OUR RATING SYSTEM:
Great. Buy it.
Fuck this shit. Don’t buy it.
So the scoop is Jay-Z comes out of his pseudoretirement and makes an album that’s, well, not good. Now not good by Hov standards means you still get stellar lyricism here, but overall the whole thing feels contrived. The sucker-for-love verse about Beyoncé on “Lost Ones” is an unbelievable turnoff, and the media sound bite on the dubious Hurricane Katrina track are far more moving than the rhymes. Then you get the mandatory duet with the wifey, which is useless of course, and a puzzling album closer produced by Chris Martin which sounds like a Cubase demo. Jigga says that the catalyst for this project was the good doctor Dre sending him beats. The problem is, all those beats are interchangeable and amazingly lackluster. On “30 Something,” the Big Homie finally sets the record straight about his age and sort of kills it “Imaginary Player”-style, but after five songs of hearing him repeatedly threaten to spank little young’ns you begin to wonder if he enjoys it a bit too much. OK, now you can really retire.
BEST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
WORST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
BEST COVER OF THE MONTH
WORST COVER OF THE MONTH
First, we wanted to know if there were going to be Dre tracks on here. The answer is a humiliating no, but the fake Dre beats by Scott Storch are better than the real Dre beats on Jay’s album. Then we wanted to know if Game could make a catchy record without 50s poppy hooks. The answer is a resounding yes. This is the best West Coast album since, uh, Game’s first album. Except that Blood sounds way tougher on this one and the tracklist doesn’t read like some bogus A&R wish list.
is a hard, organic, and personal effort. And the title track is a case of emo rap that actually works.
Hell Hath No Fury
There you go: Album of the year. But you knew that already. That’s that crack, that hard white, that raw uncut, and that fishscale all rolled into a dozen impeccable tracks of lyrical madness. Hardbody. Can we bring that word back?
BIRDMAN & LIL' WAYNE
Like Father, Like Son
I thought these kissing cousins’ album was going to be corny, yo, but at press time “Stuntin Like My Daddy” is all over radio and it’s perfect. The celebratory nouveau-Hot Boys production makes you ponder whether kicking Mannie Fresh out was the best thing Cash Money ever did. And if you wonder who’s going to want to listen to Baby now that Lil’ Wayne is the best rapper in the universe, well, Weezy dumbed his shit down and somehow it all really gels. He starts off single with unbelievable swagger: “Bitch I’m paid/ that’s all I gotta say/ can’t see you little niggas/ the money in the way,” and it’s on and poppin from there. The whole thing culminates when he goes: “Who want it? Show me my opponent,” then you hear a crunching sound, and then, with his mouth full, homeboy repeats: “Show me my opponent!” Add 15 tracks along those lines and you get an idea of the album.
Food & Liquor
Here’s a guy who thinks too much. Sure, his concepts and cadences are way impressive, but he caught an L on sales. You don’t wanna go down like the next Canibus. So just rap, homie.
The Peel Sessions
As irritating as it is over here, can you imagine how done Iceland must be with all this anemic, pseudolectronic whalesong shit? I mean, at least with something like black metal you can laugh at it until it goes away, but what are you going to do with these guys, sleep them off the stage? It just won’t happen.
D.I. by D.D.
Goddammit, the first band to pull off faceless, mysterioso art collective since Art of Noise and they bring in fucking Dazzle D to hip-hoppify their last album. I guess it’s true what they say, you can take the boys out of Miami, but you can’t keep the Miami from dumping its tacky, remixed garbage all over good music.
The Enchanter Persuade
This is a new side project from one of the guys in Vancouver funsters Black Mountain. I don’t know if I’d exactly call laying out gentle, Eno-style soundscapes “analog synth wizardry” as its promo sticker so boasts, but it’s definitely the work of at least a level-five cleric.
YES! Keep it up, Satch! Keep up the endless blaze of mind-numbing, whammy’d-out noodling for two entire trekkie-amazing discs of go-nowhere excitement and don’t let anyone tell you you’re a balding, self-important clown and the butt of a joke you helped create.
You know who I hate more than those folks who get all huffy and claim Ian Mackaye killed punk cause he made it unpopular for one brief moment in the 80s to be a wife-beating junkie ripping off gay-hustler fashion who thinks singing about sex-addled vagaries like “power” and “excitement” somehow puts them on par with Albert fucking, fucking, fucking Schweitzer? Myself.
I’m kind of surprised it took somebody this long to dig these guys up. They’re old buds of fellow Glaswegians like Orange Juice and Aztec Camera, but with a little less sass and a LOT more snoot. They would have been the perfect band for dickheads to pretend they’d “always been into” back when everyone was trying to do that gloomy dance-punk thing a few years back.
Brilliant Ideas From Amazing People
Maybe this is just pandering to stereotypes, but doesn’t it seem like a garage band dedicated to restoring rock ’n’ roll to its primal, raucous origin would be willing to write out the word “shit” in their own liner notes?
Flight of the Raven
In terms of vacancy, it’s pretty hard to top misspelling “reaper” in a song title where it’s the only word, but including a credit for the person who made the “raven scream” on one of the tracks and doing your cover art on MS Paint are a good start. BTW, these would all be total plusses if the band in question was a Cryptic Slaughter tribute act made up of teenagers from rural Michigan instead of former Oxford students riding the coattails of their friendship with that guy from Queens of the Stone Age.
In the Grip of Official Treason
Somehow I made it past the “subversive” collage of 50s-style American icons on the cover, past the photos of torn-up, post-Katrina New Orleans paired with shots of the clean, touristy French Quarter (ouch!) on the inside cover, past the fake iPod ad with the hooded Abu Ghraib guy on the disc itself, past the two-minute introduction by Fat Mike laying into the college that apparently hosted the speech—all without so much as a cough. I really thought I was in the clear, but the second Jello’s little Fred-Schneider tremolo came piercing its way through my headphones I swear I gagged so hard I thought my head was trying to escape the rest of my body.
Crippled Dick Wax
This is a collection of singles from a bunch of bands of that Wire/Young Marble Giants school of taut British art rock that nobody but the drandruffest, most crotch-smellingly nerdy record snobs have thought about since the early 80s. Sigh, why doesn’t anybody make songs that double as anti-syphilis PSAs anymore?
Too Cool For School
Hey Reverend Phelps and buddies, I’ve got an idea. If you are so concerned about fags, why not champion this band rather than handing signs to pre-schoolers to hold up as backdrops to a homokiss photo op? If poppy punk still sounded like this, 13-year-old boys would be wearing leather jackets and drinking Buds instead of applying makeup and straightening each other’s hair. Head ’em off at the pass, Freddy!
Fuzzy Warbles Collectors’ Album
Jesus, I like XTC as much as the next pretentious asshole, but an eight-disc collection of Partridge solo stuff? This is like the Anglophile equivalent of being forced to smoke a whole carton of cigarettes by your dad. Rest assured if so much as an incidental “Mum” ever crosses my lips again, it’ll be riding the crest of a wave of Pavlovian vomit.
This is exactly the sound my mind makes every time I hear one of those zero-population-growth folks spouting off about only having one kid—the sound of an only child so thoroughly spoiled, the idea that anything he just bellows out in a studio might suck hasn’t even entered his head. I mean, really, wouldn’t we all just rather relegate ourselves to some shanty-town dystopia?
HAGGARD D. ENKIN
With everyone past 30 busting their ass trying to out-young each other these days, it’s nice to hear someone putting out some solidly adult jammers that sound like Lee Hazelwood doing karaoke over old movie scores. All the better if he’s barely in his 20s, we need some fresh curmudgeons to balance out all these gurps before playing Xbox becomes our national anthem.
Never Hear the End of It
Can somebody explain how anyone anywhere liked this band ever? They feel like some bad joke band about how toothless and watered-down we’re supposed to assume Canadian rock would be that’d be played by the members of some barely better American band on
. They’ve even got the exact glasses they’d use to nerd up the other band’s singer. Actually the only missing pieces of the equation are for all their songs to be passive aggressive-knocks on the US and at least two of the members to be brothers.
You ever do that thing when you’re waiting for someone in the car where you crank up something like Prurient or To Live and Shave in LA and pretend like you’re on the verge of breakdown in an art film and just stare off ahead like these are your thoughts and then right as the person you’re waiting on opens the door you snap it off and turn to them like “Oh, hey, how’s it going?” Isn’t it weird how even if they haven’t heard the noise on the way up they still get wigged out? Maybe that’s not the “right” reason to be into stuff like this, but good fuck does it never get old.
Chicago has this thing they always do where they’ll crap out one genuinely awesome band then spend the next eight years spawning nothing but horrible imitators. They did it with Big Black, followed by a near decade of all those pigfuck bands, then again with Tortoise and all those damn pseudo-jazz acts, and now if history serves as any indication, we can all thank Psychic Ills for the upcoming wave of godawful krauty jam acts.