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4Play: Sonic Youth, Counting Crows, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam

Kristi Kates - August 29th, 2011
Sonic Youth - Hits Are for Squares - Geffen
Essentially a hits collection in defiance of the album’s name, this Sonic Youth best-of was put together in an interesting fashion - specifically, by a group of fellow artists personally selected by the band who in turn chose the Sonic Youth songs that would be included here. Given that the tracks were chosen by such a wide range of folks, it’s to be expected that the album itself is somewhat uneven, but it’s still entertaining - top picks include the Beck-selected “Sugar Kane,” the Radiohead-chosen “Kool Thing,” and the Mike D-dubbed “100%,” while Eddie Vedder, Chloe Sevigny, and Gus Van Sant picked less appealing Sonic Youth tunes.



Counting Crows - August and Everything After: Live at Town Hall - Eagle Records
Plenty of strained vocals - and quite a bit of swearing, as well - highlight (?) frontman Adam Duritz’ part of this live concert release from the Berkeley folk-pop-rock band. The rest of the musicians are in decent form, fusing in Hammond B-3 organs, a broad range of guitars and mandolins, and solid percussion into a hits-worthy setlist of Crows tracks as they perform their seven-million-copies selling 1993 album August and Everything After in its entirety. Tracks “’Round Here,” “Ghost Train,” and the ultimately singalongable “Mr. Jones” translate better on record than live, but it’s still fun reminiscing with the band on this classic ‘90s album.


Red Hot Chili Peppers - I’m With You - Warner Bros.
2006 was the last we heard from the Red Hot Chili Peppers (at least in album form), although their long setlist of songs lives on on album rock stations nationwide. Now they’re back with their latest Rick Rubin-produced set (Rubin’s produced the last six of the band’s albums now) as recorded in the Peppers stomping grounds of Los Angeles. Sounds copacetic so far, right? Well - it is - kind of. Problem with the Peppers almost 30 years into their career is that nothing much has changed; songs like “Look Around” and “Police Station” just sound like outtakes from older RHCP albums. For fans, this is reassuring; for the casual listener, it’s just boring.


Pearl Jam - Twenty (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Columbia
Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe is at the helm for the film part of this Pearl Jam 20th anniversary rockumentary, which is set to be accompanied in September by its own soundtrack, ‘natch. The two-disc set brings together live tracks, demos, and instrumental versions of PJ songs from “Crown of Thorns” and “Black” to “Alive” and “Walk With Me,” with standouts including their Saturday Night Live performance of “Just Breathe” and a NYC live version of “Better Man.” Accompanied by Crowe-penned liner notes in a snazzy booklet, this is a nice commemoration of the Seattle band’s two decades together.
 
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