Photo by Torkil GudnasonWhat self-respecting lover of good and decent music everywhere, much less good and decent hip-hop, hasn't jumped on the Outkast bandwagon? Big Boi and Andre's new Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is easily the greatest double-disc joint since Sign o' the Times (which is to say it's also the greatest album Prince never made, or the album Prince would have made 10 years ago had he not been a contra in the hip-hop revolution). An excellent, amazing, spin-your-head-around album that references jazz, funk, rock, classic soul, psychedelia, DJ culture, and probably four or five genres yet to be named; some of the most mind-blowing sounds you'll hear this or any other century; our easy three-months-early Album-of-the-Year winner if we cared enough to compile such a list. Look: buy it, steal it, do whatever you must to get this album, all right? Still, we feel the need to point out the disc's one glaring deficiency: to be so richly rewarded by the music requires you to first traverse one of the most obnoxiously packaged CDs ever manufactured—those old cardboard longboxes pale in comparison. Getting past the shrink wrap is fairly simple. But in addition to the regular cellophane seal placed along the CD's top edge, there's another running along the bottom. Neither come off easily, as if the pressing plant used extra-sticky glue or something, at least on our copy. Peeling the seals off also shreds the Outkast stickers on the CD case, leaving even more gunky residue behind. Then there's the matter of track listings, which are numbered on a small piece of paper that's easily tossed away with the shrink wrap (and yeah, we had to go scrounging in the muck of our discarded coffee grounds to find it). Songs aren't numbered in the CD booklet, either, so it took us eons—10 whole minutes!—to finally find "Hey Ya!" buried amidst a maze of fancy cursive script and skits that may or may not count as tracks (but we're getting the hang of it). Honestly, whack packaging like this is just another good argument for free downloading. (Rich Kane)
KORN SPIN CYCLE
What's the surest way for a band to drum up interest in a new album, particularly when the previous album was something of a dud? Easy: claim you're going "back-to-basics," which is what Korn does in the wake of last year's Untouchables disc, a release that was, well, untouchable and earned ridicule from many longtime fans (we've read the brutal assessments on the band's website, mostly variants of the word "suck") and sold poorly when compared with earlier platinum-plus Korn albums. (One excuse Korn has cited for Untouchables' low sales figures has been massive free Internet downloading, a cop-out when the real reason is that it was just a crappy album—jillions of Korn fans can't be wrong!) So we were greatly amused by the recent press release touting Korn's new Take a Look in the Mirror, in which various Korn band members wax positive: "It's aggressive Korn screaming again"; "This is the real Korn, the real deal, as raw as it can get"—which suggests that Untouchables was made by the fake Korn; "It's going back to our roots"; "the best stuff we've ever done." Look for them to repeat that last blurb on all future albums, no matter how atrocious the music may be. (RK)
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