THE ADDAMS FAMILY
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Capitol 98172)
Whenever a box-office smash spins off a top-selling theme song, it's only natural that interested fans would look for it on the soundtrack album. But if you're hoping to snag a copy of Hammer's new hit, "Addams Groove," don't bother heading to the record store for "The Addams Family," because it's not on there. (Nor is it on Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit," unless you buy your copy on cassette). Instead, what you get is a smidgen of Vic Mizzy's original TV theme, a version of "Mamushka" sung by Raul Julia and Christopher Lloyd, and a whole lot of semi-dramatic orchestral music by Marc Shaiman. Creepy? No. Kooky? No. A rip-off? You got it.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Law & Order (MCA 10294)
If social anthropologist Victor Turner's theories on the margin phase in adolescent rites of passage strike you as inappropriate material for rock and roll songs, it's only because you haven't heard the way Law & Order treats those ideas on its second album, "Rites of Passage." Yet as impressive as it is to hear how easily the band's songs deal with complex concepts like sangsara and nirvana (that is, illusion and enlightenment), what makes this album most worth hearing is its music, which finds room for everything from lush vocal harmonies ("Dawn Over Zero") to gritty, Stones-style balladry, to full-tilt boogie rock ("The Open Door"). Definitely an album too good to be missed.
WHITE KNUCKLE SCORIN'
Various Artists (MCA 10440)
If a video game as simple as Pac Man could have inspired an album as successful as Buckner and Garcia's "Pac Man Fever," then it ought to be a cinch to assemble a great album around a game like Nintendo's Mario Brothers. Yet despite contributions from Dire Straits, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Sheena Easton and Trixter, the Nintendo-inspired "White Knuckle Scorin' " comes up bust. Why? Part of the problem has to do with the lack of focus -- are we really to believe the late Roy Orbison was thinking of Mario when he sang "I Drove All Night"? -- but mostly it's that the songs fit together so badly that the album seems to lurch awkwardly from track to track. And who'd have thought Nintendo would be undone by poor programming?
Shonen Knife (Rockville 6065)
When alternative rock hipsters become infatuated with a band, usually what they like is how unlistenable the music is, as if an ability to endure such weirdness is a certifiable sign of cool. Still, sometimes they champion bands that actually merit listening to -- bands, for instance, like Shonen Knife. As its latest offering, "712," makes plain, this Japanese trio is not exactly ready for radio play, what with its amateurish vocals and lo-tech instrumentation. But there's something genuinely endearing about earnestly tuneful ditties like "Rain," with its cheerfully borrowed Beatle-isms, or the rap-style "Shonen Knife."