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The week's best releases from the pop-culture universe: 

BOOK -- Rip It Up and Start Again: The year's best book about music, subtitled "Postpunk 1978-1984," looks at those crucial years between the Clash and the Replacements. Veteran rock critic Simon Reynolds focuses his narrative on such bands as the Talking Heads, Gang of Four, and Joy Division, but the real rush comes from his virtuoso writing -- which, like the music, is smart, resourceful, and dizzying.

DVD -- The Andy Milonakis Show: The Complete First Season: We're still not sure if we're amused or appalled by MTV's sketch-and-reality show, in which the preternaturally young-looking 30-year-old acts like an escapee from the short bus. Whether verbally abusing a delivery boy or hanging with Snoop, Milonakis is a hoot. Few things in life are as funny as a chubby little kid saying things to women that would land a grown man in jail.

BOOK -- Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons: The entire alt-country family tree sprouts from this one-time Byrd and founder of the Flying Burrito Brothers. This bio, co-penned by Parsons' daughter, focuses more on the good years than the flameout, which culminated in the singer-songwriter's death at the age of 26 from an overdose of tequila and morphine. Did we mention that he was Keith Richards' best friend?

CD -- Kicking the National Habit: U.K. duo the Grand National's U.S. debut jumps from reggae to funk to nostalgic new wave to come up with a jangly pop sound all its own. The band filters these influences through a singular groove, making the album a funky, bubbly listen that shakes up pop's boundaries. It's a Habit you won't want to kick.

VIDEOGAME -- Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence: That old-school mercenary, Snake, returns in a new-millennium update that's every bit as exciting as the original hall-of-fame title. Subsistence (for PlayStation 2) finally brings the series online, allowing up to eight players to participate in rescue missions, death matches, and sneaking around for the perfect kill.

DVD -- Michael Palin: Sahara: Monty Python's Palin journeys across the famed desert in this two-disc set that triples as a travelogue, history lesson, and quip-filled session of trivial pursuit. (Sahara originated as a BBC-TV special; the DVD includes bonus footage and a new interview with Palin.) It's informative, funny, and less stuffy than all those other exotic on-location shows. We're just not sure if we want a guy who mastered the Silly Walk leading us into all that sand.

COURTESY FLUSH, PLEASE -- Different Strokes by Different Folks: First, a mohawked Sly Stone emerged from more than a decade in exile with a bizarre performance at this year's Grammys. Now this remix CD -- credited to Sly & the Family Stone and featuring appearances by Maroon 5, the Black Eyed Peas, and Aerosmith -- further sullies the image of one of R&B's greatest artists. Dance to the music? Not to these pointless mash-ups.

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More by Michael Gallucci

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