During the 2004 climax of Dipset mania, if someone told me that Cam’ron’s weed carrier would be the only dude in the crew anyone gave a shit about, I would have adjusted my oversize pink New Era to make sure I was hearing them right. Lo and behold, at this very moment your boy Jimmy has 100 pages of white kids giving him props on YouTube and a record deal with Columbia while the rest of the Diplomats are selling mixtapes to pay the ConEd bill. That’s why you can’t hate on
Harlem’s American Gangster
even if it is an hour of throwaway songs and annoying Damon Dash skits. This guy’s a hustler, and the sooner Koch releases his outtakes and ends his contract the better. He needs to get over to Columbia so Rick Rubin can Neil Diamond his career. Also, the new Dipset trend of wearing a women’s shawl on your head is a way better look than the fitted cap.
THE VANILLA GORILLA
If you “nerd out” on hip-hop like I do, then you know how fun it is to pick which city will be the new epicenter for commercial rap each year. Atlanta, St. Louis, Houston, Oakland, and Chicago have all been temporary homes for the ghetto’s CNN. Now it’s looking like rap has gone on permanent vacation back to Florida. Somehow a state whose greatest musical exports of the last decade have been Deicide and Rabbit in the Moon is now responsible for every good song on Hot 97. Pitbull, Sean Kingston, Brisco, Flo Rida, and of course our boy T-Pain are all repping for the Sunshine State, but the New Luther Campbell Award has to go to Rick Ross. I know it’s been a while since “Hustlin’” became a street anthem and an interoffice punch line, but the Boss is back with the follow-up to 2006’s suburban-certified
Port of Miami
. On this record Ross’s patented sluggish flow is highlighted by the best production money can buy and guest appearances by everyone good. Trilla’s coke raps are exactly what hip-hop needs after a Lupe Fiasco-packed fourth quarter.
When I was in sixth grade I had lines in my eyebrows and wore silk shirts with Z Cavaricci overalls. My friends and I would make up dance routines in front of a giant mirror in my basement, then go to school dances and dazzle the ladies with our synchronized Roger Rabbit. Most of our moves were lifted directly from Heavy D and the Boyz—I jocked those guys so hard. That summer, Trouble T. Roy, my favorite Boy, died after falling off a balcony or something. I was honestly bummed out. Maybe it was because I thought that it would break up the group or it meant we would have to start dancing like Bell Biv DeVoe, I don’t know. Shortly after Trouble’s death, Pete Rock and CL Smooth released an epic tribute called “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y),” which became an instant classic and helped me get through the tragedy. Long story short: It’s too bad Pete Rock will never make another song as good as that one.
Spazzy little B-More kids jumping up and down to singsongy drum-machine punk and being retarded—pretty cute. Their record covers are a treat for eyeballs, and their live show is supposed to be bonkers. I might even venture outside to go see them when they come to NYC in May. This band’s getting all kinds of hype now, but they seem like good vibes, so we hope they don’t get chewed up and spit out like Vampire Weekend—who deserve every bit of backlash they get, fucking pussies.
Wow, by this point I’d written off “8-bit” music as the sole province of all those Wham City dorks going nutso with what is essentially the new happy hardcore. But it’s good to see that these guys are still doing things with keyboards and an Atari chip that don’t just sound like sped-up midi samples. Things like bringing back actual, you know, “beats” (why does that word make me cringe?) and making dark squelchy falling-icicle noises under the girl’s screaming/backward-sounding Cocteau Twins language. Those kinds of things.
! How cute are they? They’ve sounded exactly the same for 32 freakin’ years and it’s awesome. I know back when “Love Shack” came out it got real annoying real quick, but go to YouTube and watch the video again—for some reason it totally rules now. They look like so much wacky fun. They’re just, like, cool grown-ups with amazing wardrobes having fun. Don’t you wanna be like them when you grow up?
More dark, sketchy dirt-thrash from these mountain-dwelling weirdos. Three tracks total: two quick face-stabbers and a dirge on the B-side called “Tapped Out” that extracts the worst bits from “Damaged” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and smashes their faces together in the toilet. Now that every partycore unit is scrambling for bragging rights on how far underground they roll, I’m psyched that a crew like Sex Vid exists to chase them back out of the cave. Hopefully they break up before the dreaded “concept album” stage, which has yet to NOT be the death knell of a band’s interestingness. Fingers crossed for an early death!
Fury & Flames
Erik Rutan is not a musician. He is actually some kind of prehistoric head-eating primate with a mutated adrenal gland that bestows nth level mindless ferocity. These long-haired dudes obviously keep him chained to a boulder somewhere in Florida and whip him with barbed wire whenever they need songs for a new record. That’s the only explanation for how this band keeps embarrassing all others by raising the bar for sheer mind-blurring barbarism in death metal. However, I have seen enough movies to know that eventually Rutan is going to escape and kill thousands before being recaptured, so you may want to skip visiting grandpa this year. He may be dead already.
RONAN THE ACCUSER
The Colonel Records
While there’s certainly no shortage of classic-rock/Americana revival bands in New York these days, there is a dearth of the enthusiasm that made any of that shit worth a damn in the first place. If what you’re offering up is sun-soaked, beer-loving classic rock, then all I’m asking is songs that make me want to crack a Bud in the backyard at 2 PM. The Weight have the excitement and the drawl to make everyone else sound like they’re reading off cue cards.
OK, look: We’ve spent plenty of time in these pages shitting on Philadelphia, but you know what? It’s a fucking city, an address for people to get mail sent to—who cares? Yeah, a bunch of ding-dongs live there, but name a major metropolitan center without its fair share of assholes. That’s why this record pains us so. Being “eccentric” is a good way to get views on YouTube or have your family use a word other than “loser” when describing you to others. But when you try and turn it into a band, not so much. And I know picking apart press releases is the ultimate fish-in-a-barrel move, but I just wanted to make sure you know that if you do go to a Man Man show you will see a “hipster chaining up his fixie out front.” We tried, Philly. We really did.
I have no idea what the fuck is going on here but this thing rules. Something like seven or eight musical genres are represented simultaneously, each one with a huge Omar-style scar carved across its face. Whatever you thought about these guys just got tossed out the window, so either get into it or go on with your cool niche-happy self. The rest of us are going to be excitedly dissecting this for the next couple of years.
LOST LOCKER COMBO
LLC is a concept band dreamed up by
Maximum Rock and Roll
’s Bill Florio, where every song evokes some kind of scholastic/educational theme. If you think overexplaining it ruins the joke, wrong—the joke ruins the joke. And that’s the funny part. See, there’s multilayered retardation and cleverness that can be peeled back, but underneath everything are actually six or seven above-average pop-punk songs that I really want to hate but actually like a lot.
LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR
War Metal Battle Master
We’ve hit the point where metal songs about epic battles and mythical beasts are more tired than rap lyrics about money and hustling and it’s fucking boring. At least most of those rappers are actually rich and probably dealt drugs at some point. Pretty sure these fellas from Chicago haven’t spent much time warring with battle-axes, though something tells me they probably took Intro to Greek Mythology and might just have extensive comic-book collections in their (mom’s) basements.
This is probably what all those post-grunge alterna-bands like Staind and Our Lady Peace thought they were making when they were recording their yodeling, overproduced abortions—a contemporary version of everything that was good about 70s rock, divested of its damp polyester trappings and lacquered in a glossy coat of distortion. I guess there but for the grace of ten years and 40 or 50 IQ points go these guys.
Attack and Release
Some of these songs were supposed to be collaborations with Ike Turner. That would have been less boring. I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing. I have more thoughts on lentil soup.
And with this, Clinic have finally crossed the whisper-thin line dividing “having a distinctive sound” from “recording the same album three times in a row.” Good job, fellas. Is it ironic that a bunch of guys dressed as surgeons have never dealt with the fact that their singer is suffering from a decade-long case of lockjaw?
Different records correspond to different activities. For example, Metallica’s
Master of Puppets
is obviously a long-distance driving record, from New York to North Dakota perhaps. The Make-Up’s
I Want Some
is mostly for having sex, but also works with cleaning your room and generally getting organized. El Perro del Mar’s latest is a good record to listen to if your name is Helen Keller. Burn!
One Saturday when I was about eight I was hanging out with a couple of my little buddies and suddenly I needed to go to the toilet. So we all headed back to my house only to find that my folks had gone shopping and the house was locked up! I was really busting so as a last resort I shit in an old bucket by the side of the house. When I came back to my friends waiting for me in the driveway, I said, “What are we doing now?” and they said, “Nothing. We don’t hang out with people who crap in buckets,” and walked off. I cried. I cried out of shame and anger, and this album is what it would have sounded like if I’d been handed a guitar at that very moment.
Meic is sometimes called the “Welsh Dylan” and has spent the past 30 years putting out unpronounceable albums of gloomy, traditional folk in that zany language of theirs (1977’s
is both the best and funniestly named). This one, however, is his attempt to break into the English-speaking market on the heels of such equally cerebral countrymen as Tom Jones and Tammy. The music’s not bad, but there’s something sort of vicariously embarrassing about the whole outing, like spotting your dad’s car outside the OTB or listening to Big Audio Dynamite. Also, isn’t Dylan Thomas technically the Welsh Dylan?
A HUMORLESS NERD
Once they were mysterious and obscure, now they are everywhere and perhaps, just perhaps, getting bloated with power. I mean, this thing sounds like 40 minutes of a children’s church choir doing warm-up scales followed by panic-attack-inducing drums and horror-movie chase music. I am verrrrry tempted to call bullshit. Still, I feel like all my years of accumulating cool points will be revoked if I dare say anything bad about the Boredoms, so hooray, Boredoms!
JARBOE / JUSTIN K. BROADRICK
Spectacular as this is, I will admit to fantasizing what it would have been like for mid-1980s Jarboe to team up with early-1990s,
-era Broadrick. Although it would probably would be a situation like communism or
Alien vs. Predator
: awesome in theory, but a handful of random humans would get involved and fuck it up for no reason. That said,
is intensely brain-churning and guaranteed to cure a sunny day in one listen. Put it on at bedtime so you can wake up in tears, then spend all day feeling purged and rejuvenated. Or just take a laxative. What am I, a nutritionist?
GAY PARKER JR.
Lie in Light
Some possible scenarios that might require me to listen to a Nadja CD: 1) I deliberately attempt to give myself motion sickness. 2) I conduct an experiment where I try to get my pets to commit suicide. 3) I go on a long trip and become homesick for the sounds of my dishwasher. 4) I get a sudden urge to have a really bad time. Until one of these situations comes to pass, it’s impossible to review this fairly. So for now I’ll just say it’s a pile of barf and will revise later as necessary. OK with you?
Anywhere I Lay My Head
Fuck it, I’m giving this a smiley. Yes, she is a 100 percent tone-deaf celebrity putting out a vanity project à la such past tasteful silver-screen chanteuses as Milla Jovovich or Minnie Driver, but, my God, it’s an entire album of Tom Waits covers, people. And there’s drum machines and ethereal chimes everywhere and they’ve hidden her deadpan voice (half Liz Phair, half Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet, and just a sliver more pleasant than Tom Waits himself) under so many effects and echoes and fuzzy layers of gunk to try and make her seem on-key, that, call me crazy, the sheer audacity of it all fills me with an evil sort of glee. I’m filing this proudly next to my CD of Tina Yothers’s band, Jaded.
In a world where “atmospheric” and “spacey” are bywords for “milking a single chord progression for over an hour,” it is more than a pleasant surprise to see a Yank and a Kraut team up and rip out a spacey, atmospheric album full of stuff that changes, like with actual separate parts. It is a rabbit punch in the upper arm while you’re sleeping. These guys and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band are the only folks left making 8- to 15-minute songs that couldn’t be pulled off in 2.