Eclectic menu of discs highlights summer music offerings

With summer just around the bend, young men’s thoughts (and those of women, too) turn from love to over-priced compact discs. And this summer, with plenty of new music out there on the market, there should be a lot to think about.

Just as is the case with the movie industry, summer is a nice time for the Big Companies to release their Big Event Discs, the ones that will disappoint if they sell anywhere under 3 million right away. Chief among these albums is the Smashing Pumpkins’ upcoming release, Adore. For all Billy Corgan’s talk about how the album promises to be a more restrained step back from the unmitigated bombast of the double-disc Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Adore’s list of mostly acoustic tracks looks to keep that trademark Pumpkin pretension intact, with song titles such as “Behold! The Night Marie” and lines from the first single, “Ava Adore,” like “It’s you that I adore/You’ll always be my whore.” Expect a June 2 release date.

Billy Corgan pops up on another huge summer release; he co-produces and co-writes seven songs on Hole’s sequel to Live Through This, scheduled for release some time during June or July. The as-of-yet-untitled album has attracted attention as a potential savior for not just Geffen, but an ailing industry as well. But don’t expect any miracles: Corgan’s no Cobain.

Rest assured Top 40 radio is anxiously awaiting the soundtrack to Godzilla, which features several industry cash cows. The first single is an anomalous cover of “Heroes” by the Wallflowers, but more will come: Jamiroquai and Rage Against the Machine contribute tracks along with — God help us — Puff Daddy, who teams up with Led Zep’s Jimmy Page and RATM’s Tom Morello in a painful-sounding rap reworking of Zep’s “Kashmir.”

That’s not the only bizarre genre-bending going on this summer. Pop stalwarts Rod Stewart and Gloria Estefan return with desperate grasps at relevance. Stewart’s new album finds the old man covering Oasis’s “Cigarettes & Alcohol” and Primal Scream’s “Rocks.” Estefan’s features Wyclef Jean, who’s proven a willing shill ever since he and Pras did those absurd YesCredit commercials.

Ah, but we can look forward to some more artistically challenging releases this summer. Two attention grabbing releases are particularly noteworthy. Tricky should put trip-hop wanabees to sleep with Angels with Dirty Faces, due out June 9. A promising sign: the first single, “Broken Homes,” features the vocals of PJ Harvey. Elsewehere, he disses pseudo-relative Finley Quaye and mourns violence in the hip-hop community. Similarly exciting is the much-awaited third LP from recent Lilith-Fair signee Liz Phair. Whitechocolatespaceegg should hit stores August 11; subject matter could be influenced by Phair’s new motherhood.

Elsewhere, there’s something for everyone. More traditional Lilith fans should enjoy Ophelia, the second disc from former 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman Natalie Merchant. It’s allegedly a much bigger-sounding affair than Tigerlily, replete with multi-lingual vocals and a string section. Folks who like twang in their music can choose from John Fogerty’s Premonition, a collection of live tracks culled from his tour in support of last year’s Blue Moon Swamp, and the less promising Hope Floats soundtrack, featuring Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks covering Bob Dylan, and Bob Seger. I really don’t like Bob Seger, and neither should you. Fans of ex-hard rockers that moved on to become VJs on VH1 will no doubt salivate over the return of former Living Colour singer Corey Glover, whose Hymns will soon be available.

As always, there’s a little bit of nostalgia. Fortunately, this summer nostalgia amounts to more than just digging through studio closets for incidental rubbish. May 26 sees three important releases in this department: Sketches (for my sweetheart the drunk) compiles unreleased demos and studio sessions of drowned singer Jeff Buckley; Time Capsule revisits the career of new-wave figureheads the B-52s and adds two new tracks; The Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is pretty much self-explanatory. Also scheduled for May release is 4AD’s final word re: the Pixies, a disc including previously unavailable material recorded for British DJ John Peel.

Pixies fans should keep an eye out for Frank Black and the Catholics, a disc that has long since been completed but has yet to be released due to contractual squabbles. The portly iconoclast has found some small labels willing to distribute the album despite what Black calls a “rougher, liver sound;” the disc should be out soon. On the downside, the ballyhooed new Breeders album will not come out until 1999.

Pixies progeny aside, there’s much college rock to be had. “Ultra-rock” sex machines Girls Against Boys have added a somewhat denser, more metallic sound to their major label debut, Freak*on*ica, which hits stores June 2. Indie rockers Archers of Loaf have expanded their sound as well. The tentatively titled White Trash Heroes, scheduled for a late August release, is more experimental and sonically open than previous albums; purists might take issue with the extensive use of synthesizers.

In the funky white boys department, Soul Coughing’s El Oso should appear August 25; the album is rumored to incorporate more electronic and jungle influences. The Beastie Boys, meanwhile, have kept their newest project shrouded in secrecy, but an early fall release seems possible.

A plethora of other awaited albums remain more nebulous. Elastica has completed eight tracks for their long-delayed disc, one which vocalist Justine Frischman says is darker and more influenced by American music than the eponymous debut (no surprise — Frischman’s boyfriend is Damon Albarn of Blur). Nine Inch Nails frontman/essence Trent Reznor continues to consider his own work garbage and then throw it away, so even the scheduled fall release is a shaky proposition. As for Filter, Underworld, Rancid, Weezer and Belle and Sebastian: only time will tell.

All in all, a veritable cornucopia of marvelous contemporary music sits in company storerooms waiting to be unleashed on you, the now suspecting public. So, comrades, spend freely. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for the new My Bloody Valentine record.