SLAVE TO THE GRIND
Skid Row (Atlantic 82242)
As non-fans see it, heavy metal bands might have something to say, but who can tell with all that noise? That's why Skid Row's "Slave to the Grind" will end up preaching only to the converted, and it's a shame, because beneath the blaring guitars and screeching vocals, this band talks a lot of sense. Sure, there's a certain amount of girl-crazed bluster (as in "Get the F--- Out"), but there's also a surprising amount of good advice, from the don't-waste-your-life message of the title tune to the show-some-respect sentiments of "Mudkicker." Granted, the group's gift for aural overkill is not to be underestimated, since the best of these songs hit home like a speeding freight train. But the fans already knew that, while the rest of you wouldn't appreciate it, anyway.
Boyz II Men (Motown 6320)
Remember the old TV ad about Certs, the candy that was "two mints in one"? Well, that's sort of the approach Boyz II Men offers on its debut, "Cooleyhighharmony." Not that there's anything particularly minty about the album, of course, but there's a definite two-in-one twist to the group's sound. Cue the album's "Adagio" side, and what you'll hear is satiny smooth harmony singing, from the sultry groove of "Uhh Ahh" to the post-doo wop vocalizing of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday." Once you flip over to the "Allegro" tracks, though, things change dramatically; the harmonies are played down, the beat is pumped up, and the music kicks like a mutha, particularly on the new jack "Motownphilly." Don't think of it as schizophrenia, though -- think of it as getting two albums for the price of one.
Cher (Geffen 24369)
Back when Cher was trying to get her acting career in gear, the movie critics were impressed at her ability to handle roles that were neither glamorous nor comedic. Silly them -- as any pop critic knows, the real miracle of Cher's film career isn't that she can be cast against type, but that her acting isn't as overblown and corny as her singing. Take, for example, "Love Hurts," an album so splashily overblown that it makes the work of Dino DeLaurentiis seem austere in comparison. It isn't just that she sings everything as if playing out the death scene from "Camille"; what really sinks the album is her habit of bellowing each chorus, as if by making the key lines louder she'd be more believable. Sure, love hurts, but not as much as this.
THE WHITE ROOM
The KLF (Arista 8657)
Here in America, all we ask of our dance music acts is that they make good records, with memorable hooks and plenty of rhythm. European listeners aren't as easily satisfied, however; their dance acts have to have a concept to go along with the groove. That's why the faceless musicians behind the KLF have packed "The White Room" with all sorts of mumbo-jumbo about the "Justified Ancients of Mu Mu." What's it all mean? Just that the studio wackos responsible for Pop Will Eat Itself and the Timelords (remember "Doctoring the Tardis"?) have come up with another great gimmick for selling second-rate house music, that's all.