Monday, June 29, 2009

So Dumb It's Smart

I've been enjoying Wallpaper's remix of Brooklyn joke-rap duo Das Racist's "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell." It's idiotic but hilarious, so dumb it's almost smart.

I've also been enjoying the Gossip's "Heavy Cross."

This is the first thing I've really heard by them. I read about them a while ago in Maximum Rock N Roll when they were a blues punk band, and I know singer Beth Ditto is a bit of a gay icon. She's got some pipes, man.

Speaking of gay icons, yesterday was Gay Pride here in San Francisco, and in honor of that, I wanted to play one of the gayest songs ever: Cece Peninston's "Finally." Only embedding is prohibited so here's the link. Why would they disable embedding on an 18-year-old video? Weirdos.

So here's another good pride song: Erasure's "Hideaway," about a kid coming out to his parents. Which was a much scarier thing the late 80s when the song came out than in 2009, I'm sure. I saw Erasure open for Duran Duran when I was 12, and he had like five costume changes. It was pretty awesome.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


My sister had this poster of Michael Jackson in her room when she was a kid. I'm sad he died, even if I haven't liked any of his music in 25 years. His first fifteen years were good enough. "Billie Jean" is the best.


I'm trying to consume less music and savor it more. I tend to buy more music than I can reasonably digest, which means I don't have the same relationship with music as I did when I was a kid, when I new every track of an album by heart. Nowadays I listen to something ten or twelve times and then I'm on to the next thing.

But then there's the T.R.O.Y. blog. They/he focus on old school hip hop, aka the stuff I like the most. They just posted a mixtape of Native Tongues artists. It includes everyone from Monie Love and Queen Latifah to De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, and Black Sheep. I love the Native Tongues sound, and I've been enjoying this immensely. I particularly like how they blend Queen Latifah's housey "Come Into My House" into "Groove is in the Heart." Break out the dayglo bellbottoms!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Phenomenal Handclap Band

I just downloaded the Phenomenal Handclap Band's self-titled debut after hearing the single "15 to 20." To me it sounded like ESG, and I was really into the dance music-via actual instruments vibe.

The album itself sounds a little mellower and more trippy hippy indie rock than hip hop (which is clear from the album cover), but I like it, or at least what I've managed to digest. Bay Area musician Bart Davenport makes appearances.

They have a blog, a myspace page, and their album is officially released this week or next.

From the videos, they either look like hip indie kids:

Or fuckin' hippies:

Sort of like Stereolab if they were a Southern rock/hippie jam band, maybe. In other words, sketchy but kind of awesome. Also, being in that band seems like way more fun than working a desk job and having all this bullshit responsibility like rent and student loans. I just want to rock out with my cute bandmates, man.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gil Scott-Heron and Kasar Tha Star Reviews

My review of Gil Scott-Heron's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is up at RapReviews. Here's a video for the title track, which is a brilliant proto-rap song:

I love that song, but I also like his quieter moments, like the devastating "Pieces of A Man."

One of my favorite tracks on the album is the upbeat "When You Are Who You Are."

I first heard this album almost twenty years ago, and I still listen to it regularly.

I also reviewed Kasar Tha Star's Dope: In Tha Form Of Music.
He's a producer/rapper who is good on the boards and holds his own on the mic.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sonic Youth - The Eternal

I don't follow most bands' careers. At a certain point, I take my leave of them. I love David Bowie's early stuff, but haven't listened to anything he's made sense 1983's Let's Dance. The last Dylan album I own is 1975's Blood On the Tracks. I've even taken a pass on the Breeder's post-Last Splash output. My feeling is that there is too much music out there to waste time with the half-assed efforts and diminishing returns of aging artists who keep plugging along despite the fact that their best work is far behind them. Bob Dylan came out with a new album this year, and it seemed a little sad to me that people were so excited about it. I mean, yeah, it's Dylan, but there is no way it will be as good as Highway 61 Revisited, so what's the point?

Sonic Youth's new album, The Eternal, has made me reconsider my ageist perspective. I've been Sonic Youth fan for twenty years. The beauty of them is that they aren't trying to sell a million records and have a hit single. They aren't even trying to please the critics. They just make music that they like. True, nothing they do as fifty-somethings will match the spark and genius of works like Daydream Nation, Sister, or Goo. Instead what you get is the sound of people who have been playing together for a long time refining their sound and jamming. At their heart, Sonic Youth are a psychedelic band, and they get plenty of room to go off on this album. They've abandoned the delicate, pretty songs of Sonic Nurse and Murray Street, and are going in a more rocking direction. They perfectly combine the melodic and dissonant, jagged guitars over hummable melodies, bursts of noise contrasted against sixties and seventies punk and rock. Lyrically, they are a great guitar band, but they don't drop too many clunky lines. I've really been loving this album, listening to it nonstop on my commute and at work, and I'm already excited to see what Sonic Youth will do next. Finally I get the point of following a band throughout their career: it's not about hoping that they will do something that matches their earlier masterpieces; instead, it's about developing a relationship with a group of musicians, and the excitement of hearing what they are going to do next.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iron Maiden

"The Number of the Beast" from Bruce Dickinson's last show with them before he quit in 1993. My question is...are they all playing the same song? Because they don't move like it. I'm pretty sure the bassist is playing a different song. Although he is lipsynching all the words, isn't he. Also, Bruce just seems kind of tired and bored with himself. And doubling as a bouncer.

My favorite Maiden song, besides "Number of the Beast," is "Sun and Steel" off of Piece of Mind. It's melodic, it's hooky, and it's goofy as hell. As is this computer animated video:

God I love Iron Maiden. They make me feel like I'm 14. Upper Playground has a t-shirt with their walrus mascot as the Piece of Mind cover. It's pretty awesome. They also have a shirt that riffs on Judas Priest, who are almost as amazing as Iron Maiden. Priest may not be as good musically, but they win points because Rob Halford is so amazingly, totally, wonderfully gay.

Sonic Youth "Trickster"

The video for "Trickster," off of Sonic Youth's new album The Eternal, proves three things:
1. Hipsters hate rich old people
2. Hipster chicks in the 90s dressed cuter than hipster chicks today
3. Vintage dresses are always a good idea.

I guess it also proves that Sonic Youth still make decent music, and that the youth will always waste their energy on stupid shit like sabotaging a yuppie party (or protesting American Apparel).

I got the new album yesterday, so haven't had a chance to fully listen to it. So far, I like it but it's not blowing me away, but I also have a minging head cold.

Chali 2na Review

I reviewed Chali 2na's Fish Outta Water this week for Rapreviews. It's the first solo album from the former Jurassic 5 member, and sees him branching out into reggae and club music besides his tried and true golden age style hip hop. I liked it. You can here his song "International" here. I haven't listened to a ton of Jurassic 5, but I've always appreciated Chali 2na's upbeat, baritone. To quote myself, the album reminded me of a less commercial, less obnoxious version of the Black Eyed Peas. Like the Peas, Chali mixes in dance beats, reggae, and R&B to create a multi-hued version of hip hop. He sounds out of his comfort zone on some of the harder-edged tracks, and his upbeat baritone is better suited to the more old school songs. Still, while he may be reaching, he never tries to be something he's not: this isn't Chali's version of "The Funky Headhunter." "Fish Outta Water" is a bright, colorful album that does an excellent job of incorporating different styles into a cohesive whole. It's the sound of man trying out new sounds and new materials after years of being part of a group. Chali 2na finally has his moment in the spotlight, and he delivers the goods.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Discharge were a seminal British hardcore band from the early 80s who basically invented an entire genre: the D-beat sound. According to Wikipedia, the D-beat refers to the fast drum beat.
Grungey, loud, fast, and with simplistic lyrics about the horrors of war, complete with black and white photos of wartime atrocities. The Swedish and Japanese go nuts for this shit, and there are hundreds of copycat bands with names like Disfear and Disfear (and Disarm and Distraught...).
Discharge also mastered the punk look with the spikey jackets and spikey hair. Their first seven inch was a masterpiece, featuring a photo of a spiky jacket with the bands name.

Their early material defined a genre of hardcore. Most of the songs were under the two-minute mark, and their lyrics were along the lines of "fuck this fucking fucked up system!!"

By about 1983 they decided that they really wanted to be Iron Maiden, and so started playing heavy metal.

1982's "Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing" featured some total metal tracks like "The More I See,"
which was covered by Metallica "The More I See.", and my personal favorite, "Born To Die In the Gutter." I think I actually prefer their metal stage. It's a little more interesting than the punk stuff. And funnier. That's pretty much the path most hardcore bands took in the 80s anyways. The problem with hardcore is that it's so simplistic that the second you learn to play your instruments you outgrow it. The two choices for hardcore bands are either to break up after releasing a few perfect 7 inches (see: Minor Threat), or going in a more metal direction (see: DRI, Cro-Mags, most NYHC bands, Victory and Revelation Records...) Discharge are still around, still mohawked, and still playing aggro music to crowds of sweaty socially awkward boys. It's a living.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What I've Been Listening To

One of my favorite passtimes is playing videogames while listening to music. This week I got to log a couple hours on Final Fantasy VI while listening to Superchunks Foolish. Floolish is their break up album, commemorating the split between the singer and bassist. It's mellower and sadder than their earlier stuff, and I like it. I actually got it a year ago, but have only now given it a proper listen. You can see them playing "Driveway to Driveway" here. Or "Water Wings" here. The album is full of hooks and great lines like "She pointed at the black clouds in the sky/and said that's what happens when your learning to fly."

I also got Thurston Mooore's 2007 solo album Trees At the Academy. It's sort of like acoustic Sonic Youth. It's not brilliant, partially because of some seriously dubious lyrics, but I like it well enough. You can see him playing "Fri/end" on Kimmel here.

He even does an acoustic thrash song, "Wonderful Witches."

Sonic Youth have a new album out, and I'm planning on picking it up soon, although I'm not sure when I'll actually have time to, you know, listen to it. Maybe as I'm clocking in more hours of FFVI.

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Funky Version)

As performed by JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Thanks to Jim DeRogatis for the link. Which reminds me that Wilco's Wilco - The Album will be out in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fatgums and Bambu Review

My review of Fatgums and Bambu's A Peaceful Riot Going On is up at RapReviews now.

It's also at Fatgum's blog, which is worth checking out.

Go buy it at I wish I woulda known about it two weeks ago, when I was in Long Beach, and coulda picked it up in person. Recommended.

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