Sharp Notes February 26 2003

THORNS ON THE SIDE. Everyone loves a little suspense, which is why it's such a good device to employ whenever you're trying to build up hype. Just ask the publicists at Columbia Records, who recently sent out an enigmatic press release asking "Who are The Thorns?"

To further stir curiosity, the release says, "Crosby, Stills & Nash formed in 1968, the Eagles in '71; Buckingham and Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in '74. Isn't it about time something similarly ambitious and audacious was tried in this century?"

And to really peak your sense of wonder and anticipation, the page features line-drawn silhouettes of three blank figures — one holding a Rickenbacker-style guitar, one with shaggy bangs and an acoustic guitar, and a third standing boldy between them.

By now you're no doubt squirming in your seat, saying, "Tell us, tell us, please Earshot, why do you tease us this way?"

Of course, when building suspense, it also helps when the information you're withholding is actually a secret. In this case, the membership of the Thorns has been widely reported in places such as, well, here, and on MTV and VH1, and particularly in places where fans of this "super-trio" would go (such as their individual websites).

The other general guideline for suspense-building is that, when the payoff comes and all is revealed, it should live up to the hype.

Well, depending on your taste in music, it may not be a total disappointment to learn who's in the Thorns. And in fact, the group's four-song sampler reveals some pretty nice rootsy pop, full of classic '70s MOR harmonizing and songcraft. But it's not likely to rock your world the way an Eminem/Mick Jagger/Michael Jackson collaboration would.

But we'll let you be the judge. The group came together in recent months with local super-producer Brendan O'Brien, and recorded an album at Atlanta's Southern Tracks studio.

The members: Atlanta's one-hit folk veteran Shawn Mullins. Former Athens scenester turned latter-day power-pop standard bearer Matthew Sweet. And Seattle singer/songwriter Pete Droge.

Don't say we didn't warn you. Then again, expectations dashed, you may actually enjoy this pleasant throwback of a group when its debut album arrives in May.

COLA WAR. What with all the recent drama going down between local rapper Ludacris and beverage corporation Pepsi, many around here no doubt wondered where Pepsi's arch enemy, Coke — like 'Cris, a hometowner-gone-international — fit into the whole deal. After all, Pepsi tangled with 'Cris — earning the drink manufacturer yet another round of ad-related bad PR — and 'Cris was born and raised virtually in Coke's back yard. A coincidence? Yeah, right. And Saddam wasn't Osama's college roommate, either.

We've yet to uncover any aerial photos of Ludacris conspiring with Coke officials, but we're going ahead with this expose anyway. Apparently, Coke has linked with another rising local, soul singer Donnie, who's appearing in a new ad campaign that also stars urban-music (note: largely wholesome) notables including Angie Stone and ?uestlove from the Roots. While Donnie did some radio spots for Coke a few years ago, this is his first venture into television shilling.

What Coke doesn't want you to know is that Donnie is friends with singer Joi, whose husband Big Gipp is part of the Dungeon Family with producers Organized Noize. And Organized Noize's Sleepy Brown co-wrote and produced "Saturday (Oooh! Oooh!)," a hit for ... guess who? Ludacris.

We think the evidence speaks for itself.