HOT ROCKS: New Releases from Gang of Four, Puss N’ Boots, Spice Girls, Bloodhound Gang, Ross the Boss

GANG OF FOUR / This Heaven Gives Me a Migraine / (Gill Music, Ltd.)

It’s been barely two months since innovative, post-punk icon Andy Gill passed from a respiratory illness and we’re still mourning. That’s what makes Gang Of Four’s This Heaven Gives Me a Migraine EP bittersweet. Up until the time of his death, the guitarist was hard at work on these tracks, which reimagines three of the band’s well-known tracks: “Natural’s Not In It,” “The Dying Rays,” and “Toreador.” Essentially, it was meant to capture the current-label’s energy and talent, which he clearly achieved. What makes this EP such a tearjerker, however, is not just imagining what Gill could have accomplished with this lineup, but hearing his voice, which bookends this recording. Listen with tissues handy.

PUSS N’ BOOTS / Sisters / (Blue Note)

A self-indulgent, self-serving vanity project, the seldom-active Puss N’ Boots is a chance for Norah Jones, Sasha Dobson, and Catherine Popper to collaborate and experiment. Mixing Americana, country, folk, and pop sounds promising on paper, but the actual results are “meh.” Their cover of Tom Petty’s “Angel Dream” and Concrete Blonde’s “Joey” have underground hit potential, but I expected more from a trio with such impressive resumes. Sisters will appeal only to hardcore fans of each band member, otherwise it will be quickly forgotten. And why should anyone take this project seriously when Puss N’ Boots’ themselves do not? Norah Jones has already announced the imminent release of her own new album and a major tour.

THE SPICE GIRLS Spiceworld/The Greatest Hits / (Ume/Virgin EMI)

The Spice Girls may now be a permanent part of nineties pop culture and a name often uttered with a chuckle, but there is no denying their importance. During their heyday, these five British bombshells delivered diabetes-sweet pop hit after pop hit, while empowering a generation of young women, who have since come into their own, to head into politics, establish the “Me Too” movement, and demand equal pay, among other social movements. Yes, Scary, Sporty, Posh, Baby, and Ginger Spice continue to have a major influence on society thanks to their Girl Power. And now that vinyl has made a comeback, it’s the ideal time to celebrate the best-selling female group of all time and their hits with a pair of special, remastered releases. Now available on 180g vinyl, Spiceworld, the disc that turned them into phenoms, retains all the original artwork and features the Top 20 hits “Spice Up Your Life” and “Stop.” The Greatest Hits, now also featured on vinyl, features, yes, their hits, including their chart-topping debut single “Wannabe.”

BLOODHOUND GANG / Hooray For Boobies / (Interscope/Ume)

Hysterically raunchy, Bloodhound Gang’s Hooray For Boobies is a rare 20-year-old release that has withstood the test of time. Featuring the surprise, tongue in cheek dance classic “The Bad Touch,” the album is now being celebrated in both an anniversary clear-vinyl version and an expanded digital edition. Combining punk, hard rock, hip-hop, dance, pop, and irreverent humor, these Pennsylvania nudniks became international stars with this disc that also included the hits “Mope” and “The Ballad of Chasey Lain,” which focuses on inappropriate fan letters sent to the nineties porn icon.

The digital version includes a dozen bonus tracks including their cover of Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours” and “Jackass,” which was featured in the film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The true treats of this rerelease are the remixes of “The Bad Touch,” “The Ballad of Chasey Lain,” and “Mope” by the Pet Shop Boys, KMFDM, God Lives Underwater, Beck turntablist DJ Swamp, and others.

ROSS THE BOSS / Born of Fire / (AFM Records)

Power metal pioneer and grossly underrated guitar hero Ross The Boss Friedman has forgone the Manowar influence that dominated his previous solo work in favor of carefully tailored, aggressive speed metal on the amazing Born of Fire. The fourth album released under the Ross The Boss moniker and the second to feature the lineup of Friedman, bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X), singer Marc Lopes (Let Us Prey), and drummer Steve Bolognese (Into Eternity, Death Dealer), Born of Fire makes the most of the band’s considerable talent. Truly a band effort, the disc boasts Ross The Boss’ strongest performance, but does not hold the spotlight strictly over his head. Everyone has a chance to shine during “Godkiller,” “Demon Holiday,” and the Iron Maiden-influenced “Shotgun Evolution,” which are just a few of this great album’s highlights. Hopefully, these great, exciting new epics will soon be incorporated into Ross The Boss’ live sets.