The Moon and Antarctica

Ah, indie-band heaven! A first release with a major label, and there's not a trace of "get commercial" pressure to be heard within the grooves. This Northwest trio can become more radio-friendly anytime they want, but it's obvious that leader Isaac Brock has his own places to go, or rather, stay: these are the songs of a brilliantly self-aware arrested late adolescent. Anyone want mirthful discourse on philosophical desolation? As the title suggests, Brock can show it to you with the lens focused close in or pulled way back. He's as happy as can be that such thoughtful topics can be treated to thrashing miniatures and chaotic meanderings. Make no mistake, it takes talent to be able to manage that kind of range... and its detours.

For little discernible reason, the middle of the album takes off in the direction of The Cure, with moody layering and poignant asides. Still, Brock isn't Robert Smith: Modest Mouse is an angry-young-man band. At start and finish, the set is more rough-hewn, with the caustic choppy guitars seemingly a reflection of Brock's jumping-bean thoughts. The lyrics often come out with internal rhymes and skittering rhythms (probably a good survival mechanism, too - even by alt-rock standards, Brock's much more a vocalist than singer).

The centerpiece "The Stars Are Projectors," wanders all over in melody and in arrangement and in faux-casual metaphysics. This sort of restless intelligence combined with giddy-but-not-ironic playfulness makes Modest Mouse a perfect band for college station playlist popularity. They're also a wonderful respite from Pearl Jam's dourness or the recent spate of smartasses from Green Day to Eminem. Don't forget, it's all about the moderate climates. -T.E. Lyons

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New Tattoo
Motley Records/Beyond Music

Pop metal bands of the 1980s are roaming the earth, seemingly willing to play any and all venues that'll have them. Like scheming, exiled aristocrats, these bands that provided the soundtrack to the Reagan years are looking to claw their way back into the game.

And when today's biggest acts are pretty much geared exclusively toward little girls shopping for their first bra, why not usher in these guys one more time?

The new Mötley Crüe record, produced by Mike Clink (who worked on all the good Guns-n-Roses records), gives a strong argument these groups still have something to offer beyond just being the answer to the Daily Double question on VH1's Rock-n-Roll Jeopardy.

Songs like "Hell on High Heels" and "Punched in the Teeth by Love" affirm the theory that silly - even frighteningly stupid - clichés are entirely acceptable when delivered with kick-ass guitar riffs and pounding bass/drums.

Sure, go ahead and make the snide (perhaps even well-deserved) comparisons to Spinal Tap, but "She Needs Rock N Roll" is mindlessly engaging.

Admittedly, "New Tattoo" is a power ballad - the nadir of the pop metal genre - and it's just as awful as anything ever wrought by Firehouse. But, as Poison has established beyond a doubt, every rose has its thorn. - ADG

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Jaka Ja Kaya

The Poles may well be in the process of selecting their next Pope.

Kayah makes Polish sound as sexy as French, as sexy as Sade makes English sound. Smooth jazz, techno, bossa nova, pop rock, world music, she does all things well. It's all been done before, but not often on the same album, and not with such technical proficiency. According to the insert, Kayah wrote and produced every track herself, but it's hard to believe that such hypnotic authenticity was not the collaboration of Europe's most gifted engineers.

Her concerts are generating a level of energy in Poland that rivals the masses of John Paul II during his four victory laps around the country. A former model, Kayah performs her music as well on the road as she did in the studio.

Kayah has sampled the mountains of her native country, the African savanna, and the discotheques of Europe; she's followed the gypsies around Hungary and sat at the feet of the Queen of Soul to fashion her own eclectic but unified collection.

OK, so one of the techno tracks, "Anoil Wiedzial," reminds one that "Dodge is Different," but the blame for that lies with slick Madison Avenue types, quick to mimic the best in current musical trends, not with Kayah.

Her sound is the voice of a new generation of Poles. Called the Christ of Nations by their poet icon Adam Mickievic, less than a century after its total excision from the map, Poland has passed through the coma of Communism, rising from the dead as the fastest growing economy in Europe. Kayah takes us away to a magical place, and reminds them what it means to be Polish.

They have their Pope, now they have their pop diva. - T. R. Wright

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