June 3, 2010

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The Constellations, Southern Gothic
Virgin Records, May 22
You’ll be hearing a lot about this album, what with Virgin doling out free CDs to reviewers the way AOL used to stuff your mailbox with sign-up disks. The PR angle for this Atlanta band is that they’re reviving hip-hop by adding a darker edge, which I suppose is true if you only count the Cee-Lo-guested “Love is a Murder,” kind of (rapping in actual musical keys is going to save the world?). The real takeaway is hideously commercial alt-rock, a cynical pandering to small-city hipster nitwits, with singer Elijah Jones mumbling his lines in a factory-issue Eminem/Beck drone-drawl that the Madison Avenue jerks will be jumping on in no time to vibe up their Ford Focus commercials. Any rebellion will be quickly crushed, trust me: there’s simply too much “Tom Waits cover song! Hot chick backup singers!” dingbat couture being microwaved here for anyone or anything to stop it — producer Ben H. Allen has done records for Animal Collective and Gnarls Barkley, and these club-crawling chuckleheads are the perfect cross between those two, if, God help you, that sounds like your bag (Cliff Richard ’80s cheese, self-indulgent but completely unadventurous instrumental passages, smell the relevance being stuffed up your nose). CEric W. Saeger