Found Glory have the rote tattooed look of Good Charlotte, they’re an obvious pick for the cover of Alternative Press’ Vans Warped issue, their voices are so nasally they probably drink milk nonstop to get the desired effect, and they sing about things that only under-16s toss and turn over at night. But as far as songwriting, hooks and blasting choruses go, NFG have it down. (Drive-Thru)


MELISSA AUF DER MAUR Auf der Maur **


Like most solo projects from bassists/guitarists/backup ukeleleists of grossly famous bands, Melissa Auf der Maur (ex of Hole, Smashing Pumpkins) has released an album that will be eaten up by millions of sticky-faced kiddies because of her Connections, even though it blows doughnut chunks. Dull guitar work, grungy chord progressions and silly lyrics benefit from a stellar lineup (James Iha, Josh Homme of QOTSA, John Stainer of Helmet), but nothing can prop up lousy songwriting. (Capitol)


ALANIS MORISSETTE So-Called Chaos **


In 1995, it was pleasant rockin’ out to “You Oughta Know” (the only listenable song on Jagged Little Pill). Every album since that has been a dot in a downward sine curve. So-Called Chaos is the lowest point so far, with its “healing” ballads and lyrics about forgiveness spruced up with wannabe Eastern spirituality via hippie world instruments, dripping so much sap it rivals Vermont’s finest syrup. Give me bewildered, raw anger any day. (Maverick)


SOPHIE B. HAWKINS Wilderness *


New-age Avenues yoga fanatics who have nothing more to worry about than whether they’re going to get a new Thighmaster or a dinner for two to Third & Main for their birthdays, whether sugar from strawberries counts towards their non-sweets Atkins ban, or whether they are going to date the assistant manager of Wild Oats or that nice kalimba-maker who works at Acoustic Music need something to listen to, as well. (Trumpet Swan)

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