Van Halen - Best of Both WorldsVan Halen fans can now pick up The Best of Both Worlds, a two-disc collection of all the band's hits. Opening with Eddie Van Halen's classic instrumental reinvention of the electric guitar in "Eruption," (which unaccountably is not paired with its usual followup, "You Really Got Me") the set intermixes the David Lee Roth years with "Jump," "Hot for Teacher," "And the Cradle Will Rock," "(Oh) Pretty Woman" and "Panama" with the Sammy Hagar era hits "Best of Both Worlds," "Why Can't This Be Love," "Poundcake" and "Love Walks In." The disc also offers a couple of live tracks with Hagar covering Roth hits, and three newly recorded songs with Hagar back at the mike (the double entendre fest of "Up for Breakfast" is the only one of the three worth mentioning).

While French world beat artists Deep Forest haven't had a hit on these shores since their '90s breakthrough singles "Sweet Lullaby" and "Marta's Song," the band has continued to release material and evolved from a studio duo who mixed pygmy vocal samples with dancebeats to a more organic, live touring outfit with a parade of supporting players. Epic/Legacy now offers a thumbnail portrait of the band's past 12 years in Essence of the Forest, a compilation of their singles that includes a new version of "Sweet Lullaby" as well as 14 other tracks.


The Hives - Tyrannosaurus HivesThe Hives
Tyrannosaurus Hives

Swedish nouveau punksters the Hives hit Chicago this week on the first leg of their tour to promote their third disc, Tyrannosaurus Hives. It's their first release since their breakthrough CD, Veni Vidi Vicious and its attendant hit "Hate to Say I Told You So" spiked the airwaves in 2000.

If you missed the show, you can catch their manic pedal-to-the-metal power on Tyrannosaurus Hives, which solidly lives up to the punk promise of Veni Vidi Vicious. It opens with the pounding drums and furious vocals of "Abra Cadaver" and follows up with the "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone"-esque guitar riff of the lyrically obscure "Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones."

Then there's the tribal drums of "Walk Idiot Walk," the roller-rink ready "A Little More for Little You" and the surf-reverb guitars of the stomping "B Is For Brutus."

While often their lyrics seem nonsensical (I've read the lyric sheet but still can't figure out what "Dead Quote Olympics" means), their update of the Sex Pistols meets the Clash punk sound makes meaning meaningless. This is an album about retro-feelin' rockin' out. The words are loud, but superfluous.

Crank this one up and hang on to your speakers.


The Hives - Tyrannosaurus HivesFastball
Keep Your Wig On

It's been six years since Fastball became an overnight household name with the mega-hit single "The Way," and four years since its followup sing-along smash "You're an Ocean." The success of that first ubiquitous hit proved a double-edged sword for the Austin trio, which has been making crunchy, Beatlesque jangle-pop for almost a decade. After 1998, suddenly everyone only wanted to hear the hit "The Way" and not the equally impressive catalogue of catchy power-pop rockers and rootsy ballads. But after a couple of years off to catch its collective breath, the band has regrouped at last and returned with a new life and a new label for its fourth studio album.

Recorded in the band's hometown of Austin, Texas, Keep Your Wig On includes contributions from Sheryl Crow songwriter Jeff Trott ("Our Misunderstanding") and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger ("Someday," "Red Light").

But the real news is that Fastball co-leaders Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo have collaborated more than ever before to pen a batch of instantly memorable pop songs ranging from the throbbing garage rock of "Til I Get It Right" to the soulful R&B of "Drifting Away" to the Beatles-esque beauty of "Falling Upstairs" and "Airstream" to the honky-tonk color of "Mercenary Girl" and the Latin horns and pounding beat of "Red Light."

Every track on this disc deserves to be shooting up the Billboard charts and pop radio playlists. This is the kind of warm, fuzzy, catchy pop that appeals to almost everyone; you can't help but tap your feet and sing along to the choruses.

Keep Your Wig On covers the spectrum of styles that Fastball has canvassed throughout its career, without ever sounding like they're simply repeating themselves. They don't break any new musical ground, but that's OK; there isn't a band working today that rivals Fastball's command of power pop songcraft.

Catch Fastball live with the Clarks on Aug. 21 at Martyrs in Chicago.