Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chosen Few Crew and Wugazi Reviews

I have two new reviews on RapReviews.

First up is the Chosen Few Crew's Scarlett Letter MCs. They are a positive crew from Las Vegas. On the border of being Christian rap focused enough on hip-hop to make them rappers first.

What won me over to them was the videos on YouTube of them performing live. There are all of these clips of them playing to apathetic audiences in less than optimum conditions with nothing but a prerecorded track and they are giving it their all. Those kids got moxie and I admire 'em for it. Definitely recommended if you are looking for positive, old-school leaning hip-hop.

I also reviewed the Wugazi album. It's worth a download for hip-hop fans who like Fugazi.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fucked Up and Trash Talk at the Independent, San Francisco

Fucked Up
Trash Talk
The Independent
San Francisco
July 25, 2011

The last real punk show I went to was I think a Cripple Bastards show at a squat in Milan in 2001. It's been a while. But when I saw that Fucked Up were playing a short cab ride from my house, I decided to go by myself to experience them. I saw my financial adviser and hung out with a four year old before the show, which is pretty much the opposite of punk.

Trash Talk opened the set. They are a hardcore band from Sacramento who do the growly screamy thing. I was standing at the edge of the pit, and had just got my eight dollar Makers Mark and was about to take a sip when this big burly dude ran across the room and slammed into me, spilling my drink everywhere. At first I didn't understand what was happening. Why did that guy run into me? What's his problem? Then I remembered - riiiight, I'm at a punk show. Their were a handful of Trash Talk faithful doing their best to keep a ferocious pit going. The rest of the crowd backed off, which caused the lead singer to ask the moshers to drag people into the pit. I can appreciate Trash Talk's frustration with aloof SF crowds, but all I could think of was how uninviting a pit full of buff dudes hitting each other was. If I wanted to be surrounded by that many sweaty male bodies I'd go to a beer bust at the Midnight Sun. There was a nice moment at the end of their set when the singer said "I want you to rush the fucking bar as soon as this song starts! Those fuckers have just been standing there all night. Everyone rushed out of the path of harm. The singer also kept saying "If you know the words, help me the fuck out!" and then would proceed to sing songs that went "Blrallaawwrrrarrararrarar arjararrrraaaarrrra!!!!!!! Their fans dug it.

Fucked Up went on at 10:30. Three guitarists, a drummer, a (female) bassist, and Damien Abraham, a big, somewhat overweight, and very hairy dude. I've always liked him in interviews, and he was great that night. He came off as approachable, funny, and sincerely thankful that we were there. I watched the pit for the first song, realized that it was fully of other wimpy nerdy dudes, and decided, fuck it, I'm going in. So for only the second or third time of my life, I joined a mosh pit, pogoing and swinging into people and yelling into the mic when he raised it over the crowd. At one point he staged dived on me.

It was the most fun I've had at a show in years. It was so cathartic to be screaming and jumping along to the lyrics. When I listen to Fucked Up on my iPod on my way to work, I always want to start jumping up and down, and I got the opportunity to do so without looking like a tool. The crowd was friendly and into it, pulling me up when I fell, keeping stray feet from hitting peoples heads, and having a great time.

I left at 11:30 when they played their last song, missing the encore. I felt like I needed to get back home to sleep. One post script: I woke up the next morning feeling like I had been hit by a truck - my knee and hip and back were killing me. I ran six miles Sunday and felt great after. I pogoed for an hour Monday and felt like shit. What can I say, I'm an old, old man.

Here's them playing "The Other Shoe" live in Germany. A similar scene to what went on last night, only we were more lively. There was something really powerful to be screaming "We're dying on the inside!" along with a hundred other people.

Friday, July 22, 2011

If the 60s Were the 90s

That's the title of a Beautiful People song I've never heard, but it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. This September marks the 20 year anniversary of the release of Nirvana's Nevermind, for one thing. Spin released a collection of covers, and listening to them I was reminded how revolutionary that album felt at the time. A lot of the things they were singing about: feminism, atheism, questioning masculinity, kissing each other in public - those were simply not done in 1991. There weren't mainstream artists promoting gay rights or singing "Never met a wise man/if so it's a woman." Nirvana opened a lot of doors, and Nevermind remains a classic album. I don't listen to it much today, but "In Bloom" remains one of my favorite songs of all time.

My sister pointed out to me recently that the 90s are to kids today what the sixties were to us as kids: an era twenty years back that we felt no real connection to. Strange to think of it like that.

I've been listening to and writing a review for Wugazi, a mash-up Cecil Otter and Swiss Andy did of Fugazi instrumentals and Wu-Tang acappellas. Which made me go back into my Fugazi records. Especially Steady Diet of Nothing, their 1991 release. Also 20 years old. It was less punk and aggro than their earlier releases, and at the time I found it a little boring, but I love it now. "Reclamation" remains one of my favorite songs, presumably about the abortion debate. "You will carry out your noble actions - we will carry our noble scars."

I'll probably mention this in my review, but listening to the Wugazi album, I was struck by the different approaches each group took to making raw, aggressive music. The Wu took a "fuck all y'all" attitude, reacting, while Fugazi were much more empathetic and sensitive. The Fugazi vocals sound positively wimpy compared to the rough, rugged, and raw delivery of the Wu.

Exhibit A: "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" (from whence the title of this blog comes):

And still, I relate more to Fugazi than to the Wu-Tang clan, at least in terms of the emotions they are delivering. No doubt because I have more in common with Fugazi than the Wu - middle class white guy and all.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Diplo Review/Dre Dog

I reviewed Diplo's reggae mix Riddimentary at RapReviews this week. It's a decent collection of 80s reggae. I was particularly into the dancehall tracks. Not as good as Diplo's Major Lazer stuff, though. Who I'm seeing later this summer.

I heard an interview with Noz from on  the Sidebar at Soul Sides  and learned where the name of his blog came from: Dre. Dog (now Andre Nickatina)'s 1993 song "Smoke Dope and Rap." I checked out his 1993 album The New Jim Jones, and it is crazy. It's all about doing drugs, having sex, and being as evil and anti-social as he can possibly be. Hard to defend, yet kind of amazing. He's from SF and still making music.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


My new favorite album is the Babies self-titled debut. The Babies are a collab between a lady from the Vivian Girls and a dude from the Woods. It's jangly, distorted pop, circa 1994. Totally infectious, totally amazing. Sort of like Best Coast only rawer.  You can hear and download "Run Me Over" here.

I also picked up Lee Perry's Dub-Triptych last week. It collects Cloak and Dagger, Blackboard Jungle, and Revolution Dub. I'm most excited about Revolution Dub, which is a rare and amazing set from 1975. It's dub before the cliches of the genre became embedded. There's echo, there's reverb, there are instruments stripped out, but it's more melodic and interesting than a lot of what came later. Excellent studying music.

Oh yeah, I reviewed Daretta's Heavy Mental last week on RapReviews.

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