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Sit & Spin 

Morrissey
You Are The Quarry
Attack

So I went to see this comedy show the other day, and this guy was telling a joke about shooting his dog, and how he then tried to "make it look like an accident" by putting the dog behind the wheel of a car and covering the floorboards in liquor bottles and syringes. And then, after a pregnant pause: "and I even put a Smiths tape in the player."

People laughed so damn hard they almost spit up their buffalo wings.

Which tells me this: Morrissey has transcended radio and TV and public appearances to become something of an archetype. People who've never once heard The Smiths? They know enough get a lame joke with The Moz as a punch line (Morrissey would probably have it no other way).

His best record in 10 years, You Are The Quarry is packaged to look like a mini-LP -- somewhere between the size of a CD and a vinyl single (Morrissey, one never to care much where he was filed, must now stand alone in your CD stacks).

Then again, he's always stood alone. "America is Not the World," a song that might seem sort of obvious and simplistic at first, settles in after you realize this is the same man who wrote "Meat is Murder." This same un-peggable duality allows him the freedom to sing about how the USA has never had a (black, gay or) woman President, yet vouch from personal experience just where Maggie Thatcher got Great Britain.

In "The World Is Full of Crashing Bores," Moz accurately takes on vapid pop stardom with a withering cliche of his own: "Take me in your arms and love me."

Fighting a person or hugging them with a back pocket full of lilies: they both take human contact, Morrissey knows. His own hands? Behind his back, as always, the better to keep us guessing.

Track to Burn: "Irish Blood, English Heart"
Grade: A --Timothy C. Davis

Los Lobos
The Ride
Hollywood/Mammoth

For at least a decade, Los Lobos managed the incredible feat of making each new release better than the one before. Throughout the 90s the band created a perfect balance of roots music and experimental studio techniques. Good Morning Aztlán (2002) abandoned the psychedelics but continued the streak. The Ride delves even further into the band's roots, and while it's a good record, the streak is over.

Celebrating 30 years together, Los Lobos asked some old friends and musical influences to join them on The Ride, and the results range from bad to brilliant. The disc stumbles out of the gate, with Mexican rock band Cafe Tacuba ruining the potential of "La Venganza de Los Pelados." Things pick up quickly, though, especially the perfect combination of Los Lobos' "Wicked Rain" and Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street." The other collaborations are inspired pairings (guests also include Garth Hudson, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and Ruben Blades) covering soul, funk, country, Afro-Cuban, even a Chicano shipwreck song with Richard Thompson, and Los Lobos' versatility makes it all sound natural together.

The Ride doesn't set a new standard, but it doesn't fall far short, and a good disc from Los Lobos is better than the best from most bands.

Track to burn: "Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street"
Grade: B+ --Brian Falk

The Forty-Fives
High Life High Volume
Yep Roc

Atlanta's Forty-Fives are Garage Rock Revivalists of the first order. Like fellow Georgians The Woggles, they are raucous, Nuggets-inspired rockers more interested in throwing a dance party than analyzing angst. Rock & roll everymen, they have opened for the likes of Link Wray, Guided By Voices, BR-549 and current touring partner Reverend Horton Heat.

Their third full-length, High Life High Volume, was recorded at Detroit's Ghetto Recorders studio by Jim Diamond (White Stripes, Mooney Suzuki) and easily fits in with other Motor City retro-rock releases. It's a record that would be equally at home in the collections of garage, mod, rockabilly or punk-pop enthusiasts.

"Daddy Rolling Stone" is perhaps the most appealing tale of wanting to steal a friend's girlfriend since the Modern Lovers' "I'm Straight." The Forty-Fives can also pull off a sad love song if the mood strikes them -- "Too Many Miles" is a horn-heavy tale of broken, long-distance love. It's not exactly Dylan, lyrically (nor even the Lyres, for that matter), but then again it's not trying to be. It's standard boy-meets-girl fare, but sometimes rock & roll is just about having fun and dancing your ass off. And in that, High Life High Volume delivers.

Track to burn: "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Grade: B+--Tara E. Flanagan

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