What makes The Weirdness (Virgin) an album by The Stooges, and not just another lame Iggy Pop solo record with guest appearances by the Asheton brothers? Not a whole lot. While the reunited Stooges have reportedly been tearing it up on tour since 2003, in the studio, they don't appear to have much sense of what once made their primal noise-making so darkly vital. Instead, Pop delivers juvenile anti-authoritarian screeds like "Greedy Awful People" and "The End Of Christianity" in a flat voice with none of his old deep grunt. Pop's bandmates follow his lead, thumping away without any of the nightmarish texture that defined albums like Fun House and Raw Power at the dawn of the '70s. The Weirdness interprets The Stooges the way countless bad grunge bands of the late '90s did: as a brainless howl of impotent rage. Even at 40 minutes, this album is interminable… D
On its first two albums, Scottish rock band Aereogramme occupied the artier end of the early-'00s UK "big music" movement, standing on the same side of the scale as Elbow and The Frames, while staring across the divide at Coldplay and Keane. Aereogramme's third album, My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go (Sonic Unyon), may be its most ambitious; it puts nearly every song through a ringer of cinematic, string-washed arrangements to maximize drama. But it's also the band's hardest record to like, with an absence of memorable melodies making Craig B.'s wanly positivist declarations sound especially sappy. The sop is worth braving when it results in songs like the sweeping "Barriers," but for the most part, My Heart is the sound of a good band overreaching… B-
Chicago's adventurous art-pop trio Baby Teeth hits a strong stride on its second album, The Simp (Lujo), which kicks off with the title track, a surging anthem that starts low to the ground and becomes practically operatic by the end. The band's progressive leanings let the songs down sometimes, undercutting glitzy classic-rock constructions with abrasive, jazzy scrape. But Baby Teeth has also lost a lot of the jokiness that marred its earlier efforts, resulting in songs like "God Girlfriend," a soft, disco-y ballad infused with honest ache… B+
Another day, another sunny Swedish pop act—though The Tiny's Björk-like vocalist Ellekari Larsson and the Kate Bush-worthy orchestral arrangements make the trio sound pan-European. The Tiny's second album, Starring; Someone Like You (Eyeball) sometimes strays too far into art-pop fairyland, as the strings and gongs become less studiously complex and more purely random, but the soul-struck yearning that Larsson brings to monologue-songs like "My Mother"—which pointedly steals a line from The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby"—grounds even The Tiny's most abstract explorations… B
Like fellow New Jerseyites Yo La Tengo, indie-rock duo Mas Rapido! has a massive record collection and the talent to convert it into a pastiche of rock history. The band's second full-length, Pity Party (Parasol), kicks off with the pitch-perfect Kinks homage/art-film appreciation "Emily Lloyd," and continues through scaled-back versions of arena rock ("Feel So Young"), girl-group pop ("Believe It"), and Breeder/Belly-style punk candy ("Girl Du Jour"). The only problem is that Mas Rapido! is so good at mimicry that the band doesn't have much personality of its own… B
Don't like a song on Cassette's debut album, g (Atomisk/Honor Roll)? Wait a minute, and something better's bound to come along. Recorded in the bedroom of University Of Miami music major Devin Smith in 2005, Beautiful California cycles through 35 fragments of indie-rock, dream-pop, hip-hop, and avant-garde noise, most of which run for a minute or less. Fully half of these songs are instantly disposable, but lovely instrumentals like "Invincible Sunshine Machine" and "Pink Scorpion Paperweight" make sifting through the detritus highly rewarding.