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Jeff Beck & Johnny Depp, "18" (Atco)

Beck has accomplished myriad feats of six-string magic but even he isn't capable of making Depp disappear. The actor's rhythm guitar playing is passable at best, although not especially audible here (which may be a good thing). His vocals, which are pompously recited almost as often as they are sung, are negligible.

Depp's falsetto on his rendition of Smokey Robinson's "Ooo Baby Baby" isn't awful, just bland and sterile, which may be worse. But it's still better than his mangling of Marvin Gaye's epic "What's Going On," which ignites only when Beck's shimmering guitar work "sings" the lead vocal parts.

Things improve dramatically on Beck's luminous instrumental versions of Davy Spillane's "Midnight Walker" and the Beach Boys' "Caroline, No" and "Don't Cry (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)."

The album's nadir comes on one of the two songs written by Depp, "Sad Mother (Expletive) Parade," on which his affected, electronically altered vocals at times sound like a very drunk Lou Reed attempting to rap. On Aug. 5, it was disclosed that the lyrics contain lines that appear to have been taken from "Hobo Ben," a 1964 poem by Slim Wilson that was published in a 1974 book and recorded as a song two years later. Depp and Beck's people are reviewing the inquiry.

GEORGE VARGA, San Diego Union-Tribune

Willow, "Hover Like a Goddess"

This single from the upcoming album "Copingmechanism" is further proof that Willow has finally found her lane in the space where bouncy pop-punk and anguished emo-rock converge. "I'll never be fine if you won't be mine," she sings with pent-up intensity amid a number of other lusty confessions, before the song suddenly transforms into a dreamy reverie. That bliss is fleeting, though, and by the next verse Willow is just as quickly jarred back into her endearingly anxious reality.


New releases

  • Panic! at the Disco, "Viva Las Vengeance"
  • Hot Chip, "Freakout/Release"
  • Marketa Irglova, "Lila"
  • Silversun Pickups, "Physical Thrills"