Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells 2003Thirty years ago, a young Mike Oldfield created a modern instrumental masterpiece called "Tubular Bells."

The album explored a variety of pastoral themes, with Oldfield playing a wide range of instruments, and set the bar for ambient, new age musical exploration.

He also created, in the album's title track, a perfect theme to set the eerie opening mood of the film "The Exorcist." The original album was recorded quickly, and Oldfield long has wanted to update it and "fix mistakes."

Now he has, and fans can find Tubular Bells 2003 on the shelves from Warner Bros. The entire album has been re-recorded with modern technology and still sounds stirring, though the updated tones used for its classic "Tubular Bells" theme sound somehow less spooky in the new iteration. But he probably never intended it to be the theme song of creepy in the first place.


Black Box Recorder - Passionoia Black Box Recorder
(One Little Indian)

Synth-pop has never been so cool. Ice cool.

Black Box Recorder is a British techno trio fronted by the seductively smooth vox of Sarah Nixey and backed by John Moore and Luke Haines, ex-members of Jesus and Mary Chain and The Auteurs, respectively. Passionoia, their third album, is filled with throbbing beats, whispering harmonies and quirky lyrics.

The first track, "The School Song," finds Nixey in the voice of a "teacher" as she welcomes students to the Black Box school of song, advises everyone to "destroy your record collection/for your own protection," and later offers a graduation speech reminding her pupil/listeners to behave because "we want to read about you for the right reasons." It's kitschy but fun and eminently danceable.

Then comes the silkier "GSOH Q.E.D." which warns against the troubles of falling in love, the "Girls Guide for the Modern Diva," and "Andrew Ridgley," a celebration of techno-pop which Nixey opens by stating "I never liked George Michael much/although they say he was the talented one/Andrew Ridgley drew the map/that rescued me/took me to paradise."

Passionoia is a distinctly British euro-pop album and a bright, sugary listen. For more info and song samples, check the band's Web site through www.indian.co.uk.



Marilyn Manson - The Golden Age of Grotesque Marilyn Manson
The Golden Age of Grotesque

A cheerleader squad chants "Be obscene, be-be obscene, be obscene baby, but not heard" on "OBSCENE," the shredding guitar single from Marilyn Manson's latest opus.

That's a typical sentiment from the ever-flamboyantly subversive shock-rock king, and this album more than earns its "Parental Advisory" on the cover.

Shock value aside, Manson proves a gifted, if twisted wit and pop hook creator throughout his latest disc. While his glass-gargling vocals and razor-wire guitars are certainly not for everyone, the industrial grind melodies on The Golden Age of Grotesque are consistently catchy, and his lyrics often both clever and amusingly droll ("when I said we/you know I meant me/and when I said sweet I meant dirty" he sings in "Slutgarden").

From the Gary Glitter drum pound of "Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz Ziggety-Zag" (where he cynically observes, "You know it's all braille beneath the skirts") to the rebellious chainsaw guitars of "Use Your Fist and Not Your Mouth" ("This is a black collar song/put it in your middle finger and sing along/use your fist and not your mouth"), Manson delivers a virally powerful angry stream of head-banging hell.

For mature listeners only, but highly recommended.