As I was walking past our managing editor’s desk, the first thing I noticed about Quad Cities veteran players Driver of the Year’s latest EP, Some Girls Would Say … , was the artwork. It’s a plain black cover with a stylized green illustration of a nude woman lying with her head resting on the stomach of another nude woman.

• In cool-cover alert news, Tricky's new album, Vulnerable, is due this Tuesday and features two interpretations of note: XTC's "Dear God" and The Cure's " Love Cats." The new Anti Records album features his touring band and Italian singer Constanza Francavilla.

Most artistically successful groups evolve toward obscurity - think most recently of Radiohead and Wilco - crafting an idiosyncratic vision that wins admirers and praise but threatens to alienate the bands' core audiences.

• Two successful rock entities have jumped fences to their own greener pastures, each with an artist-owned label and upcoming CD. Serj Tankian has created a more personal home for his new Serart side project, a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Arto Tunboyaciyan, using his clout as the frontman of the System of a Down juggernaut to establish his own Serjical Strike Records imprint.

• While America's war with Iraq is wrapping up quickly, Mordam Records has gathered together a peace-movement fundraiser of anti-war rumblings from today's most politically charged alternative artists. Due in mid-May, the two-CD set is simply entitled Peace Not War and features current singles and selected tracks from muckrakers such as Public Enemy, Ani DiFranco, Midnight Oil, Saul Williams, and Chumbawamba.

The local outfit The Marlboro Chorus has an easygoing, ambling style that’s belied by a keen attention to production and arrangement. What you’re left with on the group’s new album, “Good Luck” , is the lo-fi charm of a singer-songwriter such as Elliot Smith combined with playful but meticulous flourishes that remind me of The Flaming Lips.

• This Tuesday brings a new collaboration of jazz and funk masters, all bowing down to the P-Funk manifesto as The Clinton Administration. The new CD, One Nation Under a Re-Groove, also launches Magnatude Records, a new groove, funk, and jam boutique label through Magna Carta.

Matthew Clay, Crown Yourself King
It’s pretty amazing what can come out of the do-it-yourself movement. Matthew Clay appears to be an artist with a new record on an indie label, but it doesn’t take much sleuthing to figure out that the Ottumwa, Iowa-based Freakin Records (as in, “Give me my Freakin Records”) is a one-man outfit, promoting only Clay.

William Walton’s classic oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast is a monument in the British musical canon and a perfect example of the British fascination with large-scale choral music. Feast is a synthesis of massive orchestral composition (the work calls for double brass) and towering choral forces.

The first must-hear record of the year comes from the Blue Man Group, a trio of nameless, faceless cobalt-silver surfers of the double helix as both pop-culture artists and electronic-music stream-clashers. With the group's new album, The Complex, this mute alien threesome goes beyond the grid and becomes the grid themselves, collaborating with guest vocalists and lyrics for the first time.

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