Trent Reznor is old enough to be Avril Lavigne's dad, but that doesn't mean they can't duke it out in the ring ... er, record store. Reznor and Lavigne have been defined throughout their careers as iconoclasts, and now it's time to see which rebel can yell the loudest — Lavigne, on her third studio LP, or Reznor, on Nine Inch Nails' fifth.
NIN fans have been in bliss since Reznor announced that he'd already completed a new album just two years after releasing With Teeth — it usually takes him five or seven to get around to making a new one. And he gets an extra pat on the back for coming up with an illustrious, apparently well-thought-out concept: Year Zero depicts a future society poised on the brink of Armageddon, and there's a deliciously enigmatic marketing campaign to go along with it.
"It takes place about 15 years in the future. Things are not good," Reznor recently wrote on his blog. "If you imagine a world where greed and power continue to run their likely course, you'll have an idea of the backdrop. The world has reached the breaking point — politically, spiritually and ecologically. Written from various perspectives of people in this world, Year Zero examines various viewpoints set against an impending moment of truth."
Among the 16 tracks are "Meet Your Master," "The Great Destroyer," "My Violent Heart," "The Beginning of the End" and "Zero-Sum." That's Reznor for ya — always chipper.
If Lavigne's The Best Damn Thing is a concept album, it's a, uh, pretty loose one. "Everything Back but You" is about bad spelling, while "Girlfriend" — surprise — is about wanting to snatch up someone else's man. Don't expect her to dig all that much deeper on "Runaway," "Keep Holding On" and, ahem, "I Don't Have to Try." But Avril fans who have waited three years for The Best Damn Thing are still in for a treat: a deluxe limited-edition with bonuses galore is dropping as well.
Also on the pop front this week is Pink's first DVD, "Live From Wembley Arena - London, England." We have no idea where the concert footage is taken from, but we do know that it was taped December 4 and that a hefty 20 performances are featured, including "Dear Mr. President," "The One That Got Away" and "I'm Not Dead."
As far as chart contenders go, though, there are really just two more to take into account this week. Bucky Covington is hoping to pull a Taylor Hicks — or even just an Elliott Yamin — with his self-titled LP. The fifth-season "American Idol" finalist is trying to appeal to Tim McGraw and Travis Tritt fans with country tunes like "Back When We Were Gods," "Ain't No Thing" and "Bible and the Belt."
That leaves Fightstar, the post-hardcore Londoners who have sold more than 50,000 copies of their Grand Unification debut, which would seem to be a good thing unless they're planning to go the way of the Darkness, et al. The album has already spawned two singles abroad — "Paint Your Target" and "Grand Unification, Part 1" — and while the band could count on those to do some damage Stateside, a spot on one of this summer's metal tours would certainly give Fightstar a lot more exposure.
Also this week:
· Snoop Dogg, Jim Jones, Shaggy, N.O.R.E. and Pitbull pump up Unexpected, the second album by Spanish Harlem, New York, rapper Lumidee. You may have already heard some of it, as her cover of "She's Like the Wind" — by Patrick Swayze! From "Dirty Dancing"! — has already been making the rounds on radio.
· Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante and Fugazi bassist Joe Lally bring back their Ataxia project for AW II — although that could be the first you've heard of the project, as it's been kept on the down-low. The band's much-delayed second LP represents the second half of its January 2004 sessions.
· Another guy from a band you may have heard of is stepping up with a new one this week, although Page McConnell moved on years ago from the defunct Phish. His first, eponymous solo release — which he's been hammering away at for two years with Phish drummer Jon Fishman — was recorded in Vermont and Brooklyn, New York, and features "Complex Wind," "Maid Marian" and "Close to Home."
· The Hold Steady are hoping to coast on their buzz a little while longer with a new EP, Live at Fingerprints — but the darn thing's so limited that it'll probably only satisfy the hard-core aficionados. The five acoustic tracks featured on Live at Fingerprints were recorded in October at the Long Beach, California, record store and, as such, will only be available in select indie shops.
· And oh yeah, those dudes Tarantula A.D.? Well, they're now going by the name Priestbird — no, not because another band had the previous name, but because, according to a press release, "The band felt an overall change was in order." The heavily layered In Your Time features all three bandmembers singing for the first time, playing a combined dozen-plus instruments (forks included!) and was recorded by none other than Black Crowes engineer Chris Ribando. Go fig.
Song Title of the Week:
"Sad Panda Clown's Lament" from Dolly Varden's The Panic Bell
The Eames Era's Heroes and Sheroes: With their song "When You Were a Millionaire" already having snuck its way onto MTV's "I'm From Rolling Stone," the Louisiana rockers are hoping some of the other 16 tracks on the disc get 'em a little more exposure. After all, they deserve some good luck: The Eames Era were hit head-on by a National Guard truck as it was driving to provide hurricane relief post-Katrina. Not coincidentally, the album title is a phrase New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin used after the catastrophe.
The Greyboy Allstars' What Happened to Television?: Indie luminary Inara George crops up on this album as part of the guesting Living Sisters trio, but the 14-year-old Greyboy collective itself features the even more reputed Karl Denson (of Tiny Universe note) and Elgin Park, who scored "Donnie Darko" and TV's "Freaks and Geeks." You may have heard the first single, "How Glad I Am," before — it's previously been covered by Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson and many others.
Watchers' Vampire Driver: This Chicago quintet pulls from reggae, new wave, soul and punk but also manages to utilize traffic cones, light bulbs and pylons for its distinct sound. That blend has attracted guests James Chance and the Eternals' Wayne Montana for the Watchers' second effort, which features the keyboard-laden "Science Theme" and raucous "We've Got a Witness."
· 1997 - A Better View of the Rising Moon (Victory)
· 7 Sons of Soul - Witness (Verity)
· Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts - Let's Just Be (Lonely Astronaut)
· Ataxia - AW II (Record Collection)
· Aurah - Etherea Borealis (Very)
· Black Tide Revue - Code Fun (Gearhead)
· Scott Blasey - Travelin' On (High Wire)
· Christopher Blue - Room Tones (Sarathan)
· Stan Bock - Your Check's in the Mail (Oa2)
· Lloyd Brown - Said and Done (Cousins)
· Brian Buckley - For Her (Sonic 360)
· Guy Clark - Live From Austin, TX (digipak; New West)
· The Comas - Spells (Vagrant)
· Bucky Covington - Bucky Covington (Lyric Street)
· Cowboy Junkies - At the End of Paths Taken (Zöe)
· Dolly Varden - The Panic Bell (Undertow)
· The Eames Era - Heroes and Sheroes (self-release)
· Elk City - New Believers (Friendly Fire)
· Estuary - The Craft of Contradiction (Ibex Moon) [Buy]
· Fightstar - Grand Unification (enhanced; Trustkill)
· Todd Fritsch - Sawdust (Diamond Music Group/ Spinville)
· The Greyboy Allstars - What Happened to Television? (Sci Fidelity)
· Richard X. Heyman - Actual Sighs (Turn Up)
· The Hold Steady - Live at Fingerprints (limited-edition EP available in select independent stores only) [Buy]
· Hot Club Sandwich - Green Room (Modern Hot)
· Lady Saw - Walk Out (VP)
· Avril Lavigne - The Best Damn Thing (deluxe limited edition with DVD due same day; RCA) [Buy]
· Lumidee - Unexpected (TVT)
· Daniel Lee Martin - On My Way to You (Chin)
· John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers - The Palace of the King (Eagle)
· Page McConnell - Page McConnell (Legacy)
· Kate McGarry - The Target (Palmetto)
· Messer Chups - Hyena Safari (Aerocccp)
· The Nields - All Together Singing in the Kitchen (Nields)
· Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero (Nothing) [Buy]
· The Noisettes - What's the Time, Mr. Wolf? (enhanced; Universal)
· The Old Soul - The Old Soul (Friendly Fire)
· Priestbird - In Your Time (Kemado) [Buy]
· Rock Plaza Central - Are We Not Horses (Yep Roc)
· Paul Rodgers - Live in Glasgow (Eagle)
· Matthew Ryan - From a Late Night High Rise (RED)
· DJ Shadow - Bay Area EP (limited edition; Universal Motown) [Buy]
· Ryan Shaw - This Is Ryan Shaw (One Haven)
· Six Feet Under - Commandment (Metal Blade)
· Swati - Small Gods (Bluhammock)
· Pam Tillis - Rhinestoned (Thirty Tigers)
· David Torn/ Tim Berne/ Craig Taborn/ Tom Rainey - Prezens (ECM)
· Until June - Until June (Flicker)
· Waking Ashland - The Well (Immortal)
· Clay Walker - Fall (Curb)
· Watchers - Vampire Driver (Gern Blandsten) [Buy]
· Watermelon Slim and the Workers - The Wheel Man (Northern Blues)
· The Wedding - Polarity (Word)
· Various artists - "Hot Fuzz" soundtrack (Cherrytree/Interscope)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· AC/DC - Stiff Upper Lip (Epic) [Buy]
· Bob Diddley - The Definitive Collection (Geffen)
· José Feliciano - The Best of José Feliciano (RCA/Legacy)
· The Flying Burrito Brothers - The Definitive Collection (Geffen)
· Howlin' Wolf - The Definitive Collection (Geffen)
· Michael Penn - Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947 (Legacy) and Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea: A Michael Penn Collection (RCA/Epic/Legacy)
· Slade - In for a Penny: Raves & Faves (Shout! Factory) [Buy]
· Superdrag - Changin' Tires on the Road to Ruin (Arena Rock) [Buy]
· Various artists - Hard to Find 45s on CD: Volume 9 - 1957-1959(Eric Collection)
· Various artists - I Fall to Pieces: 10 Timeless Country Songs (Varèse Sarabande)
· Byzantine - "Salvation" (Prosthetic) [Buy]
· Ella Fitzgerald - "The Legendary First Lady of Song" (Image)
· Pink - "Live From Wembley Arena - London, England" (La Face) [Buy]
· Weather Report - "Live at Montreux 1976" (Eagle Vision)
· Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino) [Preorder]
· The Nightwatchman - One Man Revolution (Epic)
· Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet (limited-edition version due same day; Atlantic)
· Tori Amos - American Doll Posse (special edition comes with DVD; Epic) [Preorder]
· Ne-Yo - Because of You (Def Jam) [Preorder]
· Various artists - "Spider-Man 3" soundtrack (Record Collection)
· Björk - Volta (Atlantic) [Preorder]
· Bones Thugs-N-Harmony - Strength and Loyalty (Full Surface/ Interscope)
· Mike Jones - The American Dream (Ice Age)
· Elliott Smith - New Moon (two CDs; Kill Rock Stars) [Preorder]
· Bobby Valentino - Special Occasion (Def Jam) [Preorder]