Spin Control

November 19, 2006



The Game, "Doctor's Advocate" (Geffen)

Critic's rating: 1 and a halfstars "If 'Straight Outta Compton' never hit, this record would've been 'Straight Outta Compton,'" 26-year-old West Coast rapper Jayceon Taylor told MTV News. But there are some significant differences between the Game's eagerly awaited sophomore album and N.W.A's 1988 classic. The Game has mastered the gangsta braggadocio, snide misogyny and pointless glorification of violence, but the slashing political edge Ice Cube provided is nowhere to be found. No one will ever confuse "Compton," with its annoying chorus celebrating "the Gangsta boogie," and N.W.A's searing "F--- Tha Police."

For another thing, the sound here is much less early N.W.A than mid-period Dr. Dre, all rolling rhymes and bouncy Cali grooves. Yet while the album cops his licks, the title nods to him and Dre and Fifty Cent were the forces that gave the Game his first multi-platinum smash with "The Documentary" (2004), Taylor has split from their camp, and he spends a ridiculous amount of time here alternately insulting and kissing up to his old mentors, as if the world hangs on every word about his move from Aftermath to Geffen.

A cast of red-hot top-dollar producers, including will.i.am, Scott Storch and Chicago's Kanye West, do their best to imitate the Dre sound, and all of the album's appeal comes from their grooves. The Game is less clumsy and tongue-tied on this album, but he still lacks personality and fire as a rapper, and he certainly has nothing to say beyond the hoariest of cliches. For example, in "Too Much," we learn that the self-proclaimed king of West Coast rap believes there is, "Too much Crystal in the club not to get drunk / Too many b----es in the world not to f--- / Too much chronic in the studio not to roll it up," while "Wouldn't Get Far" instantly qualifies as the most pathetic and sexist track West has ever had a hand in, a pointless attack on the girls who star as eye candy in rappers' videos and allegedly jump from one bed to another. He ought to be ashamed.



Bert Jansch, "The Black Swan" (Drag City)

Critic's rating: 1 star With all due respect to his place in history -- on his own and as a member of Pentangle, Scottish musician Bert Jansch was a key figure in the English folk scene of the early '60s, forging the transition from traditional sounds to the freakier psychedelic folk that would make superstars of Donovan, Fairport Convention and Led Zeppelin in its quieter moments -- there are some cult figures who are best remembered as legends.

Although this album is being issued by Chicago's most cutting-edge indie label; the roster of guests includes hipsters such as Beth Orton, Devendra Banhart and David Roback, and it's being marketed as a primer in the roots of the "freak folk" movement spearheaded by Banhart, "The Black Swan" is hardly a comeback, because Jansch has been doing his finger-picking, plucking and off-key folkie crooning non-stop since the '60s, with very few people caring. And there's a reason for that: His mix of original ballads, Celtic standards and Eastern European dirges is enervating, tuneless, plodding and pretty much a complete drag.

The goal may be a modern rediscovery of Jansch akin to the one Nick Drake experienced a decade ago, but Drake's music actually surpassed his legend and influence, while this album only leaves you wondering why anyone should care about its creator. And we're certainly not going to hear it on a car commercial anytime soon.