SONIC REDUCER Ladies first. As pop's lads rotate in and out of the dawg house and Lil Wayne pleads guilty to gun possession and Chris Brown decides to "Crawl" the time has come for the XX-chromosome set to rise to the occasion: Girls, girls, no pushing, shoving, or elbows to the knockers. Just kick it on record, all ye femme talents, past, present, and future.
Tomorrow and yesterday is the way for the all-girl Brilliant Colors. Spend a little quiet time with the SF threesome's bracing, brief, brand-spanking Introducing (Slumberland), and let the Ramones-y distortion rumble and tumble till you're completely prepped for the sweet-tart twee revolution in full effect with labelmates like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, the Mantles, and Summer Cats. Yes, Flying Nun's twirling primitivism and an early punk naivete that tags both Half Japanese and Huggy Bear, as well as a purity of ultra-lo-fi sound and singularity of concept, will take BC far. It's low key but brilliant in its own way: viva la Bay girl-band revolution.
"Aiiii!" That's the sound of Madonna in the play zone, in full celebratory mode, on the now sorely dated-sounding "Ray of Light," smack in the center of the first disc of Celebration (Warner Bros.), the newly remastered greatest-hits comp cherry-picked by M'lady and her fans. Now that's the cry of an icon. Project Runway's star-struck, untutored Christopher Straub was flying his freakily clueless flag when he recently raved of Christina Aguilera, "She's an icon!" Despite "Beautiful," the petite ex-Mickey Mouser isn't quite among the ranks of the veneration-worthy (especially after her Runway appearance in a cliché Halloween-ready putf8um wig).
Madonna, however, remains rich with symbolism, themes, and variations, worthy of dissection she's always striven for more than mere chart-topping ack-shun, and Celebration draws from a deep well of work, silly or no. You can trim a third of the tunes on the 36-track compilation, which sports a cover that brashly appropriates Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe, and still have enough ear-teasers and ideas to qualify for canonization even as a tiny-town chorus of itty-bitty backing robots bleat, "I heard it all before! I heard it all before! I heard it all before!" on "Sorry." Fifty-one years young with arms that look alternately enviable, emancipated, and emaciated Madonna is waving her label farewell with this nail in the coffers of the $408 million Sticky and Sweet Tour. Only two numbers, "4 Minutes" and "Miles Away," are culled from her most recent studio full-length, Hard Candy (Warner Bros., 2008). Tacked on are the new dancefloor-hailing "Celebration" and "Revolver," with Lil Wayne and its prescient references to the rapper's gun charges and its vocal cribs from Rihanna.
How does Mad's seemingly throwaway pop stand up so many years along? Why bother gathering these songs in one/two places for the third time? Celebration's first tracks "Hung Up," "Music," and the surprisingly resilient "Vogue" make a powerhouse aerobic class troika. "Like a Virgin" feels fun and faintly fresh, while "Into the Groove" suffers from oversaturation. "Like a Prayer" seems less subversive, sans video, and more overworked than one might recall, and "Ray of Light" rings especially awkward in its forced glee.