Juliana Hatfield (Atlantic/Mammoth 92540)
It's great that Juliana Hatfield has finally come up with a sound catchy enough to justify the commercial expectations people had for her last two albums; the only trouble is Veruca Salt beat her to it. Although much of the material on "Only Everything" mines the same, fey vein as her previous outings -- with plenty of murmured, melancholy ballads and romantic anomie -- the tone is different this time around. With the guitars cranked and snarling, the band comes across with more edge than ever. But between Hatfield's airy melodies and girlish voice the music offers more volume than weight. As a result, even the most melodic offerings, like the ragged "What a Life" or the punchy, Veruca Salt-like "Universal Heart-Beat," amount to little more than radio-friendly fluff. Granted, that may finally sell her some albums, but should sales really be "Everything"?
Original Soundtrack (Elektra 61760)
Like the film itself, the soundtrack for "Tank Girl" seems almost an object lesson in how hard it is to manufacture hipness. Despite having Courtney Love as music consultant and an artist roster that includes Hole, Bush, Belly, Bjork, Ice-T, Veruca Salt and Portishead, the album itself is almost as hokey as it is uneven. Bjork's classically quirky "Army of Me" manages to convey a sense of Tank Girl's spirit without obviously pandering to a movie audience, but it's one of the few selections that justifies its inclusion on either an artistic or thematic basis; the rest ranges from such ill-advised novelties as Joan Jett and Paul Westerberg's pointless rehash of "Let's Do It" to obvious leftovers like Belly's "Thief." Still, the album is worth playing at least once, if only for the unintended humor of hearing Hole followed by Nirvana-wannabes Bush.
THIS IS HOW WE DO IT
Montell Jordan (PMP/RAL 314 527 179)
He may look like just another new jack, but what Montell Jordan sounds like is an old-school soul man. In fact, after spending some time with his "This Is How We Do It," most listeners will find it hard to believe that the album marks his debut. How could the man have gotten so good so fast? Some of it has to do with way he works a groove, as on "Somethin' 4 da Honeyz," where he emphasizes the roll of the bass instead of the kick of the backbeat; and some stems from his smooth, insinuating command of ballads like "I'll Do Anything," where he manages to plead his case without ever seeming to play on his audience's pity. But the acid test comes with his version of the Teddy Pendergrass oldie "Close the Door," which Jordan delivers with such suave confidence and emotional depth that it actually survives comparison to the original.
KING FOR A DAY, FOOL FOR A LIFETIME
Faith No More (Slash/Reprise 45723)
Thanks to tunes like "We Care a Lot" and "Epic," Faith No More left a lot of listeners with the impression that it was some sort of rock-and-rap fusion act. In truth, though, the band has always gone for a wider canvas, and with "King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime" finally shows just how broad its abilities are. After all, how many other acts would even consider putting a lithe, samba-inflected ballad like "Caralho Voador" next to something as noisy and dissonant as "Ugly in the Morning"? But not only do Faith No More have no trouble dealing with such diversity, they manage to make it part of the album's appeal. So even though a song like "Star A.D.," whose brash, jazzy melody is cut from the same cloth as '50s detective show themes, would seem to have little in common musically with the tightly wound rhythms and dense, abrasive harmonies of "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies," there's more than enough room on this album for the two to sit comfortably.