You know I'm playing this over and over, dissecting every frame. I'm gettin' all James Lipton on it & shit:
Nas (Def Jam)
Nas dutifully hyped his ninth album during the height of summer, because that's what you do when Lil' Wayne is everywhere: You make sure the season's hot-shit rapper has a little competition. But the untitled disc is really a back-to-school piece. This is Nas as essayist -- and although the rhetoric is thoroughly familiar, his grip on it is firmer than ever. Even when he's rapping about aliens, it's tough to simply laugh it off as a conspiratorial rant: "I'm-a tell you what I seen with my three eyes/Word to me, not a hoax, back in 9-9/A spacecraft in the skyline/In L.A., in daytime," he says during "We're Not Alone" -- but the song's broader emphasis is on free thought, not spooky stuff.
Elsewhere, Nas seems freshly comfortable with the act of balancing multiple personas, perhaps because only three of them are prominent, and they feed off each other, anyway: the agitated Queensbridge kid, the autodidactic pseudo-intellectual, and the political shitstormer. (Largely absent: the sex fiend; the hip-hop grump; the high priest; the conspicuous consumer; the dutiful husband.) When the thug and the nerd combine, the lyrics are sharpest: "The lord is a G, he gotta be/Who's the God of suckers and snitches?/The economy" (from "America"). But the nerd, on his own, can be equally funny: "You aint as hot as I is/All of these fake prophets are not messiahs/You don't know how high the sky is/The square milage of Earth, or what pi is" (from "Queens Get The Money").
The exploits of the shitstormer, meanwhile, often can be tidily summarized: "Sly Fox"? Fuck Fox News. "Testify"? Prove your worth, white fans. "Black President"? Obama gets a free pass for now. "N.I.G.G.E.R."? "Y'all My Niggas"? I was going to call the album Nigger, but they wouldn't let me. (A sub-personality of the shitstormer -- the extended metaphorist -- turns "Fried Chicken" into women and "Project Roach" into people.) Somehow, though, none of it feels like bluster for bluster's sake -- and Nas is certainly capable of that.
And all of this means that he's generally sought out beats that wouldn't upstage the lectures. I'm partial to those with soulful minimalism (Salaam Remi's "You Can't Stop Us Now," Mark Batson's "Testify"), and I think stic.man from Dead Prez probably will be under-appreciated for the restraint he shows on "Untitled" and "We're Not Alone." (He does the Black Rock Coalition thing on "Sly Fox," though.) Definite throwaways: the splashy, Game-flavored popcraft underneath "Make The World Go Round" and DJ Troomp's thin, string-filled groove for the otherwise evocative "N.I.G.G.E.R." But, yeah, the music is all secondary, anyway, like the band at a political convention or the cuts that buffer NPR reports.
Previously: Glen Campbell | Takka Takka | Taylor Swift | Dwele | The Fairline Parkway | Nortec Collective | Pink Skull | The Last Shadow Puppets | Kail | Grupo Fantasma | Mannequin Men | Nicolay & Kay | Times New Viking | Lyrics Born | Shelby Lynne | The Stance Brothers | Kokayi | The Sword | Fuck Buttons | Cadence Weapon | Paul Oakenfold
My immediate neighborhood had a lot of old people and very few school-age children. There was me; my brother; a kid who would've been diagnosed with severe ADHD in today's world; and a boy with sketchy parents and a knack for petty crime. As a result, my brother and I spent a lot of time on our bikes, riding to other neighborhoods -- when we weren't jumping in and out of our above-ground pool like maniacs. The pool could be the loudest spot around, but it also could be the most inconspicuous. More on that in a minute.
Although there was a shortage of tykes, our block did have two households with high-school girls. They were social, but generally low-key; if they partied, it most often was elsewhere. (Probably because of all the old people in the vicinity. Some of those geezers had itchy trigger-fingers when it came to calling the police.) But occasionally, one girl's parents would throw a big bash. Once they hired a country/rock cover band. There almost always were people on Harleys. My family never attended. It's complicated.
Anyway, one party really sticks in my mind because it was obviously the girl's birthday, and the family rented a really loud jukebox. It wasn't a stodgy thing, either: If I remember correctly, it was the summer of '83, and that thing was stocked with Men At Work, the Greg Kihn Band, "Der Kommissar," Eddy Grant, "The Safety Dance" -- y'know, basically everything that was important to a pubescent, awkward, pause-tape-making,* Billboard-chart-watching nerd like me. (By 1984, I'd made the transition to weightier fare like Purple Rain, The Unforgettable Fire and, uh, 1984. Hip-hop, college rock and heavier metal were totally 1985.)
Anyway, I distinctly remember being relatively alone that evening. One parent was probably out with my brother. The other was probably doing something around the house. I was alone outside on the patio -- where I could be seen -- when I realized that this glorious cheese-pop onslaught was not coming from an FM station, but from some other, more selective source. Instead of crossing the lawn, saying hello, grabbing a soda and joining the party, I did the only sensible thing: I slipped into the pool, where I could sit with my head above the water but below the rim. Unseen, I mentally catalogued the hits until the sun started to go down. When it was darker, I climbed out and went inside.
(read the complete and ongoing Secret History here)
*pause tape: A cassette of songs made by listening to FM radio on a boombox and pressing "Record" whenever a prized tune is being broadcast. "Pause tape" nostalgia is particularly strong in hip-hop. But the technique also was ubiquitous in my white-and-suburban social circles during middle school.
Glen Campbell "Meet Glen Campbell" (Capitol)
The best song on Jenny Lewis's Rabbit Fur Coat was her Traveling Wilburys cover; she turned "Handle With Care" -- with assists from indie worker-bees Oberst, Ward and Gibbard -- into a post-millennial service economy lament. (In the hands of Lynne/Petty/Harrison/Orbison/Dylan, I saw it more as a rumination on suburban boomer anomie.) But more importantly, Lewis refreshed a fusty, shopworn hit by simply taking it seriously. Jenny one, FM rock zero. In that same way, Glen Campbell's new album racks up a score of at least 3-0. With its 10 showy covers of alt-rock familiarities and AOR chestnuts, Meet Glen Campbell is some laugh-out-loud shit, but only because it's so surprisingly vibrant and surehanded.
The baritone, nearly monotone, Rhinestone Cowboy -- who still plays a mean, mean rhythm guitar -- makes the most of the Foo Fighters' "Times Like These," festooning it with countrypolitan strings and replacing Dave Grohl's desperate howl with grandfatherly force. It's purely believable. The other two home runs: the Velvet Underground's "Jesus" (not heroin-twee, but boozy megachurch!) and Jackson Browne's "These Days" (not, uh, Jackson Browne but, like, manly!). Only a real grump would fail to see the entertainment value in either.
The other seven tracks are all pop-relevant, if less inspired. The two Pettys ("Walls" and "Angel Dream") are perfectly CMT; Travis's "Sing" gains stature, if only because its the leadoff track; John Lennon's "Grow Old With Me" becomes big-hearted but prosaic; and Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" and U2's "All I Want Is You" are what they are. Only the Replacements' "Sadly Beautiful" verges on hokum, but it might be because lyrics such as, "Baby needs a brand new pair of eyes/Cause the ones you got now see only goodbyes" sound proper only when they emit from a bedraggled Paul Westerberg.
In the end, Meet Glen Campbell avoids all kinds of things, including outright twang. And unlike latter-day Johnny Cash, Campbell isn't trying to save us from ourselves. He's just trying to sell some music -- a notion that wasn't always crass, and wasn't always complicated.
Meet Glen Campbell is still streaming on Phawker Radio.
Previously: Takka Takka | Taylor Swift | Dwele | The Fairline Parkway | Nortec Collective | Pink Skull | The Last Shadow Puppets | Kail | Grupo Fantasma | Mannequin Men | Nicolay & Kay | Times New Viking | Lyrics Born | Shelby Lynne | The Stance Brothers | Kokayi | The Sword | Fuck Buttons | Cadence Weapon | Paul Oakenfold
There she is at No. 5 on the Hot 100, riding the coattails of a stoner movie, and I'm mildly thrilled. Now, I'm no Official M.I.A. Booster; since she first bopped out of Diplo's camp, I've been a casual consumer and a quiet skeptic. And other nerds already have found much to analyze in the rise of the weird, gunshotty "Paper Planes," so I'm not claiming to be throwin' any lightning bolts here. But I will say this: Part of me wants M.I.A.'s ditty to be another "Teen Spirit" moment -- an instance when music changes because one song simultaneously scares the crap out of some people, makes other people laugh and causes unexpectedly large segments of the general public to wonder if similarly interesting songs are hiding somewhere like exotic, screaming, uncatalogued insects. So, yeah, "Paper Planes" is different, and when it comes to the pop charts, different is much rarer thank you think. (And don't tell me that at least one Miley Cyrus lover hasn't pressed Delete on her Hannah Montana collection after hearing those seductive boom-boom-boom-booms.)
Side Note One: If "A Milli" was written by a Sri Lankan and included loud gunshots, I might be writing about that song instead.
Side Note Two: Is it just me, or is the video for "Paper Planes" kinda boring?
(photo copped from hot biscuits)
It's official -- Lloyd is a cyborg assembled from parts of all the lesser Jackson brothers:
Dem Franchize Boyz feat. Lloyd, "Turn Heads (clean version)" (mp3)
Dude, did you just eat Perry Farrell?
Triclops, "Freedom Tickler" (mp3)
Call me a sucker:
The Drones, "Baby Squared" (mp3)
zerobridge, "Unrequited Lust" (mp3)
Deep in the caverns of my dorkitude resides Tom Swift Jr. I had no love for the Hardy Boys or any other serialized adventurers. If it didn't have spacecraft, airlocks, deadly rays or giant gadgets, it didn't exist to me. (I did occasionally make room for bowdlerized biographies of professional athletes.) I clung desperately to the Swift shelf at the local public library: a long stretch of volumes, generally with pale orange or yellowish spines, published between the mid-1950s and early 1970s, and bearing the name of author Victor Appleton II. Most of these titles ring a bell:
Tom Swift and His Flying Lab
Tom Swift and His Jetmarine
Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship
Tom Swift and His Giant Robot
Tom Swift and His Atomic Earth Blaster
Tom Swift and His Outpost In Space
Tom Swift and His Diving Seacopter
Tom Swift In The Caves Of Nuclear Fire
Tom Swift On The Phantom Satellite
Tom Swift and His Ultrasonic Cycloplane
Tom Swift and His Deep-Sea Hydrodome
Tom Swift In The Race To the Moon
Tom Swift and His Space Solartron
Tom Swift and His Electronic Retroscope
Tom Swift and His Spectromarine Selector
Tom Swift and The Cosmic Astronauts
Tom Swift and The Visitor From Planet X
Tom Swift and The Electronic Hydrolung
Tom Swift and His Triphibian Atomicar
Tom Swift and His Megascope Space Prober
Tom Swift and The Asteroid Pirates
Tom Swift and His Repelatron Skyway
Tom Swift and His Aquatomic Tracker
Tom Swift and His 3-D Telejector
Tom Swift and His Polar-Ray Dynasphere
Tom Swift and His Sonic Boom Trap
Tom Swift and His Subocean Geotron
Tom Swift and The Mystery Comet
Tom Swift and The Captive Planetoid
Tom Swift and His G-Force Inverter
Tom Swift and His Dyna-4 Capsule
And I was a TOTAL SNOB about it: Yeah, Star Wars is awesome, but I like to read books that are based on actual science. I bet I was particularly insufferable to the girls who got good grades in science class. They didn't see what all the Swiftian hype was about. To me, they were dense, ignorant. They didn't *love* science. It was just another class to them. They were girls. *I* was going to be a nuclear physicist.
The boys weren't so supportive, either. I vaguely remember wanting to re-enact one of the space-oriented books, on my basement couch, with some literate pals. I'd even drawn up an instrument panel on a piece of paper. I was going to be the pilot. They would be the staff. They politely refused. It was a moment of clarity.
(read the complete and ongoing Secret History here)
If you've seen Beijing basketball on teevee, you've seen the Nike commercial that cops footage of Marvin singing the national anthem in '83. (And I bet you've also caught the McDonald's pitch with my favorite Os Mutantes song. Don't get me started on that one.) Anyway, if you're not already one of the million DroolTube views on this -- or you weren't watching the actual game back in the day -- behold some Gaye:
From the NYT's Sunday Business section:
ON an early Saturday morning about three weeks ago, Barry M. Meyer pulled a sheet of paper from the fax machine in his home office, inhaled deeply and held it up to the light of a nearby window.
The number on the fax was eye-popping: $66 million, plus change.
Ka-ching. The opening-day box office receipts for the Batman film “The Dark Knight” had just set a record. And for myriad reasons — including the late Heath Ledger’s delicious turn as the Joker — the blockbuster is still filling theaters on a pace that may land it just behind “Titanic” on the list of all-time, top-grossing films.
Mr. Meyer is the chairman of Warner Brothers, the Hollywood studio behind “The Dark Knight,” and the film has had its debut at a transformative moment for his studio’s parent, Time Warner. Link
What is this? 1992? I hope the FAX MACHINE holds up well for you, buddy. (Nearby, the newspaper reminds us that Peter Gabriel has gadgets and ideas.)
TK Webb & The Visions, "Teen Is Still Shaking" (mp3)
The Singing Saws, "Jingle Bells" (mp3)
Takka Takka "Migration" (Ernest Jenning Record Co.)
It would be easy to lay the "deadly serious indie rock" trip on Takka Takka, if only because bandmember Gabe Levine published this nugget as part of the one-sheet for Migration:
Sometimes this record is about my mother. She recently decided to become a Pamanku, a Balinese holy person. This has brought us do a fair amount of talking lately, more than I have ever had chance to do before. Some of those conversations made their way into these songs-myth, prayer, offerings, gamelan music (oh such sweet music), poverty, volcanic eruptions, Communist purges, cultural misunderstanding, racism, family and abandonment.
I'm not gonna get in the way of a boy and his momz. But I will say this: Despite all of Levine's highly personal, man-of-the-world talk, I do get where Migration is coming from. It's serious in that '80s way (crisp drums, occasional Edge-y guitars, dollops of white funk, crystalline synths) -- and it's serious in that '90s way (we can assume that Takka Takka is well aware of Thrill Jockey's hushy post-rock heroes). But the album isn't deadly or deadening; it's music to be "lived with," patiently. I've managed to give it a couple of weeks of semiregular-but-casual consumption, but I'm still not feeling an overwhelming urge to pick it apart further. So, y'know, maybe Migration is affecting me the way Levine wants it to, as an East/West, subconscious/conscious thing. Or maybe I'm just giving Takka Takka the benefit of the doubt. All of this seriousness can be so confusing.
Side note: Sean Greenhalgh of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah produced it; other really serious Brooklyn dudes have cameos.
Previously: Taylor Swift | Dwele | The Fairline Parkway | Nortec Collective | Pink Skull | The Last Shadow Puppets | Kail | Grupo Fantasma | Mannequin Men | Nicolay & Kay | Times New Viking | Lyrics Born | Shelby Lynne | The Stance Brothers | Kokayi | The Sword | Fuck Buttons | Cadence Weapon | Paul Oakenfold
There's a small pocket of Delaware that encourages young, successful, single people to bludgeon their brain cells and livers with alcohol. My 1990s memories of the place are beyond fuzzy -- they're fractured and gray. This is for the best. I have a hunch that total recall would engender great waves of shame. One scene remains particularly vivid, though:
A typical beach condo, a couple of good friends, a bunch of their friends, and lots and lots of bottles. My friends are used to the routine. Their friends are downright invincible. I reach my fill before anybody else does. While everybody is still ingesting mass-quantities in the kitchen, I stumble into the living room to commandeer the stereo. A small pile of classic-rock CDs. Exile on Main Street. Sweet. Turn volume knob from like 4 ... to 7. Press play, it's "Rocks Off." Bean bag chair. Immediately, in my half-numb state, I'm not paying attention to Mick or Keith. Just Charlie Watts, that masterful, gentlemanly thump: Charlie Watts, man! Listen to that! I'm experiencing a sublime blend of exhilaration and paralysis. Song plays for a couple of minutes before anybody notices that really loud music is coming from the living room. People trickle in and out, concerned that I either need a beer, or need a buddy. Nah, man, just listen to Charlie Watts! The general response is like, "Are you sure you don't want another beer? Come and do Jager shots!" I pass out somewhere around "Tumblin' Dice."
(read the complete and ongoing Secret History here.)
... and part of me thinks it's profound; but not the promo-as-usual visuals or the familiarity-as-marketing-concept sonics; nor the b-ball-as-fall-guy culturals or the kinda-random-hippie-soundtracker histrionics. That stuff gets in the way. But it's a dude telling you stuff. And you have to figure it out: Can your houseparty hack this? Can it hack it? One luv.
(this post has been subsequently edited for clarity; see pedro's comment. original post can be e-mailed to anyone upon request.)
And while we're posting unexpectedly relevant stuff: Shudder To Think, "X-French Tee Shirt," 1997.
If you're feelin' soft:
Teddy Thompson, "In My Arms" (mp3)
If you're feelin' hard:
Andre Williams & The New Orleans Hellhounds, "Never Had A Problem" (mp3)
If you're feelin' soft and hard:
Slim Thug & The Boss Hogg Outlawz, “Keep It Playa [Feat. Ray J]" (mp3)
If you're feelin' zooted:
Koushik, "Lying In The Sun" (mp3)