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FILE UNDER: ELECTRONIC/TECHNO-TOONS

Wagon Christ
Sorry I Make You Lush
Ninja Tune

Wagon Christ is an android's Saturday Night Fever, a hot and steamy dance hall with a disco ball, a smoke machine, and poppin' and lockin' animatronics. See, unlike the more common (and pretentious) variety of electronic musicians, Luke Vibert (the man pulling the Wagon Christ) is not interested in scoring self-important melodrama; instead, Vibert's on the whimsical tip, and Lush is 49 minutes of toon-town techno. Like the zany sketches of Kid Koala and Q*Bert, Vibert's idea of the future reads more like vaudeville. Granted, sometimes the jokes don't work—like the repetitive "I'm Singing," the only track to feature Vibert's voice, on which he sings, "I'm singing!" ad fucking infinitum. And the touches of sincerity on "Shadows" lack the sophistication of more inspired—and giddier--tracks. But these are rare duds in an otherwise-explosive album. Vibert's starlite production values bounce his beats off the walls (but not out of orbit), and his funky cool never slips out of control. So does the whimsy undercut the potency? Maybe--the problem with keeping your tongue in your cheek is that it keeps you from biting into anything. But then again, even robots gotta loosen up once in a while. (Maxwell Yim)

FILE UNDER: POST-PUNK/FUTURE LOST

The Futureheads
self-titled
Rough Trade

When I was a child, the future of music was supposed to be this unearthly meteor shower of bleeps and bloops that sounded nothing like Jessica Simpson's little sister. And so the Futureheads (from Sunderland, Scotland) are the perfect band because they sound like the future that existed when I was six years old: Adam and the Ants riding sidecar with Gang of Four (Futurehead's album was even produced by Gang of Four's Andy Gill!). It's dynamic, Scottish, playful and immediate, and just calling them "angular" is a really lazy analysis of a complex choir of elements: curiously adept vocal arrangements, time signatures that turn on a dime, and a gift for a genuine re-creation--instead of imitation--of a time when radio wasn't a testing ground for singing pop tarts and bro-bot nu-metal. Songs such as "Le Garage" and "Robot" negate endless streams of TV commercials for three mega-minutes of Sunderland-wunderkind tone poems; "Stupid and Shallow" (about those who "eat shit 'cause you're stupid and shallow") underlines an urgent need to see the flaws in our art and mass media. And finally, they do a fucking Kate Bush cover . . . very well! Most new rock outfits would be too cowardly to try any of this—but Futureheads? They're not scared of anything. (Eyad Karkoutly)

FILE UNDER: ROCK/DIRTY SWEDE

Sahara Hotnights
Kiss & Tell
RCA

There must be something about Sweden that breeds gorgeous beings with a penchant for creating deliriously catchy pop songs--the Cardigans, the Sounds, the Hives and of course, the ultimate cute-band alert, Sahara Hotnights. Kiss & Tell, the quartet's third album--and their first on a major—isn't as full-speed-ahead as 2001's Jennie Bomb, but the hotness is still there in their solid delivery of '70s-inspired pop/rock wrapped in delicious coyness and smart lyrics. Kiss & Tell has the Leather Tuscadero toughness of Suzi Quatro (catch 'em live to hear their perfect-o cover of "Can the Can"), the signature new wave sound of the Cars and the vocal styling of hey-do-you-remember? Red Five. "Empty Heart" shimmers with richly layered harmonies and a sing-along "oh-oh-oh" hook, while "Walk on the Wire"--with its big drum sound, tambourines and handclaps--is the perfect soundtrack for your good-time night. Music for an endless summer. . . . (Kat Jetson)

 
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