Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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With blueslike staying power, punk has enabled two decades worth of alienated adolescent males to vent their frustrations on songs that are fast, hard, brutish, and short. Usually, though, nobody else much cares because most punk bands sound indistinguishable to outsiders. Like their pop compadres in Green Day, Berkeley's Rancid is an exception, going gold with 1995' . . . And Out Come the Wolves. As usual, they do it mostly on tunes and spirit. But it must be noted that never before has a band of comparable stature so slavishly, yet effectively, emulated its heroes. From Tim Armstrong's sputtering Joe Strummer howl to the rhythm section's unself-conscious mix of punk force-beat and Jamaican skank, Rancid are the Clash revisited, which makes Life Won't Wait (Epitaph) their London Calling: 22 songs in 64 minutes, varied by guest shots from dancehall shouter Buju Banton and a panoply of ska heroes. If Rancid's radicalism is more general than the Clash's, well, their sense of community is more delicate and empathetic. And their sprawl, scope, and unforced enthusiasm all promise the freedom that rock and roll's holy mission.

In a pop world suddenly inundated with salsa compilations, Afro-Latino (Putumayo World Music) should appeal especially to those who find salsa-derived horn arrangements a little hectic. Concentrating on Cuban-influenced bands from West and Central Africa, these 12 tracks emphasize beat, voice, and rippling guitar, with a few dollops of Cuban son to let you rest your hips.

You will be relieved to learn that Warren Beatty doesn't rap once on the Bulworth soundtrack (Interscope). Instead, the great white father offers up an object lesson in why he was inspired to try: a rap rainbow from the Fugees to the Wu-Tang Clan, from matched old-timers Ice Cube and Public Enemy to up-and-comers Canibus and Witchdoctor.

Playboy, June 1998

May 1998 July 1998