Previewing new albums from Moby, Weezer, Rush, Naughty By Nature, and more.
Moby has decided that his new primary musical ambition is to create compositions that are warm and emotional -- the kind listeners can "take home and embrace." "In the past, when I made records, I aspired for it to be beautiful and compelling, but something that was also confrontational," he says. "I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I have changed my mind. Most people, in their daily lives, experience enough confrontation; they don't need more from me."
The threads of that philosophy bind his latest effort, "18," due this week from V2, into an eclectic, yet cohesive collection that strives to play equally well on crowded dancefloors and in more intimate, low-key settings. First single "We Are All Made of Stars" is No. 22 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart this week.
Joined by guests Angie Stone, Sinead O'Connor, and MC Lyte, among others, the New York-rooted artist darts from the electro-funk grooves that fueled 1999's hugely successful "Play" into rugged hip-hop, earthy gospel, and atmospheric ambient-pop soundscapes. "My only concern was in making people feel like this record wasn't a waste of their time," he says. "I always feel a sense of artistic responsibility and debt toward anyone who listens to my music. The interest and good grace of an audience can disappear in two seconds, if you don't make it worth their while."
Moby's Area2 tour, with David Bowie, Busta Rhymes, Ash, the Avalanches, and many more, kicks off July 28 in Bristow, Va.
After a dispute with Geffen/Interscope over the release of its next album, Weezer returns this week with its fourth studio set, "Maladroit." Earlier this year, the group enraged the label when it made a number of the "Maladroit" songs available online and personally sent radio stations and publications an eight-track "preview" disc. Several tracks garnered immediate airplay, particularly "Dope Nose," which is No. 9 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart.
That aside, "Maladroit" injects a bit more variety into the irresistibly catchy, pop/punk style of last year's self-titled "Green" album, which has sold more than 1.3 million copies in the U.S., according to SoundScan. Cuomo says he's fallen deep into the songwriting zone, doubting himself less and trusting the muse more often. As a result, he's no longer afraid to wear his love for '80s metal (heard on tracks such as "Fall Together") on his sleeve. Guitarist Brian Bell says, "Rivers has just unleashed the shredding beast in himself."
"It's been there all along, and I've had to consciously repress it on our first three records," Cuomo says with a laugh. "I had to force myself not to bust out with Scorpions riffs. And, at this point in my life, I really don't want to force anything anymore. I just wanna let it all hang out. So, on ["Maladroit"], it all just came pouring out." The band is on tour in Japan through late May but is expected to hit North America this summer.
Blazing A 'Vapor Trail'
It is and it isn't a coincidence that "One Little Victory" -- a song that celebrates personal triumph -- is the lead single from Rush's "Vapor Trails," the first Anthem/Atlantic collection of new music from the Canadian progressive rock trio in six years. "It's a coincidence in the sense that nobody planned to have a song like that," bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee explains. "The way the song turned out, there's so many kind of symbolic things about that song that relate to our condition that it seemed really appropriate to come out with that first."
The condition Lee refers to is the hiatus the band went on in 1997, when drummer/chief lyricist Neil Peart lost his daughter and then, not long afterward, his wife. All music business was put aside to give him the time he needed to recover before deciding when he wanted to return to Rush -- if he wanted to return at all.
Peart and company eventually regrouped, crafting what is arguably Rush's finest album in more than a decade. The set finds the band eschewing synthesizers and complicated production in favor of melodically inventive, refreshingly no-nonsense hard rock. "Ceiling Unlimited," "Peaceable Kingdom," and "Nocture" sport standout riffs from guitarist Alex Lifeson, while "Earthshine" and "One Little Victory" seem primed for anthem status on the band's first concert tour since '97, which bows June 28 in Hartford, Conn.
"We spent a long time talking and getting a sense of where we'd been and where we're going," Lifeson admits, "but it wasn't until about three or four months into it, after getting a break and getting away from it and coming back in, that we started to produce the kind of material that we were happy with and thought we could develop."
The 'I's' Have It
Veteran hip-hop outfit Naughty By Nature crowns its recent deal with TVT with "iicons," also its first set since the departure of DJ/producer KayGee. "That was one of the worst times in our career," rapper Treach says. "I was going through a divorce, our homie [KayGee] just split out of nowhere, we were dropped from [Arista], and one of my closest friends was murdered. It was just unbearable. With the help of [group member Vinnie] and the crew, we just stayed out on the road and stayed busy. We knew we had an objective."
For "iicons," Naughty enlisted the help of such producers as Da Beatminerz, Dream Team, and Allstar. In addition to bringing in outside producers, Vinnie and Treach decided they would celebrate their 10th anniversary in style. "These collaborations are people we actually have love for and know," Treach says. "We were inviting people to the studio. They would come in, hear a track, and go from there."
The album features a bewildering range of guests, from Peter Gabriel to 3LW, who appear on the smash lead single "It Feels Good." The track is No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Rap Singles chart and, in the grand tradition of such crossover hits as "O.P.P." and "Hip Hop Hooray," has soared to No. 4 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales tally.
'Home' Is Where The Heart Is
Rapper Cam'ron has found a new home with Roc-A-Fella Records after releasing his first two sets via Epic. His full-length debut for the imprint, "Come Home With Me," arrives this week. "I titled the album [after] the song 'Come Home With Me,' which revolves around Harlem [N.Y.] and has a real Harlem vibe," the Harlem native says. "It's not that the other album didn't have that vibe, but I always had to change for someone else."
The set's lead single, "Oh Boy," has garnered a quick response at radio. It's No. 7 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and No. 6 on Billboard's Hot Rap Singles tally.
"I'm always happy when you get a good response on a record, because without the fans, where would we be?" Cam'ron says of the track, which features Juelz Santana. "I really have to thank Just Blaze -- the producer of the track. He took it halfway there, and I just brought it home."
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- The Roger Troutman tribute album "Still More Bounce," featuring tracks by Ice-T, Xzibit, Kurupt, and Snoop Dogg.
-- A remix collection from Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, "P. Diddy & Bad Boy Records Present ... We Invented the Remix" (Bad Boy/Arista).
-- Irish troubadour Van Morrison's "Down the Road" (Universal), including a cover of Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on My Mind" and a new version of U.K. jazz legend Acker Bilk's "Evening Shadows."
-- Singer/songwriter Todd Snider's "New Connection" (Oh Boy).
-- New albums from veteran underground rock outfits Girls Against Boys ("You Can't Fight What You Can't See," Jade Tree) and the Get Up Kids ("On a Wire," Vagrant).
-- The "WWF Tough Enough 2" compilation (Geffen), with tracks from Limp Bizkit, Staind, Queens Of The Stone Age, Weezer, and more.
-- The soundtrack to "ESPN's Ultimate X: The Movie" (Hollywood), featuring previously released tracks from the likes of Fatboy Slim, Tricky, Guided By Voices, and Pennywise.
-- Modern rock act Deadsy's "Commencement" (DreamWorks).
-- A hits collection from Canadian singer/songwriter Bryan Adams, "The Best of Me" (A&M).
-- A boxed set from Irish rock outfit Cranberries, "Treasure Box -- Complete Sessions 1991-99" (Island).