DirectedBy: Andy and Larry Wachowski Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving WhoWhat: The Matrix
In love with love: Dido.
In love with love: Dido.
No Angel

As the singer in her brother Rollo's techno band Faithless, Dido gave the often-cold music a pulse to beat by. On songs like "God Is a DJ," she conveyed an internal warmth that was often at odds with the cyclic bpms soaring around her. It was a winning polarity, the little sister with the big R&B heart posing and strutting in front of big brother's steely machines. Of course it's all disposable and forgettable, the way all dance music worth its turntables and processors should be.

On her debut solo album No Angel, Dido gets even more cozy with club music's human side, tossing in bits and pieces of classic soul along with the electro noise of her generation and background. Working with her brother throughout the album (Dido herself penned, with others, all of its songs), Dido shapes No Angel into a more cerebral Faithless. Think an electronically charged Sarah McLachlan, and you get a pretty good idea what this is all about.

Combining elements of folk, ambient electronica, club raves, and pop, No Angel breathes an air of freedom for its creator. Songs never quite drift into the open-diary territory of McLachlan and her Lilith crew — most of the tunes have to do with romantic longing of the generic sort in one form or another — yet Dido injects each with a touch of personal commitment. You never really know who she is at the end of the album, but you do walk away with the notion that she's a gal in love with the concept of love.

The music serves the lyrics here (a dance-club rarity), never amounting to more than sonic background patterns that just happen to adapt to Dido's words and voice. Like Faithless, No Angel is disposable and forgettable, but in a different way. The graceful "Here With Me" and the acoustic sway of "Thank You" are pretty enough to listen to (and the closing torch number "My Life" will certainly look good on her résumé), but with her brother's electro-sparks glowing half-charged, it lacks any sort of immediate gravity. — Michael Gallucci

New World Disorder

Metal has developed such a new face over the past few years, one that involves a cosmetic blending of hip-hop knocks and hard-rock bluster, that anyone playing within the genre that doesn't sound at least a little like Korn or Limp Bizkit ends up coming off sort of quaint. It's a new world order out there, and if you're still stuck in the late '80s/early '90s, you might as well join Bobby Brown in the unemployment line.

So don't pity Biohazard. They do try to sound a little up-to-date on a couple cuts on their new album, but the hip-hop fusion they employ here is awfully outdated (a collaboration with Sticky Fingaz? From Onyx? Who cares?) and clumsy. In fact, these metalheads can't seem to do anything with finesse. Songs on New World Disorder range from the obvious to the silly. Charging like a speed metal band that was raised on too much early Metallica, Biohazard makes metal for misplaced kids who are enthusiastically gobbling up that new Dokken anthology.

Worst are pseudo-philosophical lines like "Someday I hope to rise above material chains which hold me down" that fill this album. Got a problem with those "material chains," pal? How about first distancing yourself from the major record label you're signed to and then pulling your band off the tour you're mounting this summer with the modern masters of crass commercialism, Insane Clown Posse? It's a good start.

Not that their equally moronic and repetitive songs don't assist some. Chugging away with zero suspense and even less ingenuity, Biohazard lives by the loud/fast rule: If it can't be measured by these terms, it's useless. And while the formulaic crunch of "Resist," "Switchback," and "End of My Rope" may kick ass in the most basic of ways, it's also very yawnsville. Better bands have tread this territory more than a decade ago, and because it adds nothing new to it, Biohazard ends up turning New World Disorder (talk about hackneyed titles) into a clunky relic of waste in the Korn Bizkit era. — Gallucci

(Rock Hard)

Feel a little sorry for guitarist Bruce Kulick and drummer Eric Singer, a Cleveland native. Downsized from the Kiss Corp. by President Simmons and Vice President Stanley to make room for Ace and Peter, they've little but the memories of scoring with second-tier groupies.

A guy has only so many guitar clinics in him, so Kulick and Singer put together a band, ESP. They're joined by singer John Corabi, who was in Mötley Crüe for about ten minutes, and Karl Cochran, a onetime Frehley hired hand. One would think that, after playing cabin boy to Gene and Paul for so long, Kulick and Singer would use ESP to show off their songwriting talents. No. ESP is a cover album, for heaven's sake, and an uninspired one at that.

Surprising no one, the ESPers are big fans of late '60s and early '70s guitar rock, covering the likes of Nazareth ("Teenage Nervous Breakdown"), Montrose ("Twenty Flight Rock"), Sweet ("Set Me Free"), Edgar Winter ("Free Ride"), and Hendrix ("Changes," "Foxy Lady"). As if to show there are no hard feelings, ESP remakes Kiss's "Goin' Blind," and Space Ace plays the solo on "Foxy Lady."

Cover albums can be fun when the band explores a genre not of its own, dusts off obscure songs, or reveals a sense of its heritage. Nothing like that is happening here. And who the hell cares what Kulick and Corabi grew up listening to, anyway?

The final shame ESP (perhaps not coincidentally, ESP is also a band-endorsed guitar manufacturer) heaps upon itself is a cover of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." Not only is this version completely unnecessary (what, Townshend screwed it up the first time?), it's an unoriginal take. Knowledgeable fans know Kiss covered "Won't Get Fooled Again" on the Asylum tour. — David Martin

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