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Spooks
S.I.O.S.O.S. Volume One

You gotta respect an all-black group for calling themselves Spooks. You also gotta respect a mostly-male hip hop group that includes a female. And you gotta respect a group that produces a strong, original album, regardless of genre. S.I.O.S.O.S. Volume One starts out with Other Script, a powerful track that uses strings and a phat beat to back up the vocal stylings of the four MC’s. Ming Xia’s vocals are the perfect foil due to her light, clear voice. She may not have the strongest voice, but she makes up for it with true chill soulfulness.

The Spooks do not want to be lumped with the guns-money-ho’s type of hip hop, and with lyrics like Murder’s “You know we’re killing competition/ Creativity on every mission/ We came to set your mind free/ Fucking up the industry”, they’re confident they will succeed. Most of the album is listen worthy. Check out Things I’ve Seen for Ming’s sweet vocals, I Got U for great flow and beat, and Swindley’s Maracas for a smooth, Latin inspired track. For a laugh, listen to the skits between the songs of record industry types trying to split up the Spooks, for example, by explaining how they could capitalize on one MC named Hypno, or how the “girl can’t sing.” These sarcastically self-deprecating skits just prove the Spooks know they really have what it takes to succeed.

— Alicia Cox

S Club 7
“7”

S Club 7 are bad in the way that sometimes Greek gods were bad...as in epic. I have to admit, I was intimidated by this assignment from the beginning. But there comes a time in any person’s life when they must come face to face with that which is truly nightmarish and evil.

It takes me about thirty seconds to discover that S Club 7 are to music what searing acid is to human flesh. I wanted to turn it off — that’s all it would take to make the pain go away — but I had a job to do, and there was no way I was letting The Journal down.

When I closed my eyes it felt like I was in a karaoke lounge. If music has a soul it is cowering in some darkened corner, screaming for mercy. The album hits its spiritual crescendo in the heart wrenching “All in Love is Fair.” It was raw, organic love I felt during this song. The emotions I felt during those short moments cannot be understated.

By the end I was in a daze, delirious and weak. I had taken a concentrated shot of pure Disney plastic happiness. I have walked barefoot over pop music’s flaming coals to tell you that this CD is every bit as crap as you knew it would be.

— Dave Wong

Barenaked Ladies
Maroon

While it might take a while before you would tire of looking at barenaked ladies, listening to the Barenaked Ladies is an entirely different proposition.

The wise-cracking Toronto quintet’s latest effort, Maroon, seems representative of the band’s spotty past.

The early portion of Maroon is littered with the attempts at lyrical alacrity that have resulted in many of the Ladies biggest hits. But, once we’ve heard one, we’ve heard them all. Although “Sell Sell Sell” may be their most misguided effort yet. The latest in a seemingly endless procession of pieces of “art” about how terrible and fleeting fame is, the Ladies get untracked early and ridiculous lines referring to Saddam Hussein and Roman Polanski ensure that redemption is nowhere in sight.

The first single, “Pinch Me” is infused with typical Ladies energy, but offers nothing new or interesting.

There are occasional glimpses of the potential that the Barenaked Ladies possess for solid, serious pop tunes, but they remain overshadowed by all of the sophomoric fluff.

— Dan Rowe

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