Nine Inch Nails
There's no art to noise-making; pulling music out of noise, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. "Broken," the new EP from Nine Inch Nails, is packed with brutal, abrasive sounds -- jagged shards of metal guitar, distortion-curdled vocals, drumbeats that punch and pummel. Yet beneath that tortured swirl of sound lies passion, a sure sense of song craft and an entrenched devotion to melody. That's how NIN maintains its tuneful intensity even in the face of ear-punishing aural aggression, from the slam-bang assault of "Last," through the dense, danceable roar of "Happiness in Slavery" to the clangorous crunch of "Physical" (one of two bonus tracks hidden at the end of the CD). Harder than Ministry, hookier than Nitzer Ebb, this EP is everything industrial music should be.
OUR TIME IN EDEN
10,000 Maniacs (Elektra 61385)
All too often it seems that once a band has established its sound, it spends the rest of its recording career offering only minor variations on that approach, repeating itself to the point of self-parody. Fortunately, that's not a fate 10,000 Maniacs will ever suffer, as "Our Time in Eden" demonstrates. Though there's no mistaking Natalie Merchant's dark, caressing vocals, that's about the only given with this band; musically, the Maniacs seem equally at home in a variety of styles. And "Our Time in Eden" takes full advantage of that agility, whether the band is storming through the edgy majesty of "Tolerance," showing off its dynamic range in the folky, dramatic "Jezebel," or simply exulting in the brassy exuberance of "Few and Far Between."
Queen (Hollywood 61265)
People in the music business are usually joking when they insist that death can be a terrific career move, but nobody's laughing at the way Freddie Mercury's demise has resuscitated Queen. Indeed, Queen's "Greatest Hits" is already racing up the charts, despite the fact that it's the group's second best-of package in less than a year. Of course, those who bought "Classic Queen" earlier this year will be one up on those who merely opt for these "Greatest Hits," since "Bohemian Rhapsody" is on the former but not the latter. Apart from that, this new collection reasonably represents the band's chart history, from such international successes as "We Are the Champions" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" to U.K.-only hits like "Seven Seas of Rhye" and "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy."
Baha Men (Big Beat 92190)
Bahamanian pop? Considering that most American listeners haven't heard any since the heyday of Harry Belafonte, you might think an album like "Junkanoo!" by the Baha Men (get it?) would be novelty fodder at best. Guess again. Even though the group's basic approach derives from the acoustic guitar and hand drum sound of old-style Bahamanian junkanoo, the Men (with the help of producer Kendal Stubbs) have fleshed their songs out with soulful horns, house-style grooves and even an occasional taste of rap. And that's enough to make the best tracks -- "Back to the Island," "Funky Nassau," "Gin and Coconut Water (Jelly)" -- seem exotic, intoxicating and danceably addictive.
Nine Inch Nails hammers harsh sound with intensity