Record companies habitually wheel out their big guns for the last quarter of the year, but there’s enough potentially hot stuff due in the next three months to keep music retailers buzzing. A sample of what we can expect (some release dates are still tentative):
* The Cure returns later this month with Wish, the British band’s first studio album since 1989’s Disintegration. After a nonstop flow of special CD-single packages, video projects, and both a remix and live album (the latter unissued here), a solid showing by spider-haired, lipstick-wearing bandleader Robert Smith should cement the aggressively psycho-delic group’s near-superstar status…. * Tracy Chapman’s third album, Matters of the Heart, also due this month, will need at least one killer track that doesn’t sound like 1988’s ”Fast Car” to prove she’s more than a well-meaning, one-song artist — especially since her lackluster 1989 album Crossroads has proved forgettable…. * Annie Lennox, formerly of Eurythmics, makes her solo debut April 28.What she’ll sound like without her longtime partner David A. Stewart may be a mystery, but the colorful, supercharged vocalist has never been involved in anything mundane…. * The Black Crowes’ much-anticipated May follow-up to their triple-platinum Shake Your Money Maker will present the Atlantan rockin’ dudes with a brand new guitarist, Marc Ford. The big question: Will they still sound like an anachronistic ’90s blend of Humble Pie, the Faces, and the Rolling Stones — and will they sell records again anyway?… * Bobby Brown’s long-promised, much-postponed follow-up to 1988’s Don’t Be Cruel may have been too long in coming. Due in late May, the former New Edition singer’s album will hit a marketplace more than satiated with recent hits by bandmates Bell Biv DeVoe, and other R&B stars. Of course, none of them have been dating Whitney Houston, so who knows what we’ll hear…. * Wilson Phillips returns in June with their second album — and, thematically speaking, it’s a family affair. Sisters Carnie and Wendy Wilson have penned ”Flesh and Blood” about their relationship with estranged father Brian Wilson; Chynna Phillips, once similarly estranged from her Papa John, contributes her own personal opus, ”All the Way From New York.”… * INXS ditched producer Chris Thomas and apparently returned to the ”experimental” days of their youth. We’ll hear precisely what that means in June, with an as- yet-untitled album bearing such tracks as ”Heaven Sent,” ”Men and Women,” and the undoubtedly charming ”Taste It.”… * Faith No More will show us whether their peculiar combination of hard rock, metal, and funk — now that it’s nearly been imitated to death — will still find a large audience, when Angel Dust wings its way into stores in early June.
Also anticipated this spring: Tom Waits’ soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth and new albums by Lyle Lovett, Michelle Shocked, Def Leppard, XTC, the B-52’s, the Beastie Boys, the Neville Brothers, Lindsey Buckingham — and 350 bands from Seattle, all of whom will be touted as the new Nirvana.