FT Wrecking Everyones Curve
(Link may not work due to the fucked up way archive.org works. If it doesn’t, just go there and plug in www.freakytrigger.com/juice.html.)
Just think Tom…you could’ve been making mixtapes with gorgeous Sri Lankan media manipulators all this time.
A Brief Fumetti Fantasy Based On Today’s In-Store Listening
Get This Indie Out of Our Charts
How in God’s name are Wilco at number eight this week? Easy: they’ve crossed over to the hippie/frat audience. (This portion may not have much resonance for our British readers, who are apparently untroubled by the unholy triumverate that is The Dead/Phish/Dave Matthews.) But, taking my store as a control, the vast majority of copies of A Ghost Is Born that we’ve sold have been not to bespectacled fellows in ironic workwear, but to good old fashioned hippies and their slightly more well-scrubbed collegiate counterparts. (In fact, many of these were doubled up with copies of the Phish album.) Those who fancy Wilco the second coming of The Band (or whomever) should dwell on this while sitting through the “freeform noise” portion (almost as boring as the one on the equally hippied-out Murray Street) (most common comment whilst playing in store: “is something wrong with their air conditioner?”) (then again these are people for whom the Beastie Boys are as scary as Esham and Emperor put together.)
In related news: sales of the new Corrs album shot up 2000% when a 5X5 sign was placed in the window near the door. What sign did it replace? Why Now 14. As my boss commented: “now I don’t feel like quite such a sell-out.” Indeed.
JUVENILE – Juve The Great: Screwed & Chopped
DAVID BANNER – MTA 2: Baptised In Dirty Water: Screwed & Chopped
LIL FLIP – You Gotta Feel Me: Screwed & Chopped
In late 2003, thanks to David Banner’s star turn for what had previously amounted to the questionable activities of recreational drug users, everyone was quick to compare screwin and choppin to dub. And sure, there were some neat surface parallels that made for a good hook: “street culture merges untutored neurochemistry with cheap tech to creat new art form” or whatever. Working in a record store gives me more opportunity to check out stuff I would never buy, even moreso than SLSK with a dialup connection. And these three albums highlight the dub/s&c connection…but probably not in the way its defenders would like. But mostly they knock it down.
First of all, s&c is never as “out there” as the most out there dub. Dub remixers attacked tracks from the rhythm up, whereas s&c is a much more surface tweaking (sloooooow it down and then chop it up). So the results are largely reliant on the qualities of the original song, how it takes to the process. A lot of the thrill seems totally random: new sounds, structures, noises appearing from a simple tempo change…hidden ghosts in the music being released, unwittingly. While more adept/adventurous s&c technicians (and surely that’s the only word for them) might get a little more deconstructive, they never rebuild tracks from scratch. (There’s no s&c King Tubby, in other words.)
And while adepts claim that there’s infinite variation in dub records, most of us just wonder about the quality of their weed. Maybe there is; I don’t know. (We all have our particular obsessions where we rhapsodise evangelical about minute differences the general public might never notice.) But dub is a specialist music, and one I’ve resigned myself long ago that certain cultural factors (that I’m not a black Jamaican in the 70s; that I don’t smoke a brick of skunk a day) are going to prevent me from loving it whole heartedly. As with s&c…call me a prude if you must, but sippin on syrup holds no thrill for me. And without engaging with the music on its own terms, I am destined to begin to hear monotony where others here ecstatic fractalization. Too much drag-assness in the tempo, too many (pointless?) stu-stu-stutters on certain phrases or hooks. There are always going to be specialist albums that even the most general listener can sit back and go “wow” (King Tubby’s Meets Rocker’s Uptown, Pick A Dub, or the s&c version of the first Mississippi: The Album). And one thing that I think gets lost in all the dub-scientist-we-invented-the-remix-fool rhetoric is that even at dub’s most across-the-board popular, the vocal cuts still ruled.
To be sure, there are moments on here that outstrip their album counterparts, or completely reinvent them, or otherwise just make you step back and say “goddamn”. The new version of Banner’s “My Lord” is one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard all year, and I’ll be grateful for a long time for having heard it. But I am beginning to question the accounting logic of seemingly every southern rap record showing up with an attendant s&c version a few months later, all backed by major labels, and appearing in the racks of a record store in suburban Pennsylvania. EIther there’s been a growing epidemic of cough syrup abuse among middle-class white kids, or some Houston jokers are laughing all the way to the bank. Either way, music aside, I couldn’t be happier.
THE BETA BAND – Heroes To Zeros
“What on Eart will they do next?”, Tom asked, on this very site, way back in ’99. If you had told me then that the answer would be “release a straight up indie rock record” five years later, I’d have spit in your eye. Okay, so it’s not as bad as all that. This isn’t Starsailor. Or The Shins. There’s still a certain…weirdness to many of these tracks. But there’s still a feeling in listening that this the straightest thing they’ve ever done, the first thing that hearkens back to an older version of themselves, terra cognita. If I was being kind, I’d say they finally made a record which mashed up all three of their original EPs. If I was being unkind, I’d call it their Hail To The Theif. (It’s an imperfect metaphor, especially since their last album was the tightest, least pretentious thing they’ve ever done. [Certain people, including muggins here, tried to damn it with faint praise later for the same tightness. Wrong: it’s my favorite album of the 00s.])
But “weirdness” was never The Betas primary reason for existing, though glancing through their discography you’d have a hard time proving otherwise. (I certainly wouldn’t hold myself to any of these grand pronouncements in court, for instance.) After all, Kid A and Amnesiac are both “weird”, and people bought them in droves. And there’s nothing the Betas have ever done as “weird” as, say, “Kid A” or “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” that didn’t collapse into stoner wheezing and giggly pointlessness. (Though there’s an argument to be said that the same applies to Radiohead, minus the giggles.) This is their main charm, as much as it is a failing. The Betas’ failings are so inexorably linked with their charms, in fact, that picking them apart seems a fool’s errand at best. They’re too low-key to move Radiohead units. They have no statements, except for perhaps that the rapidly aging generation who grew up in the 80s and 90s is kind of fucked (which makes them no different from just about every other rock band around right now, including Radiohead) and that Wild Honey is superior to Pet Sounds (a slightly more minority opinion). When they’re a joke, they’re a private joke. And when they make your heart soar, you might as well be alone anyway. I can’t imagine going to a Beta Band concert, because I can barely imagine listening to them with more than one person in the room. Who the hell puts on a Beta Band record in a crowded record store, like those gimps in High Fidelity?
In a way, though, Heroes To Zeroes is just another step in the Beta’s continual “fuck you” poke-in-the-eye aesthetic journey from “Champion Versions” on. Having determined they could wallop the then-new wave of post-triphop indie plodders (if you don’t remember them, don’t worry, you’re not the only one), they released an EP so Kraut-addled it was the record Faust should have recorded in the 90s. Having proven they could go “out”, they released an EP so low-key it sounded like a slow, rainy afternoon looped for eternity. Having gone low-key, they released their debut album, a record I love more each time I dig it out, which is not often, because it’s still the stupidest, most simultaneously self-infatuated and self-hating record a band of any stature has made in the 21st century, a record I could never love with a thousand years to listen. Having gone round the bend and stared their demons (and bankers) in the eye, they released the tightest record possible, itself a poke at both the expectations that had accrued around the Band and the context of the time, namely rock being full of neo-garage throwbacks and post-Radiohead bathos and doe-eyed emo and bands for whom the future of “rhythm-in-rock” was to transform it full into hip-hop, down to the sensetive thug date rape lyrics.
And now Heroes. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want 10 more versions of Hot Shots, with it’s luscious R&B-dancehall-hip-hop-indie composite. But anyone expecting that (truly expecting, rather than just wishing) hasn’t been paying attention. It seems slight on first listen, and maybe a little dark. But then all of their records seem a bit slight on first listen. (Hot Shots great ruse was fusing that pop-rhtyhm-tightness with a patina of stoner delirium, like a golden fog, until the songs just sort of washed over you like a kitchen-sink Shek’spere Neu! remix.) And they’re all a bit dark, in their way. But there’s also something undeniably “rock”-y about it. “Assessment”, of course, which is like an indie rock version of filter-disco, looping the guitar from U2’s “I Will Follow” to mantric (if sludgy) effect. But also “Out-Side”, where the video-game-blip-and-distortion middle eight is followed by a (mercifully brief) guitar solo (!) in a recognized post-The Bends stylee. But the more I listen to it, the more I can hear how they disrupt their “songs”: John Denver guitars that sound like loops, stuttering at the end of the bar just to drive the effect home; an incongruous “funk” bassline under a trifle of a pitter-pat indie jaunt; hallucinatory 303 blips; live drums that go all technoid just to wheel back as quickly; an instrumental interlude that sounds like the music they play at rides in Disneyland. It is a pretty weird record, I guess. Face it, Jess, you got suckered too. You just wanted more sleepy eyed 2-step. You got blinded by your preconceptions. Haven’t you been listening to anything they tried to teach you?
Already, this seems like the ultimate sort of “grower”. I can see it sneaking up on me, steadily, until it makes my top 10 by the end of the year. But don’t expect a glowing reversal in six months, a flailing “I was wrong!”. They’ve all been growers. (The odd bit here or there that knocks you sideways the first time you hear it notwithstanding: “She’s The One”, or “Round The Bend” or “Sequinizer” or “Won”). But “growing” can equal “growing away from” too. Right now I’m just gently baffled by it, and that seems the right place to be with the Beta Band, as per.
The Walrus Was Bleek
For those like poor David who are sick of A. The Neptunes (understandable), B. Jay-Z (madness), C. the dearth of novelty records in this post-Dr. Demento/Boom Selection world (err…), plz direct the p2p of yr choice to DJ Dangermouse’s Gray Album. Yes, it’s a mash-up album. Yes, it’s the White Album vs. The Black Album. Yes, the irony of this guy being from Athens, GA is not lost on me. But…it’s actually pretty good! It’s probably only so good (when it is) because of how goddamn disappointing the proper Black Album was, but compared to the Paint-By-Neptunes of the original “Change Clothes”, hearing it with the harpsichord from “Piggies” looped underneath transcends novelty (almost) until it sounds like a particularly jaunty/wacky Prince Paul production circa 3 Feet High… At worst it sounds like middling backpacker glitch-hop/hip-hop with some rather obvious samples. At its best (the Prefuse-styled [or maybe Todd Edwards if he was suddenly violently possessed of the spirit of DJ Premier] juggle of “Justify My Thug” and “The Ballad of Rocky Racoon”) it does two things I never though possible: it makes me want to hear the original Black Album and White Album again.
(According to Pitchfork today there are three different bootleg albums remaking the Black Album which has to be some sort of record, either referencing Jay’s standing in his field or, more likely, how crappy the album turned out to be.)
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – “Yeah (Stupid Edit)”
It’s oh so gauche (and lazy) to review a record simply by listing other records, but, unless you’ve been living in the same “bunker of stale 1979 air” (pace Tom) they’ve been theiving from, the DFA just beg for it.
Really, this record is “only” the bassline from “Disco Inferno” (thanx Geeta), the vocal delivery from “Life During Wartime” (thanx Mitch), and the production of Vitalic’s “Poney” EP (thanx me). With maybe some New Horizon (the hollow beep-and-klang of their blodclaat house anthem “Slamdown”), Josh Wink (any time overdriven acid and snares are present it’s customary to tip yr hat), and Daft Punk (the sawn off thump of “Da Funk”…thanx Gygax).
But it’s groove is so unstoppable (hey, if you’ve gotta steal, right?), it’s flitting between moods so neurotic (play it on a loop and by the time it ends and begins again you’ll never guess it was the same song), it’s attention to period (be it 1979 or 2002) detal so exacting, and it’s energy so boundless, I can’t help but think it’s one of the best things I’ve heard all year. I can’t make out what the hell he’s talking about, and, for the first time in an LCD Soundsystem song, that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve finally made a generational anthem that works solely for the sonics. The sonics. The sonics. The sonics.
LIL JON & THE EASTSIDE BOYS – “Get Low”
What a strange little transubstantiation that has occured when “C’mon and Ride It (The Train)” slowed down to 16rpm and fronted by the Frogtown Hollow Community Choir is the number one song on the TRL radio countdown.
Crunk: a production of the Children’s Television Workshop, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and viewers like you.
One Minute Record Reviews: featuring my mom.
Freeway feat. Peedi Crakk – “Flipside”: “This sounds like the music from Halloween.”
R. Kelly – “Snake (Remix)”: Mom: “What’s R. Kelly’s first name?”
Jess: “I dunno…Richard?”
Mom: “PEE ON ME, ROMULUS!!”
Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz – “Get Low”: (Upon hearing the “sweat drips down my balls” line, our reviewer spit her gum against the windshield.)
JUNIOR BOYS – “Birthday”
So, context: The Junior Boys make skippy, snappy 2-step ala Dem 2 and filter it through chilly-the-most nuevo wavo romanticism. Fair enough.
“Take all this weight behind me, and let it go.” He sings this, and then the chimes or strings or xylophone or synth or whatever it is ripples in counterpoint: if this was a Chuck Eddy book he’d probably talk about how the sound of the ripple – light, upward, maybe even jaunty in a dejected sort of way – is the sound of that proverbial weight being let go. (Except Chuck Eddy would likely hate the Junior Boys. So it’d probably be a clumsy device to him. But pop music draws nearly ever emotional response it can from clumsy devices, and whether said clumsy device speaks to you (Mary J Blige style histrionics vs. drippy Pavement guitar Cream of Wheat) is largely a matter of taste. The creation of a NEW clumsy device is a claim to fame on par with the guy who first isolated a breakbeat or figured out that a drop D chord makes for good nu-metal.) It’s a sad song though, in the end, because he doesn’t sound relieved when he sings the line; maybe resigned, maybe exhausted. Relief will come in time, perhaps, when he realizes letting go of the weight was a good thing, that moving on doesn’t equal sinking like a stone. It’s a feeling I understand all too well right now, which is why I won’t be listening to this much as the weather turns cold.
Fucking indie records.