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Review by Brad Green:
I donít attend many rock concerts. Most are too loud and too bright, and the ones that arenít too loud and too bright are even worse. They usually reveal the thinking behind the ear-shattering volumes and retina-ruining audience blinders of the very loud, very bright shows -- itís even more excruciating when you can actually hear the so-called singing and see the so-called dancing.

One notable exception was Stingís Nothing Like The Sun tour of the late 1980s. The level was perfect, the sound sublime, the virtuoso, jazz-fusion line-up played tighter than the ropes on which Charles Blondin used to tiptoe, and with a similar sense of balance to the funambulist himself. All of which made it mighty brave for Sting to come out for the encore on his lonesome, armed with no more than an acoustic guitar. After the dazzling intricacy of his crack band, he was going to treat us to the intimacy of a songwriter stripping some of his old hits bare. Among the venerable Police tunes he dug out was Message In A Bottle. Sure the band could have done wonders with it, but weíd already heard plenty of that, and Sting was leaving us with a reminder that while his vocal and guitar skills mightnít be up to the technical virtuosity of some of his instrumentalists, a great song remains a great song regardless of the packaging.†

Or so he and we thought. None of us at that time being unfortunate enough to have imagined what alt-rockers American HiFi could do to his marvelous tune. The winning riff and title hook remain as catchy as ever, but once the emotionless grunge of the guitars, the insipid and soulless vocals and the generally vapid arrangement force their way under the cork, the musical message gets torn to shreds.

One thing about the Rugrats films is that they always seem to provide for their core audienceís older escorts. The screenplays can be quite clever in paying homage to classic cinema in a way that is still entertaining for the pint-sized punters -- even if some of the nuances fly over their heads. However, the approach for the soundtrack of mixing and matching erstwhile hits, aging rockers, new arrangements and novelty in-character performances seriously misfires here. In aiming to please as many brackets as possible the music lands wide of the entire target.

I wouldnít mind a small portion of the royalties Aerosmith must have received from soundtracks over the years. They seem to pop up on just about anything, often with new material, and nearly always with enough punch to put some of the young guns to shame. Sadly, if Lizard Love, their lame contribution to this project is any guide, theyíve finally reached that stage where the gears of tired and weary creativity are kept churning merely to service the pension plan.†

Slightly better is the selection of some Old School funk from the grandmaster of the style George Clinton. All the same, while Atomic Dog offers some deliciously nasty harmonies and layered synth riffing, itís also one of those Clinton indulgences that makes its statement in its first two minutes, and its mistake by repeating that same statement for another three.†

As far as the voice-over talent goes, Chrissie Hinds features rather strangely on only one track (a duet with Bruce Willis, whose gruff warble is a surprisingly good few inches above abysmal), yet we get heaps of Nancy Cartwright as the voice of Chuckie -- which is indistinguishable from the voice of Bart Simpson. Now Nancy has a quirky charm to her voicing of these little cartoon legends, but when it comes to the singing, well itís no fluke that Bart Simpsonís Greatest Hits hasnít turned up on many desert island disc lists.

Meanwhile, the Clash crop up to demonstrate that even though Should I Stay Or Should I Go was among punkís lesser atrocities, the whole genre remains as worthless now as it did way back when.†

Should any listener still be around, the CDs closing cut is by far its best. Changing Faces is a song of well-crafted, if not exactly innovative, melody made more interesting by a clever, and quite innovative, electronic-based backing and a vocal performance by E.G. Daily that swings between Tori Amos-like girly verses and some Bonnie Tyler husk meets Kim Carnes rasp in the choruses. A stark contrast to the execrable opener, and a strong message that a modicum of class with a dash of polish and a twist of charisma is, after all, far preferable to a mutilated masterpiece.†

Published September 18, 2003

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Rugrats Go Wild

TITLE: Rugrats Go Wild
ID: 397603 372827
Hollywood Records
ARTISTS: E.G. Daily; American HiFi; Bruce Willis; Chrissie Hynde; Train; Cheryl Chase; Nancy Cartwright; Aerosmith; Flashlight Brown; Cree Summer; George Clinton; The Clash; Tim Curry; Tara Strong; Kath Soucie

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