Guilty as Charged

Secret vices of the poor and obscure.

Guilty pleasures
Korn: Their seventh album's a charmer.
Korn: Their seventh album's a charmer.
It's hard to embarrass Soundbites. We're used to being the butt of jokes -- especially our own. Besides, it's difficult to take yourself too seriously when you're the Schlitz of music critics.

But we have to admit that we're feeling a little sheepish as we tackle this week's topic: our favorite guilty pleasures of late. Everyone has albums they love, no matter how goofy, uncouth, or tasteless. Though it may make us cringe a little, we decided to share a few of the records that we dig more than we probably should. All these albums have their charms and their flaws. Read on, before we get any redder in the face.

Korn, See You on the Other Side (Virgin)
If Korn frontman Jonathan Davis didn't have kids, we'd seriously wonder whether the dude had ever gotten laid. The guy's never been accused of being a great lyricist, but his sex talk is particularly limp on his band's latest LP ("Licking your own skin, so trippy/Squeezing your own ass, so pretty"). But if you can get past Davis' lame come-ons, Korn's seventh album ranks among the better hard-rock records in recent memory. Co-written and produced by the Matrix (which has worked with Avril Lavigne and Liz Phair), the disc leavens the band's bass-heavy rumble with shimmering electronics and blackened melody. Korn has crafted plenty of hit singles, but this disc is the band's most consistently tuneful and adventurous. And best of all, it doesn't come with a lyric sheet.

Annie, DJ-Kicks (!K7)
This mix disc is pretty much one big post-coital grin set to wax. Annie is a better DJ than she is a singer, and this over-hyped Norwegian electro queen got way too much run for her dull debut, Anniemal. But Annie's entry in the DJ-Kicks series is a dizzy romp through bawdy old-school rap (Gucci Crew II's "Sally [That Girl])," cheeky '80s chestnuts (Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy"), and self-aware rock and roll (Death From Above 1979's "Black History Month"). It's an impossibly sunny, ditzy, and disposable collection of tunes, with this fair-haired chanteuse blowing kisses at you for an hour. Sure, it's all pretty haphazardly thrown together, and it's certainly not the smoothest of mixes. But when you spin this disc, it's best to follow Le Tigre's advice, which they deliver in the B-girl disco anthem "Nanny Nanny Boo Boo": "Turn it up! It's just a joke, man."

Fugi, Mary, Don't Take Me on No Bad Trip (Funky Delicacies)
The title track of this lost classic is the best tune ever written about brandishing firearms and going to prison for unemployment. A dark, foreboding funk workout with sultry wah-wah guitar, a domineering bass line, and haunting imagery, the song was a minor hit in the Midwest in 1969, though its title and bizarre symbolism led many to dismiss it as a novelty cut. Fugi is a true oddball, an eccentric funk wunderkind who once did time in San Quentin and whose career was cut short by a crippling heroin addiction. This collection of his first recordings spans heart-rending soul ("I'd Rather Be a Blind Man") and nasty percussive freakouts ("Red Moon") that manage to be both poignant and peculiar. "I'm not trying to sweep you off your feet with a bunch of words we both don't understand," Fugi croons on "Sweet Sweet Lady." Too late for that, dude.

Three 6 Mafia, Most Known Unknown (Sony)
Three 6 Mafia was crunk before the term had even been invented. Equal parts Scarface and Deep Throat, this Memphis troupe is quite possibly the randiest and most unrepentantly violent and profane of all southern rap crews (and that's really saying something). But on their latest disc, the Mafia's tunes are nearly as inventive as their curses. The album is propelled by the excellent single "I Stay Fly," a rugged, stupidly infectious banger with a stuttering chorus. It kicks off an equally melodic and menacing album full of slithering, serpentine beats and tough-guy boasts that should sound a lot more tired than they do.

Six Feet Under, A Decade in the Grave boxed set (Metal Blade)
If AC/DC penned songs about raping corpses, they'd sound a lot like Six Feet Under. This gnarly four-disc set (which also includes a live DVD and trading cards!) is a shortcut to hell, a puerile blast of icky fun with songs like "Impulse to Disembowel" and "Cadaver Mutilator." Six Feet Under is far and away the catchiest, most groovin' act of its kind, with simple, doomy riffs and frontman Chris Barnes' guttural yet decipherable growls. It's all so deliciously gross, vulgar, and juvenile -- like Andrew Dice Clay getting devoured by zombies.

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