CITY GIRLS: Superculto CD (ABDUCTION)
at times this Carnival Folklore Resurrection series can
seem a little too much like the Noodly Practice Tapes Resurrection
series. Usually the SCG overcome it; for example, CFR#1
(Cameo Demons and Their Manifestations) seemed especially
tossed-off-in-an-hour, but once I allowed its non-stop spirit-of-Buddy
Rich jive to gain momentum, I became quite a convert. CFR#2
(The Dreamy Draw) put the lo-fi improv into another
refreshingly narrow focus; instead of Buddy Rich, this time
it was 'bell-driven, soft, and pretty." The result
was a very cohesive and, yes, dreamy album that became the
popular choice for 'best early CFR.'
slept on #3 and #4, but ordered the live-in-concert #5 (Severed
Finger With A Wedding Ring) after Billy Kiely called
it the "best CFR so far" on the Forced Exposure
website. After getting it from the UPS man and giving it
that first spin, I have to admit I felt like a sucker for
about a minute. It did seem pretty worthwhile because it
was such a bold classic rock move: an as-it-was recording
of a recent hot-ticket show in a rock club. It puts the
mystery-shrouded Girls in a whole new context to hear them
rocking out in front of a big crowd of cheering hipsters
as if they were Superchunk or something. It was also interesting
to hear the Girls, after rocking the crowd's socks off with
the first two or three numbers, pull the plug and spend
the next 45 straight minutes doing -- surprise -- noodly
improv. The same old 'prov here is a more rigorous exercise
than the low-key home-recorded stuff, because it goes on
forever, it gets extremely microtonal, and it documents
them silencing and probably frustrating a presumably adoring
After #5, I skipped
ahead to CFRs # 7 and 8 (Sumatran Electric Chair
and Libyan Dream, respectively), which both really
stood out because they both actually sounded like classically
sequenced albums, not quick throwaway missives. All SCG
heads love all SCG albums, but some part of me almost wants
to call Sumatran Electric Chair their single best
record (even with all the field recordings that led one
list-serv grumbler to dismiss it as "a Climax Golden
Twins album"). And, Libyan Dream is actually
as good as (and stylistically similar to) Torch
of the Mystics.
And now, after all
that, I'm ready to go back to CFR #3, (Superculto),
because I just picked it up used. It's surprising that they
pulled albums like Sumatran out after this one, because,
while I have heard the SCG occasionally get near the bottom
of the barrel, Superculto is the first time I've
actually heard them scraping it, being really nothing more
than just straight complacent improv, with the whole American
Gamelan schtick finally wearing out its welcome a bit. The
first track does have a nice trance-chord approach from
the guitar, but it's promise sort of evaporates within a
minute or two. After giving up on the album, track five
came along nicely as a razor-scissor warzone-improv power
trio slap to attention. It's like something off Valentines
From Matahari given a much sharper recording treatment.
But even that one only lasts for a couple minutes before
the guys doze off and start noodling, and then the next
track takes us right back to more complacent gourd-shaking
bell-tinkling improv. Oh, you know, there's 'plenty of good
moments' throughout. Nothing they do sucks. But, rarely
are they this nondescript.
CITY GIRLS: Live From Planet Boomerang 2LP (MAJORA)
Here's an oldie I hadn't heard until now, and it's interesting
to note that a lot of it comes across much like the CFR
releases: a classic song or two surrounded by lots of noodly
improv. The first of the two records, in fact, is about
80% noodly improv, and again slightly disheartening, but
wow, do they make up for it with the second record. Side
three is just a beautiful, long, eerie trance piece called
"Amazon One," and side four starts with the cut
that makes the album, a rustic version of "Space Prophet
Dogon." It also appears, with considerably more bombast,
on Torch of the Mystics, but this version might just
be my single favorite SCG track, as it seems to single-handedly
invent the idea of Revenant Records, sounding at once like
an old-time blues 78, Sonny Sharrock's "Blind Willie,"
and the campfire song of a Hare Krishna colony on Venus.
(I should point out that this album isn't really a live
album in the sense that CFR #5 is. It'd be cool if Live
From Planet Boomerang, being a double LP, was the SCG's
answer to Frampton Comes Alive or Double Live
Gonzo, just as CFR#5 was their answer to Some Enchanted
Evening or Intensities in Ten Cities. But, the
sleeve isn't gatefold, and more importantly, none of it
seems to be recorded at a live venue or rock club of any
kind. There is no audible audience. (Though it does seem
to be recorded live in the sense that there are no overdubs.)
ASSHOLE: I Want to Danse CD (BREATHMINT)
track "Fistfight" reminds me of the Hair Police
and Andrew W.K. doing a side project together where they
chant "Fist! Fight! Fist! Fight!....Fight! Kick! Fight!
Kick!....Right! Left! Punch! Kick!" But where W.K.
is feel-good, the dance groove here is pretty ominous and
the gruff call-to-violence vocals add a freaky raw feel,
like some kind of teen art-fascism rally. It's that element,
along with the combination of processed guitar and rigid
drum-machine beats, that makes me think of Big Black. Track
two ("DX Danse Brigade (Remix)") for example,
features Velocity Hopkins doing some mean extended guitar
jams. Track three "Lazers" is a great song,
with a soulful sci-fi call-and-response hook. It's an all-around
danse hit for the summer. In fact, that makes five songs
now, for my theoretical Feel Good/Feel Like Ya Should:
Hits for the Summer of 2002 mix tape. That's practically
enough for a whole side. It could start off with "Lazers"
by Danse Asshole, then go into "Fog Face," that
13-minute jam on Mammal's new LP (see next review), then
the live handheld bootleg that I wish I'd made last week
of that new Lightning Bolt song that starts with Chippendale
doing that heraldic call to arms ("doot dee doot do
doooo..."), and then Gibson answering on the bass,
'cause that's definitely a hit for the summer. Then the
new Eminem song that I've only heard so far from passing
cars, and then, for a little breather, something from the
new Flaming Lips album. Probably "Do You Realize?",
a beautiful song. Velocity Hopkins and Brian Chippendale
probably would no sooner listen to the new Flaming Lips
album than they would wear sandals to go see an Elephant
6 showcase at South by Southwest. Well, I wouldn't do any
of that shit either, but I would listen to the new Flaming
Lips album. Anyway, check out Danse Asshole. This is good
stuff, by a supergroup! (Featuring members of 25 Suaves,
Men's Recovery Project, Forcefield, et al.)
Fog Walkers LP (SCRATCH
After a good number of cassette and CD-R releases in just
the last year on his own Animal Disguise label, the act
known as Mammal makes a much-deserved foray into quality
vinyl via the Scratch 'n' Sniff label of Kalamazoo, MI.
The first track on here is 13 minutes long and it is an
absolute stunner for the summer. The most laid-back funky
ass beat imaginable kicks for all 13 minutes while Mr. Mlitter
freaks it atop. I guess after that, the rest of the LP struck
me as a little more 'industrial' sounding, not quite as
sexy as that endless first track. Still pretty hammering
and if you're looking to get your cranium rattled it will
do the trick. And regardless, even if this had been a one-sided
12-inch dance single featuring only the 13-minute track,
it would still be worth the cover price, decimating as it
does the entire Kompakt and Profan catalogs all by itself.
(Please get Mammal's We Are Real cassette from the
Disguise label as well.)
Sleep Digest CD (PALE-DISC)
was mailed to me a couple years ago, before Blastitude had
even started, and I listened to it once and then put it
away because I wasn't in the mood. A couple months ago I
was digging through all my 'sleeved' CDs and there it was.
I thought I should throw it in the shuffler and give it
another chance while it was there in front me. A couple
days went by, and I started wondering what the fuck that
one evil instrumental CD in my changer was, the one that
kept popping up in the middle of all the Bread, Beach Boys,
Foghat and T-Rex. Whatever this strange band/artist was,
it assayed an evil electronic burble that was not only right
up there with Wolf Eyes and all the other Bulbs and Loadies
and Skin Grafters and Unlimited Troublemen, but, unlike
the majority of that whole pile-up, it seemed completely
free of the need to have 1) a super-loud drummer, 2) a quirky
screaming singer, and 3) a quirky Residents influence. Hell,
I bet Lethe doesn't even wear a mask when he performs live!
MAYER: Immer CD (KOMPAKT)
one I did buy at Weekend.
Now I'm looking back on the Forced Exposure blurb, which
describes it has having "...The typical Cologne style:
Dubby Minimal House with Click-Techno elements." Makes
me wonder why I decided to buy it -- that sounds pretty
uneventfully normal. Maybe, I'll admit it, it was because
it was in Jimmy Johnson's Top 30 list for one month. Or
maybe it was because of the one-color cover design (after
walking around the Berlin Mitte for a couple days and nights
in 2000, I'm a sucker for German design). Or maybe, just
maybe, it was because of the title, which reminded me of
Neu!'s Neu Age Rock classic, "Fur Immer." (Means
"Forever," so I guess this title just means "Ever.")
Anyway, I thought a mix CD of German dubby outside-of-a-club
micro-house would be just the thing, but strangely it really
is quite uneventful. The music sounds great, but never really
ends up feeling great. Dunno, really.
ARTISTS: From Pieces... (Audio Dispatch 4) CD-R (FREE103POINT9)
missive from Brooklyn's FREE103POINT9 collective, with various
combinations of a small group of musicians ambling their
way through misterioso drone/improv, musique concrete, dub,
avant classical, free jazz, spoken word, contemporary classical,
etc. Nothing especially new about any of the styles, except
that these not-exactly-household-names (Matt Bua, Barry
London, Matt Mikas, Tom Roe, Seth Price) seem to do them
all very well, and the aforementioned 'ambling' feel (which
all the discs in this Audio Dispatch series have) keeps
these kind of art shenanigans from being pretentious or
otherwise alienating. What's more, stuck in the middle of
several shorter edits are two quite powerful long pieces,
one a spiky Braxtonian avant-chamber jazz piece by the Nuzion
Piano Trio (another offshoot of the whole Atlanta/Gold Sparkle
crew) and a really excellent piece of Far Eastern loft jamming
by the sextet of Neel Murgai + Paul Ash + Chikako Iwahori
+ Irena + Felix Chen + Ryan Sawyer on daf drum, hurdy gurdy,
tap dancing, bass and bongos.
HOBS: Straight Outta Rampton CD (PUMF)
is probably even better than Psychiatric Underground.
First proper track, "Dancing Queen" (track 2 on
the CD after the de rigeur mix/skit opening track) features
one of these goofy Brits doing a really good New York soul
DJ rap as "The Dancing Queen" while the rest of
the band chants like girls: "The gay skinhead will
wank you... The gay skinhead will wank you off...",
all powered by a Chic sample. Then some dazed/drunken Brit
doing a spoken interlude that ends with, "'E's a foo'in'
gay skinnid, in' he?" Then track three, "Shaolin
Master," the second summer anthem in a row from these
dudes ("The Gay Skinhead" is kind of a weird summer
anthem, I'll admit, but it works for me), features psychedelic
Clash-chords while a guy (probably the same guy who was
The Dancing Queen) talks over the riff, steadily working
up to a yell on subjects like: "I'm a SHAOLIN MASTER!!!
YEAH!!!" Then "The Prowler," more of a sun-kissed
skiffle ballad where it sounds like Syd Barrett and Tiny
Tim are fighting over the mic, until you start listening
close to the lyrical content and find out that 'twee' isn't
exactly the word -- more like 'harrowing.'
Well, I can't
write about all of the tracks or it'll be like my Prince
Paul Prince Among Thieves review all over again.
I will mention track six, "Islam Uber Alles,"
which is obviously an anthem, just like that Dead Kennedys
song was, only even more bilious in its sarcasm, as they
chant "Osama bin Laden, we salute you! Saddam Hussein,
we salute you!" Now, now, don't be blasphemed so easily:
these guys don't support the government and society that
put them in mental institutions, and saluting the power
elite of the Middle East is just their way of saying it.
In the same song they salute Sonny Bono and Andrea Dworkin,
which is also part of their way of saying it. These guys
aren't terrorists, they're poetic terrorists. The song was
written and recorded a good year before September 11th.
And it's a real rocker, infused with non-gratuitous dub
touches! Besides, aren't liner notes like "Remember:
The human race is disgusting. Fucking Bastards! I'm going
to piss on your graves. Do the planet a favour KILL YOURSELF"
more scandalous than saying "Osama bin laden, we salute
Alright, in the time
it took me to work all that up, the CD has played through
to track 10, which is straight-up collage de concrete.
Speaking of which, in the CD booklet the Hobs draw up
a song-by-song sample credit list. At first I thought it
was a bunch of liner-note shout-outs, which I guess it is
as well. Just look at the Dancing Queen credits: 'Chic,
Yoko Ono, Abba, "The Sun," "Furamar"
chinese takeaway, V.D. Parks, Brian Wilson, Duncan of Freck,
Stream Angel, Cloughy/Malcolm + Tony "the cat"
Martin.' Or, how about the credits for "We Are the
Mods": 'Temple of Din film soundtrack, dumb advert,
Kev Trundley/Jak Sowerby, Squire/Secret Affair, NJ blues
symphony Rathleale winter 98, Andy Martin, mystery artist
- tape supplied by West Orange, BBC Radio Lancashire/Mr.
Whippy/Culture Club." How could this not be a great
album? The Hobs are the new Roxy Music, the new T. Rex,
the new Syd Barrett, all as if Joe Strummer had never happened.
And there's track 13,
which I'm v. stoked to announce is "Amateur Cops,"
the same all-time rock anthem that devastated on the Muckraker
#9 compilation CD, for those who might've missed it. I really
love this song. I just played it on the radio last week.
I like it so much that I wish they'd used a better drummer.
It's that good. Okay, there's more tracks, but I'm done.
Yes, like 99% of all albums, Straight Outta Rampton
is overlong, but that's part of the Hobs aesthetic: to fill
the canvas completely, to all available edges. And, because
the Hobs happen to be artistic geniuses, Rampton
really does give you more bang for your buck. Speaking of
which, the best way to use bucks to buy this album is from
PAUL: A Prince Among Thieves CD (TOMMY BOY)
I first read about Prince Paul's A Prince Among Thieves
I was convinced it was a masterpiece. Never mind that I
hadn't heard it yet; I just figured that Prince Paul, after
all the masterful atmospheres and skit-work he created on
the first three De La Soul albums, would be a natural to
do a full-fledged hip-hop opera. (Notice I didn't say hip-hopera.
Thank me later.) Having no chance in Nebraska of hearing
it on the radio, and this being pre-Napster, I found myself
eyeing a single copy that sat in the bins at Homer's (downtown
Lincoln record store) for quite a while -- but I certainly
wasn't gonna pay $16.98 for any new CD, not then,
not now, not in 2010.
Luckily, a month
or few later, I was at a party at Ivan Layton's and he had
it, was into it, and wanted me to hear it, so he put it
on. In the midst of a bunch of partygoers who weren't especially
interested in the album, I tried to listen. It took a while
to get goin' -- a lot of talking during skits that, though
well-produced, seemed a little too expository. Hardly any
loud sound effects or wild punchlines... mostly just people
talking. It wasn't until track four, ten minutes or so in,
that a hook actually made it over the party noise: an Ice
Cube cover/homage/parody called "Steady Slobbin."
After that, the album went back to more exposition, and
the party won my attention completely for the next several
tracks. When Kool Keith's appearance came along, Layton
made me listen, but then I went back to the party for good
and it was a year before I heard the album again.
Until now, that
is; since last ish, I've borrowed C.M. Sienko's copy to
see if I can have any more luck with it. Frankly, my first
few listens, even in my quiet home, led to much the same
reaction. I didn't follow the story, and, though my attention
was intermittently won over by really good hip-hop songs,
I never knew what was going on or what the characters were
talking about. With more listens, the really good hip-hop
songs became pretty much great, and I decided to really
sit down, apply my increasingly over-occupied mental facilities,
and give the album a real 'close reading,' a real 'once-over'
for once and for all. I got the story this time, and even
better, I got a wealth of nice Prince Paul touches.
near the beginning, main characters True and Tariq, an aspiring
MC who is working on a demo for the Wu-Tang Clan, are riding
in a car together, expressing their friendship. Tariq plays
True the music he's been working on. Upon hearing the sample
and groove, True asks, "Yo, didn't Kane use that?"
"Yeah, but listen to how we flip it," responds
Tariq. The two are inspired to rap lyrical verses over the
rough mix, encouraging each other during the breaks: "You
feelin' this shit?" "Yo, I am feeling this shit!"
and "You still got it, old timer!" Tariq even
demonstrates, by singing, the loops he wants to add to the
track, such as a Michael Jackson sample, and really it's
no wonder this stuff is confusing to a casual listener.
potentially confusing number is "The Call," a
phone-call rap, which features Tariq having conversations
in verse with two different girls, switching from one to
the other by using call-waiting. The backing track uses
rock guitar arpeggios and fuzz guitar hooks, but this ain't
no nu-metal bullshit -- you don't even really notice that
it's a guitar until the very end. This song also features
a vocal hook based on "Let 'Em In" by Paul McCartney,
as does a completely unrelated recent song by some Wu-Tang
member, I think U-God, which is kind of an odd coincidence.
3. In order
to finish the demo, Tariq needs one thousand dollars. He
asks True for it, but True offers to set him up as a drug
dealer, where he can make that much in just a few days.
accepts, with the intention to quit as soon as the grand
is raised. The first step is for Tariq to buy a gun, because
a hustler needs a gun like a zine editor needs a word processor.
True takes him to a kooky criminal "weapons specialist"
named Crazy Lou who sells guns from an abandoned building
"on 112th," a high-security black-market outpost
called Weapon World. Crazy Lou is portrayed by the Octagonycologist
himself, Kool Keith. Tariq's narration describes the Crazy
Lou character as "always ill, but highly intelligent,"
which probably describes Kool Keith as well. When the shoppers
approach, Keith/Lou asks "What's the password, nerd?"
in his ridiculously monotone skit-acting style. "Enema
bandit," says True, which sounds like a password Kool
Keith would use. I swear that's a Frank Zappa reference,
but Sienko isn't so sure, because the Zappa song was based
on a well-known bit of 1970s lore that was actually reported
in newspapers. Either way, I could see both Paul and Keith
having Zappa in New York in their collection, because
they once bought it for three bucks or something.
Keith monotone is hilarious for his delivery of his next
line: "Welcome to Weapon World, where if you find a
better weapon at a lower price, I will buy your girlfriend
a new weave." The track begins and it's another good
one, with an ominous keyboard groove and some cool synth/concrete
effects rattling and wiggling in the background. Keith is
good too, using his trademark cadence, but staying in character
as Crazy Lou as he rattles off futuristic endorsements of
his high-tech merchandise. Late in the song, he does become
Keith for a second when he mentions "camouflage-green
alligators." And, after the song, when Tariq makes
his purchase, Lou complements it with a line that is all
Keith: "Ah! Fine choice! Powerful yet lightweight,
and it hides well in your anal or crotch area. That's right,
including your butt-pockets."
4. A quick,
sordid tour of the underworld follows, doubling as an excuse
to introduce several more guest rappers. Next on the list
is Mr. Large, the biggest dealer in town, played by Chubb
Rock. He's so big, you have to meet a small army first:
his bodyguards, played by a group I've never heard of elsewhere
called Horror City. This is another standout track, with
Paul laying down an incredible Muggs/RZA drone-hook, one
note from a female soul vocal looped. At first I thought
it was a horn or a guitar, and I'm still not positive that
it isn't. And Horror City are like a Wu Jr., a parade of
mostly anonymous but intense and sturdy script-flippers.
When Mr. Large and Tariq do meet, Large reads his resume:
"I see you know how to handle money...shift manager
at Boston Chicken...
Who else should be in Mr. Large's entourage than Big Daddy
Kane himself, portraying the resident pimp, Count Macula.
Unfortunately, it's yet another undistinguished performance
by the former master. Kane just ain't got it anymore, and
hasn't had it for over a decade, but that's okay because
Long Live The Kane is a true masterpiece.
6. Chubb Rock
does a great 'a capella' rap as Mr. Large, with Biz Markie
as his beat-boxing flunky. He says the line "I love
black people but I can't stand niggers," which is the
same thing I heard from white people in Iowa and Nebraska,
where I attributed it to bigotry. Of course, the white people
didn't "love black people," like they should've
(sometimes Jesus was right), they just "had no problem
with 'em" or some other loaded condescension.
7. The track "Put the Next Man On" has an incredible
ghostly atmosphere, complete with spooky rattles for the
bombed-out melancholy verses, and then one of the more memorable
chorus hooks of the album: "If you got some flow /
and I got some flow / (and) you getting dough / nigga and
I'm gettin' dough / we can chill on the hill (word dog)
/ and put the next man on / when we supposed to put him
on." I'm not sure if it's about creating a customer
base of cocaine addicts or making rap albums. Both, I guess,
because in the storyline the characters speaking are involved
in both. It seems like a lot of Prince Paul's songs end
up being about the record business.
8. In a performance
worthy of Richard Pryor, Chris Rock plays a basehead who
offers his crack bitch in exchange for more cocaine, and
when that fails he offers that recurring folk image from
90s hip hop culture: the blowjob from the male crackhead
in exchange for more cocaine. This bit of grand guignol
closes with Rock sobbing, "It's hard being hooked!",
which Prince Paul segues into one of the sunnier songs on
the album, "More Than U Know," with perennial
nice guys De La Soul the guest rappers. That is, the beat
and the hook (a girl group unforgettably singing "I
like it!"), are sunny, but De La seem to be rapping
about drug addiction. As usual, though, I really have no
idea what they're talking about with their obtuse wordplay
For Love" is a jazzy love song, sung by longtime Prince
Paul collaborator Don Newkirk (I actually think they're
the same person). The storyline has it that True sets Tariq
up with a prostitute, and in place of their conjugal relations
Newkirk sings as Tariq's conscience, swept away Sinatra-style
in a rather sardonic "mood for love." Pharcyde
did this style first with their song "Otha Fish,"
and that was a whole lot better of a track, though this
is fine as an interlude and the opening dialogue between
Sweet Tee (as the prostitute) and Breeze (as Tariq) is hilarious.
gets a juicy role as an asshole cop for "The Men In
Blue," delivering his lines with such vitriol it's
not surprising he had a heart attack a year or so after
this recording. This song has one of the album's most memorable
chorus hooks: "The police department is like a crew
/ It does whatever it wants to do." Another rapper-playing-a-bad-cop
announces with chilling plausibility: "We're the most
organized criminals in Manhattan." The cops catch Tariq
with the hooker, plant drugs on the crime scene, and throw
him into the third precinct, "locked up, set up, and
fucked up," just two days before his meeting with the
Wu. It was True set him up, but he also has himself to blame
for his decision to dabble in the criminal underground,
which has brought swift and terrible retribution. He meets
some fellow prisoners: Sadat X from Brand Nubian is immediately
recognizable. Another inmate is played by Xzibit, who I've
heard of before but only actually heard on this track. To
this day I have no recollection of what he sounds like,
probably because he's overshadowed by Sadat's swing. Kid
Creole is on here too -- Kid Creole from the Furious Five...or
the Coconuts? Probably the former, but I don't recognize
him on here.
11. After being
visited by the
reverend of his community, who gives a fiery sermon in the
skit tradition of, what, Ice Cube's second record?, Tariq
gets out of jail. I still haven't really noticed how.
He immediately calls RZA to inquire about his meeting. In
a rather amusingly loquacious over-the-phone cameo, RZA
informs Tariq that while he was in prison, True auditioned
for, and secured, the last spot RZA had left on his label.
True even used Tariq's beats! This leads to the Wild West-meets-Romeo
and Juliet finale, in which Tariq confronts True coming
out of his house. Both have guns, and a mexican standoff
ensues. Suspensefully, a song begins before any shots ring
out; forebodingly, the song is called "You Got Shot."
As soon as the song ends, shots do ring out, and if you
still remember the operatic first skit that opened the album
way back at the beginning (73 minutes or so ago), you know
that both got hit. In that skit, we heard Tariq contemplating
suicide, believing that he has killed his 'brother.' At
the end we hear him go through with it. Seconds later, we
learn from world-weary (and hip-hop-skit white) paramedics
that True's wound was not fatal after all. Another fast
jump to a montage of hip hop DJs announcing the RZA-produced
debut record by MC True; he has officially stolen from Tariq.
(Rawkus fans will enjoy Evil Dee, playing himself, appearing
at the end of the montage.) A song follows, performed by
Sha as True, but it's not the celebratory jam that the chorus
of DJ's might lead one to expect; it's the remorseful, melancholy,
summary title track about the tragedy that has occurred.
Each chorus closes with the understated moral of the story:
"Before hustlin', we were friends." (Waitaminnit,
the more I listen to the album the more this song sounds
like True constructing an alibi for his involvement in his
friend's death, lying about Tariq having been "a cocaine
seller, a cocaine user." What a villain!)
So there's the highlight reel. This album is a masterpiece,
but you really have to sit down and listen to it intently
if you want to experience it as a story. Though both are
great, it's hard to really tell who's who between and Breeze
as Tariq or Sha as True (who as who and who as who?) on
a casual listen.
on the other hand, even if you understandably choose to
not pay attention to the actual storyline in order to just
listen to it as a collection of slammin' background music,
the lengthy and consistent between-song skits will make
it a strange, momentum-free listening experience. Either
way, I think you eventually start paying more and more attention
to the story; it's always worth the wait for the next great
song, and it's still hard to follow every little piece of
dialogue, so it holds up to repeat listening, even if the
story is really melodramatic, with Tariq getting brought
down by the world of crime almost as fast as that guy off
the bus in Stevie's "Living for the City" got
arrested. It's true that at 80 minutes the CD can easily
feel too long, although you gotta admire Prince Paul's ambition
to make the record as long as a feature film. What saves
it is that every song is good, literally, and the skits
also consistently entertain, due to lots of period details.
a funny aside, look where www.princepaul.com
Nobukazu Takemura "Sign" After
a kind of questionable skipping start, a sunny groove kicks
in and this song seems like something that actually fulfills
the glorious promise that was made to me by a compilation/instructional
LP I bought in 1984 called Breakdance, which had a cover
of Kraftwerk's "Tour de France" on it, by a group
called 10-Speed. That opened my head up a bit, to the idea
of pop-and-lock music done by people who weren't African-American,
and now this song re-opens that same door (of perception).
Breakdance music for nerds who know how to dance, in other
Gee & The Sequence "Monster Jam" Killer
and very sexy jam, featuring the legendary "One for
the trouble, two for the time" sample, which is legendary
because of Spoonie Gee's deep-toned ultra-cool voice. The
raps are all about sex, with Spoonie Gee and all three members
of The Sequence coming on to each other hard. Chorus is
an almost cheesy horn breakdown, a la "Kick It Live
(From 9 to 5)" by Sugarhill Gang (played by the same
production house band, ultimately one of their slightly
weaker cuts, an experiment that didn't quite work), but
it still destroys due to a destroying Go-Go beat, in which
it is amazing to hear DC influence New York (or New Jersey,
to be exact) -- after all, they were less than 300 miles
apart. Lyrics are classic example of how old school hip
hop favored rhythmic push over lyrical content, but the
push is so hot that the content becomes great anyway ("I
rock the party from week to week/And I rock the party very
neat"), especially when Spoonie Gee deadpans "My
rap is strong/my love is long" and then Angie B of
The Sequence responds "With my brown eyes and my cherry
lips/You can't refuse my walnut hips", and then, after
getting Spoonie Gee horny for a few more lines, reminds
him "I can turn you on and I can turn you off/'Cause
I'm in control and I'm the boss." Hotcha!
"Dead Birds" A short instrumental from the
Japanese version of the Ghost Dog soundtrack. (The
American version features some of RZA's instrumental score,
but mostly fills up the running time with guest rapper cuts
that aren't even in the movie.) Starts with such an arresting
piano sample that every single time it comes on, I just
assume I must have my Best of Thelonious Monk on Blue Note
CD in the changer. Then, when the unusually long sample
starts looping, I remember I'm not even listening to my
CD player, I've got my Winamp jukebox on shuffle and I'm
listening to MP3's. It's that arresting! Next to this modern
jazz by the RZA, even Miles "You're Under Arrest"
Davis himself seems like an 'amateur cop'...
COUPLE BOOK REVIEWS:
From The Akashic Record
by Ira Cohen
start this review, or perhaps in lieu of writing my own,
I feel like echoing the statements made about this book
elsewhere in this very issue, in the
mammoth phone interview that Cary Loren conducted with Mr.
Cohen. The book is thin, but it seems very full. There
is nothing groundbreaking about Cohen's style; these are
free-ranging free-verse meditations on his place in history/culture/
nature/the universe, and as a worldly New York bard given
to cosmic vision Cohen falls right in a tradition that runs
from Whitman through Ginsberg to the present. Of course,
he brings something new to it; we go from Brooklyn to Khatmandu
with surprising ease, as Cohen has lived abroad in deep
and mystical/magickal recesses of the Far East. The fact
that in the same interview he distances himself from the
Beats is apropos. There is something different going on
in these conversationally kaleidoscopic poems.
Emotional Memoir of Martha Quinn
by Alan Licht
Drag City Books
different issues of Blastitude I've been ripped off by Alan
Licht. First, it was his $10 show at ODUM in Chicago. That
was almost a year ago, and honestly, pretty much everything
costs $10 in Chicago, so it doesn't seem like as much of
a rip-off now as it did then. Still, it was quite the boring
show. This book initially seems like even more of a rip-off;
it costs $11.95 and it's tiny. I mean, it's just plain slim.
Does 76 pages sound slim to you? Well, trust me, it feels
slim. When I first picked it up, I was dismayed to say the
least, but something made me pay up anyway, and I grumbled
all the way home.
I bought it is that I've always enjoyed his writing. My
favorite piece of his isn't the vaunted LaMonte Young article
that appeared in Forced Exposure magazine. It was informative,
but kinda dry. The Top 10 Minimalism Rarities articles that
appeared in Halana magazine were a little more lively, but
my favorite work of his is the epistolary essay co-written
with correspondent Bruce Russell, that appeared as the liner
notes for his best non-Love Child release, his solo CD The
Evan Dando of Noise? (Corpus Hermeticum.) Sometimes
all a writer has to do is reference the right great song
in the right way. Licht did it in this piece, with "Slip
Inside This House" by the 13th Floor Elevators. He
also put forth a useful analogy: "Songs are bottled
water, improv is running water." I think this is pretty
accurate, although Licht leaves out the fact that the really
good bands can control this metaphor and, when they want
to, take their bottle of water and shake it up and actually
spray the listener in the face, without dropping the bottle
or losing the lid, as it were.
I would also elaborate
that improv is only running water when it's good. When improv
isn't that successful, it may still be unbottled water,
but it has stopped running and settled into a tepid pool.
As for songs, I agree that they always start as bottled
water, but when they are good, they become churning, boiling
water, and threaten to burst out of the bottle. (Again,
the really good bands can actually harness this phenomenon
and, also again, selectively splash, or squirt, the listener.
Like the album Funhouse is basically a band shaking
a bottle of water really menacingly for 6 songs and then
on the last song just cutting loose and spraying the water
But that's all another
essay, and none of that's in this book anyway. What he basically
does with these 76 pages is relate the music of his lifetime
to the culture-at-large of his lifetime. For example, he
posits Nirvana and the whole 'year punk broke' stuff as
a musical reflection of Clinton's marvelous economy and
how it led to the Giulianification of NYC (not to mention
to Daley-ing of Chicago). Makes sense to me; scary angst-rock
sold records just like Times Square and Wicker Park drew
tourists. At the end, Licht himself admits that 76 pages
do not make a book. He may be right, but the 76 he's put
together here do make a pretty fine tract.