Rated R
Interscope Records

Queens of the Stone Age rose from the ashes of stoner/doom forebears Kyuss, via guitarist/singer Joshua Homme, and quickly took the mantle of King-Daddy stoner band. Their heavy riffs and slow tempos propelled the band at a dirge-like pace towards success. Then Rated R comes out and everything is different ... literally.

Not so much an homage to Black Sabbath as the genre of stoner/doom rock tends to be, Rated R sounds a lot closer to an unholy union of Cream and the Stooges, yet veers all over the musical map. Straight-ahead, no-nonsense rock like "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," the CD's opener, recalls the Stooges' meld of blues to punk. With the repeated mantra of a grocery list of mind-altering substances (complete with backing vocals courtesy of Rob "I've been dressing in leather since '72 and still had to tell people I'm gay" Halford), the track careens into "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret," Rated R's first single. This Stones-meets-Cream-and-then-proceed-to-kick-their-asses song sets the creepy mood for the rest of the disc. The mood is pervasive, although a musical theme is not.

Taken separately, the songs might be mistaken as recorded by separate bands, but, put end-to-end, the songs create a cohesive flow unrivaled since Radiohead's OK Computer. Credit co-producer Chris Goss (Stone Temple Pilots) for this thread of continuity that somehow keeps the freak-out of "Monsters in the Parasol," and the out and out rock of "Feel Good..." on the same page.

As record labels (and the teeny-bopper fans) grow out of their Britney/boy band phase, rockers as experienced and as interesting as QOTSA could be within reach of the brass (nipple) ring.-Rob Hulsman

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Tender is the Savage
Sub Pop Records

Hmmm. Must be something in the water in Scandinavia these days. The Hellacopters have been representin' Sweden in a big way, with not one but two ass-kickin' CDs in the past year (Grande Rock; Payin' the Dues). Now, from Norway, comes Gluecifer's latest effort, Tender is the Savage. This is a record which redefines "ass-kickin'."

Produced by Daniel Rey, known for his work with the Ramones, among others, Tender is the Savage is a non-stop rawk-fest, turned to eleven from the git-go. It's definitely, to borrow from Nigel Tufnel, "one louder than ten."

The party starts with "I Got a War." Vocalist Biff Malibu exudes so much venom in this ode to a romantic breakup ("Grab your chair you gonna need a shield; coz I got so much in store"), that one can envision the spittle spewing from his mouth as he snarls the lyrics. And the double-time drums and guitars back him up, big-time.

And it only gets better. "The General Says Hell Yeah" is the sort of song which could best be appreciated behind the wheel of a Trans Am, doing ninety, doob in the ashtray, beer held firmly in place between the legs. This is pure adrenalized rock like nobody else is making right now. Nobody.

Amazing. A record which combines the absolute best sounds ever heard from the likes of AC/DC, .38 Special, and Kiss comes from Norway. Dunno what they're drinkin' over there, but by God, order Gluecifer a double.-Matt Dacey

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Gypsy Swing
Refined Records

Gypsies! When you think of Gypsies, you probably don't think of jazz.

Gypsies evoke weird beats and eastern anti-melodies and tambourines or something. But Gypsy Swing is not funky, esoteric, or alien it's some of the better jazz you've ever heard, smooth as butter, driven by guitar-picking that proves the existence of some higher being.

Hearing these artists slide up and down scales,melodies, and octaves in sixteenth notes for entire songs is breathtaking enough, but the result, simply, is phenomenal songs. The artists range from the Hot Club de Norvege, the Robin Nolan Trio (personal favorites of George Harrison), Moreno, and Jimmy Rosenberg - who was 13 when he recorded some of his songs. Don't be fooled; he may be the best and most talented musician on the album. It's like the music you'd imagine if you were watching a movie set on the streets of Paris, but many times more ear-pleasing.

The songs are jams without frenzy. Despite the ridiculous melodies the guitarists play, there is never even a hint of hesitation. The music seems to come easy to them. Add some great bass, maybe a harmonica, and a violin, and it's the best easy listening you've ever heard, while undeniably true jazz. The worst problem is the tunes may be so infectious you have to snap your fingers or stamp your feet. If you like guitars and/or jazz, hunt for the gypsies.-RB